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'Share-to-Social' Email Tools Grow Up

As more email marketers adopt 'Share-to-Social' or 'Share-to-Network' tools, best practices are emerging that can serve as role models for future campaigns.

Share-to-Social is the next generation of the 'forward-to-a-friend' forms found on many websites and email campaigns. It now enables a recipient to share an item with an entire social network.

New Offerings

Many new offerings in this area have come to market this year. Exact Target, for example, rolled out a suite called Social Forward in April. Its Direct-to-Social tool is emblematic of the concept: It allows marketers to incorporate the icon of a social network such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace in an email. Subscribers can then click the icon and share the contents of the message with their online networks.

Silverpop is another company that also introduced new functionality last month.

In addition to helping information spread, these tools also can track the progress campaigns as they travel virally through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn. Silverpop's Share-to-Social feature, for example, tracks which social network the recipient posted the message on and which achieved the best results. For example, marketers can tell that an email was opened 1,000 times after being posted on Facebook and only 100 times after being posted on MySpace.

New Cases, New Metrics

As companies deploy these tools, a clearer sense of their ROI is coming into focus. A study by MarketingSherpa that examined SmartBrief's use of Share-to-Social found that the online publisher realized a 25% boost in reader interaction and a surge in inbound traffic from social networking sites.

Another study, by Silverpop, did a deeper dive, sketching out benchmarks and metrics for marketers. For starters, it discovered that the average social sharing rate is 0.5% - compared with the less than 0.1% rate realized by earlier-generation forward-to-a-friend campaigns.

Other findings from the report:

  • The life of a shared message is about one week.
  • Email messages generate clicks on sharing links for an average of 6.8 days, with a median of two days and ranging from 1-44 days.
  • Despite their inclusion of links, 35% percent of email messages studied generated no social email clicks.
  • Click-through rates are inconsistent. There was little correlation among variables, such as location of the social-sharing link in the email, offer type, whether an offer was included in the subject line, format of the email and the likelihood that a message would be shared.
  • Facebook dominates among social networks. No matter what else is measured, if Facebook is one of the variables, it will generally outperform other networks - but there are exceptions.
  • View rates have room to grow. On average, an email will collect an additional 1% of views when shared on networks, a number Silverpop expects will grow as social sharing moves into the mainstream.
  • Shared email has a powerful "multiplier effect." Using conservative numbers, the Silverpop model estimates a posted email message has an average increase in reach of 24.3% (based on original emails delivered), but it also expects this figure to increase exponentially when sharing becomes mainstream.

In related news about online sharing, a recent report based on statistics from SocialTwist's 'Tell-a-Friend' online sharing widget found that despite the social media revolution, email and instant messaging are still the most popular media for sharing content across the web.

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