Gmail introduced a new feature allowing users to share inline images from emails with their Google+ networks. Since the 2011 announcement of the integration between Google+ and Gmail, Google has now taken yet another step toward integrating email and real-time social networking. And this topic should concern you, my fellow marketer.

Email to Catch up With Social; Google to Catch up With Facebook

In early 2012, it was announced that Gmail had 350 million active users. While this is an impressive number, Gmail still has a lot of catching up to do to reach Facebook’s 800 million users. In fact, not only is Gmail behind Facebook on overall user adoption, but it also seems to be behind in terms of engagement. A 2010 Nielsen study shows email as the third online channel on which Americans spend most of their time, ranking behind social networks/blogs and games.

Taking Email Sharing to the Next Level

With the rollout of Google+, we instantly spotted some user interface elements that allowed for email messages to be spread outside the inbox. The upper right-hand corner of your Gmail account allows you to share a piece of content straight from your email inbox.

Gmail made it even easier to share email content with an outside network. If you have rich formatting enabled and receive an email with an inline image in it, you can hover around the visual and click on the “Share” link.

Then, by simply clicking on that green “Share” button, you will be prompted to enter a custom message and target your Google+ circles (as well as email connections who are still not on Google+). Don’t forget to add a link to your message so that people can visit your website and learn more about your company or offer; sharing links in social media updates is the backbone of social media lead generation!

You, Too, Should Integrate Email & Social Media

So what does this all mean for businesses? The most important marketing lesson here is that you need to stop putting email and social media in silos. These channels are being increasingly connected and you need to make your email content shareable. For instance:

  • Ensure that you have social media sharing links within your emails.
  • Add social media following links to your email signatures.
  • Start incorporating behavior-based communication that spans across email and social media, and is mobile-friendly.