E-mail Is Not A Business Tool

"E-mail is not a business tool."

As crazy as that statement may sound to us today, fifteen years ago, this was the prevailing wisdom among many executives. They felt that if it needed to be said then you should pick up the phone or, better yet, say it face to face. Today we face a similar skepticism around the usefulness of online social media tools and services. I hear people call them a "waste of time" or "something for my kids." The truth is these tools give us a glimpse into the way we will communicate in the future. [more]

It is hard to imagine how we would function today without e-mail ... at our desks, on our laptops and on the go via the Blackberrys and iPhones we all now carry. While e-mail enables near instant communications with a wide group of people at the click of a button, it also opens us up to new challenges. If your e-mail box is like mine, it is filled daily with everything from mission-critical business messages to spam and sales solicitations. Once your e-mail address is known, nearly anyone can reach you. Tools like spam filters and inbox rules can help keep out the obvious junk and organize the flow of information, but neither gives you real control over who can send you an e-mail.

But look at some of the key social networking sites that are quickly becoming a part of our lives. In our survey for the May edition of The Wire...from AirPlus, respondents tell us that LinkedIn, Facebook and other sites are not only being actively used but also drive a real business benefit. One of the most important features of these sites is the ability to control who has access to your profile, information or updates. Not only can you decide who will be your "friend" you can set rules for what different groups of friends can see. This puts you in full control of who can reach you and how you want them to communicate with you.

Communications in the near future will be the same. You will set the boundaries of who can send you an e-mail, SMS, IM or other electronic communications. And it will go much further--you will also be able to allow people you trust to track where you are and what you are doing through your updates on sites like Twitter and Facebook or the location of your mobile device located by GPS. Of course, being able to really be in control of this requires that you jump into the game now so you can learn where to set the rules and how to play.

At AirPlus, we have jumped in with both feet. Check out the latest edition of our YouTube video discussing the results of our latest survey on the use of social media where we also outline what we are doing as a travel industry supplier to embrace and take advantage of these tools. If after you watch it, you are still not convinced, remember what Ken Wilson, the president, chairman and founder of
Digital Equipment, predicted back in 1977: "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."