You can hardly throw a digital rock these days without hitting an article declaring email marketing dead. It makes sense: compared with the newness of Twitter, Digg and Facebook, email is like the elderly man bemoaning those wet-behind-the-ears, know-nothing youngsters.

Fortunately, as an affiliate marketer, email marketing still has lots of value on the promotional front, and it’s probably one of the easiest, cheapest ways to evangelize what you’re selling. To get a grasp on where things are headed, here are some trends you’ll see this year.

Email Gets Social – and Stays That Way

Let’s face it – regardless of age, stature or geographic location, there’s a good chance that many of your customers have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Not wanting to be left out in the cold, email marketing is joining forces with social media and becoming less of a standalone marketing tool.

This year, you’ll see affiliate newsletters “liked” by Facebook accounts, drip campaigns waiting to be Stumbled, and sales emails both tweeted and retweeted. Social media, email and blogging are becoming one big blur, so you’ll see cross-promotion in all sorts of directions.

Email Gets a Second Chance via Archives

In not-so-distant past, once an email was sent and read by subscribers, it would disappear into the ether, never to be seen again. Not anymore. Thanks to web-based archiving, you’ll see more email marketers throwing their newsletters online, using SEO-friendly keywords and social sharing links to give this content an extended life.

This year, you’ll see two types of online archiving. The placing of emails in a standard archive connected to a Website or blog, or the placing of emails in online newsletter communities, where they can easily be found, shared and even voted on. If you’re ready to do one, the other or both, overlook the fact that some of your material will be stale. As long as your newsletter drives people to your Website, it’s worth the time adding it to an archive.

Email Goes Mobile En Masse

2010 saw half a billion people subscribing to 3 and 4G mobile Internet plans. According to mobile giant Ericsson, subscriptions will pass one billion this year. That means that the preferred way of checking email will be with a mobile device. Mobile demands will make emails cleaner, smaller, and formatted for on-the-go viewing.

Email Shines on the Tablet

With the explosion of the iPad, the age of the tablet is here. Soon PC tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Blackberry Playbook will be available, and no doubt very popular.

For tablets, email formatting and design will be more important than ever. Tablet users will expect emails to be stylish, functional and integrated with their tablets perfectly. Anything less will be unacceptable.

Email Becomes an Urgent Medium

For the first time ever, email will become a time-sensitive form of communication. Mobile devices sales and mobile broadband subscriptions are on the rise. Tablet sales are expected to skyrocket as less expensive tablets hit the market.

Email in 2011 will become a medium of urgency because most people will access it through a device that fits in your hand rather than one that sits on your desk or in your lap. While waiting for a train, sitting at a café for lunch or killing time before a movie, email will be immediately available at the click of a button.

Thanks to our ever-connected culture, you’ll probably see fewer autoresponders touting responses within 24 hours and more flashy emails giving short notice on two hour sales, VIP events and even exclusive content. The time email sits idle will be drastically reduced and it will be a go-to medium for urgent deals and events.

This year, emails and newsletters will be leaner, meaner and more social than ever before. As an affiliate marketer, it’s time to rewire your marketing plan to make space – and time – for this successful, evolving and inexpensive medium.