Email or Twitter? What’s better for marketing, communications and building awareness of a brand or cause? I’ve come across, and read many discussions about this topic. One comment I recently read by a published author suggested using social media such as Twitter is futile. Why? Because the belief, the author writes, is that you’re tweeting to people who have no influence within an organization, and therefore cannot make decisions that will affect your bottomline.

First, here’s my thought on that premise: If you’re Tweeting to instantly win clients and cash cheques, you’re in it for the wrong reason. It doesn’t happen that way. Social media, as the name implies, is about being social and interacting. That means if your ‘personality’ on Twitter is what’s generated by an RSS feed, you’re literally out to lunch on what it means to be social in cyberspace.

Before I get to more about Twitter, let’s talk about email. For sure, email is still a marketing tool, but its lustre has been dulled by Twitter. People have become annoyed by email spam, crowded inboxes and emails that never get answered (that’s why we’re always asking people, ‘Hey, did you get that email I sent you?’). No wonder we all hit delete so quickly these days. Our tolerance for email has been declining. Call it the cyber irritability factor. Sure, you can directly reach the person you want via email, but you have no idea if it will be opened. So, essentially, email is a crapshoot. Good luck. If you’re using opt-in email databases (opt-in means people have subscribed or given their permission) for marketing campaigns, consider these facts compiled by a respected email marketing company: five per cent of email recipients can’t open HTML emails; bounce rates can hit 10 per cent. From personal experience, an ‘open’ click rate of 40 per cent on an email campaign is considered successful.

Twitter allows you to connect instantly. You have direct access to your followers, what they’re doing, what’s important, and their likes and dislikes. If you’re Tweeting effectively, your followers are also learning the same about you. What do we call this? It’s relationship building. It can take time, and hundreds of Tweets of 140 characters each, but it can be far more effective in the long run than one-off crapshoot emails.

Here’s why I believe Twitter wins hands-down over email: Effective use of Twitter means that your followers will talk about you when they’re not on Twitter. Your Tweets and Twitter personality can have a viral effect that goes well beyond a computer.

It’s still possible that email may net you quick results, but in the long run, Twitter is a better starting point for building relationships.