Email and Youth: Reading The Tea Leaves

I am immediately skeptical of a firm conducting research on email use that states “Staying on top of constantly evolving trends is the key to gaining trust and staying relevant to the student market, but another challenge in reaching them is knowing which channel will carry and present your message most effectively.” Uh, excuse me. We are deep into the social marketing era, and talking about channels and messages is a bit out of touch. Unless you are a firm that desperately wants to sell email marketing services.

Nonetheless, eROI (a very ‘90s corporate name, by the way) has conducted a study on email usage by high school students, college students and recent grads. A relatively small sample – 283 respondents – in only 29 states of the US is probably still a fairly good indicator of what is going on with this segment, though.

Some findings:

[from eROI email marketing, social networking, college, high school student survey results]

Students, on average, read marketing emails on a “rarely to never” basis, with 61% falling into this category. Only 16% are reading marketing emails on a frequent basis, while 66% of students rarely or never take action on marketing emails. Most college students do not feel that companies are effectively speaking to them personally. The major reasons students take action upon receiving an email are that they are interested in the product (60%) or attracted to a special offer (47%). Email design is much less of a factor, with only 11% of students taking action because of the design of an email. This means that marketers do not do a good job of talking to students or are marketing products that are not relevant.

Or it means the end of email marketing, since this demographic is the one most likely to be migrating into social networks, and to use email only as a means of interaction with companies. For example, one quarter of young people get their first email account – Gmail, Yahoo, or MSN – so that they can sign up for a social network:

Our survey found that only about 36% of students use email alerts to keep up to date on what’s happening on their social networks and only about one-quarter of students originally got an email address for social networking purposes. Approximately one-quarter got an email address for the ability to buy online. The majority of students (81%) got an email address for communicating with family and 52% for communicating with friends.

Personally, I would like to see the survey, because it doesn’t add up to 100%, so the answers were not really a great indicator of what their primary motivation was.

The eROI guys are so biased toward email marketing, they can’t see straight:

With over two-thirds of students checking email at
least once per day, and 55% of those checking more than 3 times per day, there’s no doubt that students are aware of the emails that hit their inbox and are looking for those compelling emails that go above and beyond to resonate with them.

No, there are not. They are keeping up with contacts, doing schoolwork, looking for jobs, and working. Note that the study doesn’t ask students the breakdown of email that the get everyday, or how they respond. But it’s probably everyday school, work, and socializing that dominates.

Texting is the favorite form of communication (37% prefer it), followed by email (26%), social networking IM (15%), IM (11%) and social networking email (11%). I would have liked to see those numbers – in fact all of the numbers – arrayed by age, or in three groups: high school, college, and graduates.

The message that eROI doesn’t really make well is that these kids are more socially connected online than any generation that preceded them. The trend toward mobile connectedness is not lost on anyone, so the future is not email marketing, but mobile social networking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s