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How Effective Is Sharing via Email vs. Social Media?

High click rates for social media don’t tell the full story

According to Chadwick Martin Bailey, three-quarters of web users say they are likely to share pieces of content with their friends and family, an activity brands are watching closely in their attempts to leverage the influence of brand advocates.

In a statistic that has been backed up by other studies, including the August one by CMB, SocialTwist reported email was the most common channel used to share content via the company's Tell-a-Friend widget, accounting for more than half of all referrals. Social networks made up fewer than a quarter of shares.

But shares on social networks had outsize importance in terms of clicks: 60% of clicks generated on shared items came from social networks, compared with just 31% from email.

One reason for the imbalance is the undeniably high clickthrough rates for shared content on social sites. Links posted to Facebook via the Tell-a-Friend widget generated an average of 2.87 clicks each. Twitter shares did even better, with an average of 19.04 users clicking each referral link.

But email may be performing better than it seems at first glance. Emails sent through the Tell-a-Friend widget include the full piece of content in the message, so users don't need to click through to the original site to read the item that a friend thought was interesting enough to send. Facebook and Twitter users, by contrast, must click through to read more than a blurb.

For many sources of content, the clickthrough is key: When visitors click through to the originating site it opens up the possibility of ad revenues as well as the ability to build awareness and purchase intent while the user is on an owned-media property. But email recipients who read the content shared without clicking through will still get the benefit of an earned-media recommendation. Brands should ensure that shareable content carries a message on its own that will remain effective when read through an email client, since such messages remain the primary sharing vehicle for consumers.

Earlier research similarly showed that email shares had a lower click rate than items sent through Twitter or Facebook, but email shares led to more engagement, including more pages viewed and, most important, more conversions.

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Check out today's other article, “The Power of Welcome Messages.”

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