Today's high-school and college students got their first email account at an average age of 13. Most students have had one of their email addresses for 8 years and have an average of about 2.4 addresses each. But if you really want to reach these students, you should forget email. Send a text message instead.
According to a new survey from a survey from eROI, which looked at a sample of 283 high school and college students from 29 states here in the U.S., one quarter of students got their first email address so they could shop online. A much larger percentage, however, got their first address for communicating with family (81%) and with friends (52%).
We had always heard, anecdotally, that the only reason teens today would even bother signing up for an email account was so they could register with social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. However, 36% of those surveyed said they use email alerts to stay on top of what's happening on the social networks. In other words, they don't just create emails to sign up - the emails actually become a part of how they interact with the networks they join.
When it came time to pick their email provider, Gmail was the clear favorite. Nearly one-third (32%) of college students choose Gmail, while 19% use Yahoo, 18% use MSN/Hotmail and about 17% use their school email.
How Often They Check the Inbox
Students also regularly check their email inboxes. More than two-thirds of students say they check email at least once per day, and 55% of those check more than 3 times per day. This is especially interesting when you compare this data to that that came out of the Pew Internet Project (PDF) only a few months ago. In that study, Pew found that half of corporate employees checked their email constantly, while only 32% of those who work in small businesses did.
Comparing those numbers with the data on the students seems to imply that the only people who become email-obsessed are those for whom email is the major, and sometimes only, form of communication. That's definitely the case in big corporations where the people you need to speak to are buildings, cities, states, or even half a world away. For everyone else, there are other alternatives. In small businesses, for example, there are probably more chances to have face-to-face time. For the students there are social networks and, of course, text messaging.
Only 12% of students currently check email on their mobile, but eROI predicts that number will increase quickly, especially given the recent explosion of smartphones on the market. In the meantime, though, it's text messaging that remains supreme with 37% selecting that as their preferred method of communication. Email is second at 26% followed by social networking IM (15%) , IM (11%), and social networking email (11%). We're also surprised to see social networking networking email rated last - we always imagined students using social networks more for communication purposes. Then again, it appears that the survey neglected to ask about Wall posts and profile comments - those are also important ways to communicate. We wonder where they would have fit in.
In the end, the survey finds that students do use email - perhaps even more than we realized - but if you really want to reach them, you should do it via text or IM. For marketers, this means that the easy method of sending out newsletters and coupons to mass email lists may become a thing of the past - only 16% of students read marketing email. Companies will have to come up with new ways to to advertise to this demographic. May we suggest social media?