Facebook is social. Twitter is social. Discussion and message boards are social. But more people would say that email is not.
Gartner makes two important distinctions as to why email isn't social media:
- E-mail is a distribution mechanism and social media is a collective mechanism
- Mass communication is different from mass collaboration
Email isn't social media. In fact it's a communications tool that users shouldn't employ for media consumption at all. However by some accounts email marketing is a $10 billion industry - not that size makes right.
During the Internet's Democratization Era, my former Forrester colleague Charlene Li guided companies to a simple and powerful distinction when thinking about tools: email is to-do, RSS is to know. Users approach their inboxes with an obligation mindset, which is fine. They just need to keep in mind that oftentimes the problems they create are their own.
Making email work requires that internally, companies train their users on how to make use of an expanded communications toolkit. Externally, email integrates with social media, orchestrated for reach and frequency.