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Email and Social Media: It's more than Including an Icon

6/7/11

By Julia Peavy

The marketing media is awash with talk of “integration” – in general, and specific to social media. But what does integration mean and what does it look like?

To answer that question, my colleague Stephanie Colleton and I couldn’t think of a better place than our very own inboxes. Over the course of a week, we looked at over 75 senders in our inboxes - publishers, retailers, B2B, hospitality, finance – and many more commercial email senders.  While including social media calls to action may seem like a simple and logical first step toward integrating these two channels, our unofficial study reveals that marketers still have room for improvement.

Follow/Like vs. Forward to a Friend

While follow/like was the most popular way to integrate social media and email (with 61 percent of marketers implementing the tactic),the original social email stalwart, forward to a friend, is still holding strong with 35 percent of marketers still leveraging this tactic. In many emails, the visual treatment of these calls to action also indicates that marketers are favoring social media over forward to a friend.

We also noticed a more aggressive twist on forward to a friend, with 6 percent of companies including requests to invite friends to join a company’s email list. Of these invites, 60 percent included an incentive for doing so. As companies embrace social media, will we begin to see a change in how FTAF is implemented?

Share This!


Surprisingly, only 25 percent of the emails in our unofficial study included the ability to share part or all of the email with a social network. Even more surprisingly, only 17 percent included both the follow/like and sharable content. Retailers and publishers led the way with the ability to share email content.

While the ability to share email content is a step in the right direction to email and social media integration, marketers in our study often failed with the implementation. Good email programs are built on meeting or exceeding subscriber expectations. And yet, these basics were not always met when it came to social media in email.

For example, one email included the text “share” next to the social media icons, but the destination was a company’s social media page. If a subscriber is engaged enough to click on a social media icon, the right experience needs to be delivered. With some emails, it was very clear what content would be shared, but the content was not truly shareable. Would you share the content below with no graphics or text? (Company name blocked out to protect the innocent).

FB link


Some content rendered well on social networks once shared, but the subscriber could not always be sure before they clicked the icon exactly what content they would be sharing.In one email, the share link was at the top of the email, but the shared content was buried at the bottom. In other emails, share links redirected to the web version of the email, but the sharing call to action was not called out. Marketers must ensure sharing email content via social networks is easy and straight-forward or there won’t be any sharing.

What's Social Media?

Within our study, 13 percent of the emails we reviewed included no social media calls to action. While this is better than integrating social media and email poorly, there are obviously marketers still determining how to even start integrating the email and social media channels.

Although our inbox study is unofficial, the study highlights some opportunities for improvement with even the most basic email and social media integration tactics. In future columns, we will provide some insights, encourage discussions, and shed some light on the many additional ways these powerful channels can work together. In the meantime, keep the following in mind when integrating social media into your email programs.

Tips for Integrating Social Media into Your Email

• Ensure your social media calls to action are clear. If you want a subscriber to follow/like you, make sure it is clear that the call to action is follow/like, not share. If you include the ability to share email content via social networks, make sure your subscriber knows what content they are sharing.

• Test out different wording to encourage sharing or engagement with your social media site. While including simple “follow us” and “like us” text is better than no guidance, test the social media calls to action to see if this encourages more clicks (i.e., “Share with friends” or“Like it? Share it!” or “Don’t Miss the Conversation”).

• Communicate the benefit of joining your company on your social media sites.  What additional benefit does an email subscriber receive if they like you on Facebook or follow you are Twitter? Early notification of offers? Last minute specials? The ability to provide product feedback? Determine the benefit and promote it.

• Make it easy for email subscribers to share your content. Ensure the sharable text and graphicsappropriately represent the email content. If the sharable content is only a link or lengthy, irrelevant content, subscribers are less likely to share it.

About the Author 
Julia Peavy is director, response consulting at email-certification and reputation-monitoring-services firm Return Path. Along with her colleague Stephanie Colleton, she will be writing the monthly Email + column. Together they will cover the integration of email with other marketing tools and strategies.

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