“Email is the cockroach of the Internet.” —Stuart Butterfield, co-founder of Slack
Nearly everyone is on Facebook. Most professionals are on LinkedIn, Instagram is an engagement powerhouse, Snapchat is a content game-changer, Twitter has added hearts, and so on.
The argument to diversify and focus on newer and shinier communication platforms is complex: For every advantage there is an equally compelling disadvantage.
Businesses might overlook email in this era of shiny new things, but email easily outperforms each of the social networks above in click-throughs and open rates (or the social networks’ equivalents).
Here are five reasons why email will endure as one of 2016’s most important communication channels:
1. Email’s open rates and click-throughs remain high.
Sixty-three percent of emails sent to B2B professionals are deleted before they’re read, yet email is still is the most effective way to reach this audience.
How is this possible?
Compare a 37 percent impression rate for emails with a 5 percent impression rate (and 0.1 percent engagement rate) for a tweet or a 3 percent impression rate for an organic Facebook post. Email open rates continue to impress relative to social media.
The downside is that it costs more to acquire an email subscriber than a social media follower, and it’s easier to get social media followers than opt-ins for your mailing list.
Key takeaway: Email is a reliable way to communicate at scale, and you should focus on expanding your mailing list to maximize email’s impact.
2. Email is the most consistent communication platform.
“Facebook’s existence is proof of why we need federated, non-proprietary services like email, where no one can interpose a tollbooth on a route that businesses and their customers traverse voluntarily to reach one another.” —Cory Doctorow, Guardian UK
On Facebook, you might see 10 to 20 percent of your friends’ posts and 1-3 percent of organic brand content. On Twitter, the amount of content you see depends on how many people you follow, as well as when and for how long you use the platform.
In 2016, Instagram could introduce ads, Twitter might change its algorithm to be more like Facebook’s, and Facebook might restrict reach even more. (Content volume will increase, so this will happen naturally, as well.)
Advertising revenue on social networks is often contingent upon content access that platforms deny or allow, so the reliability of communicating through social media would depend on whether these companies want to make more money—and they probably do.
To put it simply, social networks are unreliable.
Key takeaway: Hedge your bets against social media volatility by building large email lists.
3. People prefer email to social media.
In a Retention Science study about how millennials prefer that brands contact them, nearly half of the respondents said they preferred email, while only 5 percent said they preferred social media. (One can only guess about the other 45 percent.) This is consistent with similar studies that found customers who engage with a social media promotion may never subsequently engage with the brand.
Many people say email is the most appropriate place for brands to engage them, which is serendipitous given email’s better open rates and click-throughs—even though a majority of people delete the message upon receipt.
Key takeaway: People may not only engage with email more often, but they actually prefer it to social media.
4. Email is more customizable than social media content.
If you post something to social media and it doesn’t take off, you can pay to reach more people or let it die a shameful, unpromoted death.
With email, customization opportunities are rich and A/B testing is easy.
For instance, in the Retention Science study cited above, the open rate was inversely proportional to the number of words in the subject line. A similar study by VentureBeat found that you can increase open rates by double digits if you appropriately personalize emails.
Key takeaway: If email underperforms, there are many customizations you can test and implement to achieve better results.
5. Email is mobile-enabled.
According to Pew Internet, almost half of adult cell phone users receive and respond to emails on their cell phones. (These data are more than a year old; I’ve read that the statistic may be greater than 50 percent now.)
Although apps frequently change and vacillate in popularity, most phones include an email reader, and most email is mobile-enabled.
Key takeaway: Test your emails to ensure recipients can access them from mobile or desktop devices.
Email will be a key communication platform for 2016. This might seem counterintuitive or outdated, but the data are compelling.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Cision blog.