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Making Your E-Mails Go Viral

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August 19, 2009

Online retailers want their marketing e-mail messages to reach as many eyeballs as possible. Taking advantage of subscribers’ natural desire to share info about a great deal with their friends is one way to do just that.

Dedicated links that allow e-mail subscribers to easily “forward to a friend” (FTAF) or “share with your network” (SWYN) are two ways marketers can help their messages go viral. Though social networking is hipper than old-fashioned e-mail forwarding, marketers are much more likely to provide a “forward” link (48%, including those who provide both links) than easy sharing capability (13%, including those who provide both links), according to data from Smith-Harmon.

US Online Retailers with Select Sharing Options in Their E-Mail Campaigns, August 2009 (% of online retailers)

Only a few online retailers used both types of links in their e-mail campaigns, and nearly one-half did not offer any link at all for passing on messages.

Links to share content with a social network can potentially give messages much more exposure. After all, such e-mails are shared with the subscriber’s entire social network, rather than just a few friends chosen specifically for the purpose.

Smith-Harmon found that among those retailers that did provide social network sharing links, Facebook was the clear favorite. Every campaign studied that had a SWYN capability had a link to Facebook. Twitter came in second, at 67%, while only 44% of sharing-capable e-mails linked to MySpace.

Links to Social Networks Available in US Online Retailers'* E-Mail Campaigns, August 2009 (% of online retailers)

Online retailers also directed subscribers to share offers via social bookmarking sites and social shopping sites.

“Despite FTAF’s incumbent position, I expect SWYN adoption to overtake FTAF usage over the next 24 months as more marketers and consumers become familiar with it,” wrote Chad White, author of the “FTAF vs. SWYN: The State of Email Sharing” report, on MediaPost. “Also, just as FTAF has to compete with the ‘forward’ button in every email client, I expect that we’ll see SWYN links built into email clients in the future.”

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