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Heather Dougherty, the director of research at Hitwise, has posted an article suggesting that social networks like facebook and twitter are eroding the sending of e-card's.  They claim that the "e-greetings" category is down anywhere from 16 - 29% (stats and charts at the bottom of this post), with holiday e-card traffic loss being at the high end of that range.  While the "e-greetings" traffic has been declining, traffic to social networking sites has been increasing during the holidays.

The idea is that social networking sites like facebook, which have you connected to your physical social network of friends and family, have this function covered.  Birthdays for example are kept track of by your social network of choice and reminds you to send a birthday message to the person a few days before.  You post a message on their wall, send a direct message and / or send them a personal gift.  You have communicated that you are thinking of them on their special day.  Job done right?

Well, sort of.  While we think Heather has a great thought here, we suggest that there are many other cases where social networks fall short:
- There are no fancy and happy animations with music to brighten their day or make them laugh.  Not yet anyway.
- Social networks are limited to remembering events like birthdays. 
- Everyone is not participating in social networks.  Yes it is true, there are people who don't participate in social networks. 

But these things can be overcome.  Third party apps or the social networks themselves could build out fancy e-card features.  They could build features around other events and extensive reminder systems.  And for those not participating in social networks, well they are (or will be) the minority anyway in the future. 

Another thing against ecards, I don't even open the things anymore.  I get hundreds of spam emails containing e-cards and am never sure which one is real and which one someone's virus infected inbox is sending spam or phishing attacks.

So we say, great idea Heather and social networks like facebook, myspace, bebo, hi5 and others should take heed and use this advice to further engage their users with their social graph.  The facebooks will benefit from more usage and stickiness to their site and users will benefit with happier friends and family and of course better relationships when they get personalized messages and communication for all important events in their lives. 

Social networks are not going to kill e-cards overnight, but there is great potential if social networks play their (e)cards right. 


Stats from hitwise

Note: These stats are from hitwise's "e-greeting" category.  They don't mention how many sites, what sites, assumptions, traffic amount, sample size or other relevant details to verify this traffic data. 

Feb 26, 2010

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