Social Networks Pressuring Traditional Email, IM Channels

[qi:031] People are spending less time on communication sites that are focused around email and instant messaging, according to an analysis released today by the Online Publishers Association, a trade organization, a decline it attributes to the rising popularity of social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Indeed, posting photos and videos to social networks is an easy way to engage people in your social graph and show them what’s going on in your life, and many feature their own built-in email and IM capabilities. And Facebook’s internal user engagement numbers back up the OPA’s findings; it claims some 1 billion chat messages are sent each day and 2 billion photos are uploaded to the site each month.

I was a bit surprised by the chat statistic, as it’s not a feature I tend to use given how many of my Facebook friends are merely casual acquaintances. I prefer GTalk, as I have an actual relationship with the people in my chat list there, and I primarily use Gmail to communicate with people in my professional life. I do, however, regularly use Facebook messaging. Regardless, it’s the photo upload stat that resonates most strongly with my own experience.

It’s quicker to upload photos to Facebook than sending a batch of photos over email, which is why when I lived in London for three months this year, I kept my friends and family in the loop as to what I was doing by uploading photos and videos to my account. It also allowed them to quickly and easily respond via commenting. Aside from that convenience, Facebook is where all my friends hang out online. So while I could upload an album to a site like Shutterfly, there’s no guarantee those friends would take the time to view it.

Readers, are you finding that you’re relying on social networks more than email and instant messenger to connect with people? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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