Will share-to-social work for e-mail marketers?

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There's a heated debate within the industry about whether or not social networking is deteriorating the effectiveness of e-mail. Some have argued that e-mail is the backbone of social networking and the very mechanism used to deliver social networking notifications. Others claim the elevated level of relevance inherent in social networking is diverting attention away from e-mail as a channel overall.

The power of social networking as a medium is pervasive and entirely personal. I find myself looking for social networking alerts in my inbox due to how highly relevant they are to me. How does your commercial e-mail compete against this standard of personalized relevance?

You must raise the bar of relevance and leverage the data you have on each individual you're e-mailing. You must make e-mail more personal and worthy of your recipients' attention.

How do e-mail marketers get in on social networking? Some are trying something called “share-to-social.” This is similar to forward-to-a-friend, and allows a recipient to share an e-mail with their social network. The e-mail marketer simply includes links to the log-in page of major social networking sites. This enables recipients to share the commercial e-mail with their own social network more easily.

Once a recipient logs into the social networking site, like Facebook, for example, he or she can either post a link to your e-mail on their profile or news feed, which is the default setting; or send a message with a link to your e-mail. They can either type the name of a friend, friend list or e-mail address. Seems like a powerful endorsement, right? So how do you get your recipients to do this for you?

Let's learn from what e-mail marketers have tried in the past with forward-to-a-friend. Most marketers understand the potential opportunity of forward-to-a-friend but that potential has not really been actualized. By and large, forward-to-a-friend has been tough to measure and hasn't been as widely adopted as marketers would like. So we can't expect share-to-social to be much different unless we're truly effective at sending highly relevant content.  

You should strive to use information you've associated with each e-mail address in your database and apply it strategically to your e-mail program to tell an incrementally better story to your targeted audience. Make sure before you include share-to-social as an option in any commercial e-mail that the content you're sending is worthy of being shared.

A high standard should be applied when deciding whether or not to include share-to-social functionality in a commercial message. If the message is highly targeted and relevant or is expected to create a buzz among your recipient base, then that message is more share-worthy and could be a candidate for including a share-to-social link.

Someday we'll have the ability to pick out a particular product we're considering buying from an e-mail and share just that product with our social network to get their feedback about whether or not we should buy it. Wouldn't it be cool if each product within an e-mail could be shared to social rather than an entire e-mail to make it more relevant?

One thing we know for sure: If your recipients are willing to associate their name with your brand, it's an incredible complement to your brand, products and services, and maybe even your e-mail. So get strategic and relevant, and give it a try.

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