ReadWriteWeb reported today on a decline in email and IM usage, owing largely to the rise of social networks as a communications channel. The story was based on a study released today by the Online Publishers Association.

You may not be seeing the impact on your own email files yet, but you might. Even if your subscribers are not relying on social channels for communications from you, many are relying on them for communications with friends, families and business colleagues. None of this means that email messages are ignored in greater numbers. Rather, as connections move to Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, less frequent checks of the inbox mean that your messages have fewer opportunities to grab some attention.

A phrase we’re batting around a lot here is “Email in the Marketing Mix.” Gone are the days when “tell everyone” is achievable through email alone. We’re increasingly looking at how email figures into the rest of the communications platform, including social media (like our new SWYN tools, and also our RSS tools) as well as mobile and the unfashionable yet effective fax. Integrated communications (and analytics) is quickly becoming the cost of doing business for marketers.

What can you do?

First, start thinking now about how email fits into your marketing mix. Are you using SWYN to allow your subscribers to post your emails to their social networks? Have you thought about surveys as a means of qualifying your subscriber base and better targeting your messages? In what other channels (social, website and in-person) do you have contact with your subscribers? How can you use your other touchpoints to make your email messages more anticipated and relevant?

Second, keep working on making your messages more engaging. Are you using Click View Tracking to see which content is hogging the most attention? Do you trend open rates and click-through rates over time to keep your subscribers’ pulse? Any unexpected findings from A/B testing of subject lines or senders?

How are you integrating email and social channels? Let us know in the comments or email me with perspectives. We’re always looking for new insights and case studies.