Email is dead. Long live email!

We’ve been hearing that the email era is over on a monthly basis for years now. But despite overflowing inboxes, new email killers coming out all the time, and of course spam, email is still going strong. As the site share widget has become ubiquitous on the web, many sites are hiding email sharing amongst 750 other social media icons. Do so at your own peril. Email is still the most common method used to share content on the Internet.

According to a recent study conducted by AOL and Nielsen, 93% of users share content over email. Despite the trends and the growth of social powers such as Facebook and Twitter, that number is slightly higher than the 89% of study participants who shared using social networks and the 82% who use blogs. When asked what their primary sharing method was, 66% of people answered email and it was also the preferred method in every industry surveyed.

The numbers vary depending on the type of content being shared and whom a user wants to share it with. By a large margin, people prefer to share content with their friends and family and email is huge when sharing with those groups. 89% of those surveyed shared content with their friends over email and for family the number is 86%. The only category of people email isn’t a top sharing method with is the public.

(Wait… 6% of people use email to share something with the public? Stop forwarding those chain emails to everyone Mom!)

With all that data, it’s clear users prefer to share stuff via email. Why then are most sites either lumping email with everything else behind a single share icon or at most pulling out and promoting Twitter and Facebook only?

“Email to a Friend” buttons used to be everywhere but fell out of favor, possibly due to spam and the privacy concerns of submitting not just your own email but your friends’ emails too on a web form. The email share forms still have value though and web users have actually become more comfortable again sharing this information online again as sharing personal information online has been made commonplace by social networking. You can also also offer email sharing via a standard mailto: link. This allows visitors to use their own email client instead of a web form, helpful not just to those worried about privacy but also on mobile devices.

While Facebook Like and Tweet This buttons are great for encouraging conversation about your content, your visitors still also want to be able to easily share links with specific friends and family members. However implemented, it is important to encourage and enable the sharing of your site’s content via email and not just social media networks.

The stats show, reports of email’s demise were greatly exaggerated.