A majority of those surveyed by MarketTools want a tool that brings their email, social media, and voicemail together in a unified inbox.
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Microsoft is using market survey results to argue that email in general and Microsoft Outlook in particular remain as relevant as ever in the social media era.
Though other forms of messaging are proliferating and perhaps divert some communications away from email, a survey Microsoft commissioned from MarketTools of 1,268 professionals and students age 18 and older shows that 96% (including 92% of the 18-24 year olds) expect their email communication in the workplace to stay the same or grow over the next five years. Email is actually the most effective means of workplace communication--beating out face-to-face meetings and instant messaging--according to 53% of those polled.
The same survey showed 35% of those polled agreeing social media is an effective means of communications with colleagues, clients, and vendors, while 25% (and 37% of the 18-24 year olds) said social media helped them build relationships with colleagues.
Microsoft is not so much trying to minimize social communication as put it in context. At a product level, Microsoft wants to embrace social media using tools like the Social Connector for Outlook, as well as SharePoint integration for collaboration within the enterprise.
This Social Connector for Outlook allows users to register their social media accounts so that they can view and respond to social media messages directly within the Outlook user interface. Microsoft is comparing social interaction to the way calendar functionality is integrated into Outlook. The connector provides links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft Messenger, and Viadeo, a LinkedIn rival that is most popular in Europe. In combination with Microsoft unified communication tools, Outlook can also provide a single inbox that includes other communication modes, such as voicemail. The strategy of using Outlook as a hub for social communication and collaboration is also used by third-party vendors, such as Harmon.ie.
The MarketTools survey showed more than 55% (68% of 18–24-year-olds) said they would appreciate a tool that brings their email, social media, and voicemail together in a unified inbox.
"We see evidence every day, however, that email is still a key means of communication," Numoto wrote. "The real debate is not whether we'll use email in the future, but what are the best tools for a given conversation? If I need a quick response from a customer or colleague, I might first pick up my phone or send a text message. If I want to share something with several people, I might use my Facebook account to send a group message and link. If I have a longer message to send or need a record of the conversation, email gives me that virtual paper trail."