Tracking emails & recipients – Applying social media fundamentals

When I ask my teenager to send me an email, she cringes as if I have just asked her to mow the lawn. When I ask her about the repulsion, the jist of her response is that email is ‘so yesterday’. That may be the case in her world, but email continues to be the primary communication tool for organizations and that’s not going to change anytime soon.  Email allows senders and receivers to communicate asynchronously – meaning that each party does not have to be present at the same time to engage in the conversation. It eliminates playing telephone tag, in-person meetings, or the even more delayed methods of mail and couriers. It occurred to me that as instant as email is, it does not provide the instant feedback that some of the other electronic communication methods provide such as Blackberry Messenger, Facebook, or Google Talk. With these tools, one knows instantly that the message has been received and can even see the recipient typing a reply  (and can see when they stop typing and decide to never send the reply they’re typing – there’s a whole social game attached to that one, and another full blog entry for another time). But bottom line is that communication is in real time and instant feedback exists. Which is not the case with email. There are many benefits to email, but one of the challenges is that you never really know what’s happening to your email after it leaves your sent box. What exactly is that email doing?  Did it get stuck in spam?  Was it intercepted?  Did it stop over in one of the many nodes it has to go through before reaching its final destination and decided it was a nice place to stay for a while?  Where exactly is it? And if you don’t hear back from the recipient within 24  hours, do you send another email asking if it was received? A sender is never really sure about the appropriate timing to reach out to the recipient to ask if they simply decided to not respond, or confirm that they received the message. How many times have we heard from a recipient “I never got your email”?  I for one have both said or heard those words on many occasions. The younger generation is impatient and don’t want to wait for a reply, and want to know what is happening to the words that have been sent electronically – and when it is being responded to – in real time. Email would be a much better 2012 communication tool if we had better visibility into its life cycle.  It would be ideal if email was a hybrid of social media’s instant feedback and email’s asynchronous qualities of not having to be be present in real time to communicate.  A ‘Fedex’ version of email would solve this challenge. Send out the email communication with the ability to track its every move.  In other words, evolve email so that we (the sender) know and can get proof when an email is received, read, forwarded, replied to, printed, or deleted. Otherwise, the next generation will continue to view email as the ’pigeon carrier’ of electronic communication.   Ariane Laird works with email2. email2 provides features that guarantees email delivery and tracks and provides proof when an email and attachment is received, read, replied to, forwarded, deleted or printed. email2 enables professional services organizations to securely send, receive, track, control and automate delivery of confidential email and large attachments outside the organization – without requiring staff or recipients to change their existing email.