Is It Time To Kill The Forward To A Friend Link?

Is forwarding to a friend dead? 

I feel the death of a friendship coming on.

But hey, it’s not a bad feeling. In fact it’s an altogether very social thing.

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The back story

For many years now, I’ve been speaking at email marketing focussed conferences, seminars and workshops. During these presentations I always cover the importance of getting your email messages shared and forwarded.

Using sharing as an objective for your content helps to focus you on putting a little more effort into making sure your email is relevant and compelling – so it’s a win-win.

The reward is that if done properly you can uncover many more users who find your content interesting and engaging.  After all, peers are very likely to share interests. So in effect, your content sharers are re-targeting your messages for you!

(Tip: Don’t forget to put a link in your email to subscribe to your email program, so you can collect contact data from those who have engaged with you through sharing).

Hand’s up

I love to get a little bit of delegate interaction going during my presentations (it keeps delegates on their toes and makes sure they are all still awake!)

So I always ask a few questions and get a show of hands from the audience. For example…

“Hands up all those in the room” I say “who put a Forward to a Friend (FTAF) link in your email templates”.

The vast majority of delegates’ hands rocket up. ‘Good’ I think, ‘they’re still awake and listening’!

I then go on to say: “Keep your  hand up if you have ever used this feature yourself as an email recipient”.

At best around 1-2% of the room will keep their hands in the air.  So I push the point…

“Now keep your hands up if you’ve ever forwarded an email to more than 5 people, using the FTAF link”. Never in the 6 years I’ve been speaking at these events has anyone left their hand up!

The plain truth is that the FTAF link just isn’t as convenient for email users as simply using their email browser forward button (unless it comes with an incentive), which already holds your contacts’ email addresses and will pre-fill them as you type them.

Forwarding the story…

So let’s fast-forward to an email I received from our friends at Return Path, who we work with on behalf of many of our email clients who want to join their Certified Sender programme.

For one particular client, Return Path wanted to know if dotMailer was able to store the email addresses of the ‘Friends’ from a Forward to Friend submission.

To establish how much of a need there was for this functionality I decided to do some digging, and found that on average only 0.002% of our clients’ email recipients had used their Forward to a Friend link in the last year.

This remarkable stat is reminiscent of the show of hands I get in my seminars! So to me it’s starting to look increasingly like Forward to a Friend is over.

It’s a social thing

Today, forwarding email messages is all about Social Sharing. And no wonder, when you consider the potential.

For example, between Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus 1, I can – in just 3 clicks – share the content of an email I like with close to 3000 like-minded people.

Now that’s a driver if ever there was one to encourage marketers to focus on creating highly targeted, relevant and compelling email messages – messages made for sharing.

Of course, social sharing still has a way to go when it comes to email users. Email marketers can help to accelerate the use of this channel by using clever stuff like triggered emails, dynamic content and data segmentation to send out email content that no recipient can resist sharing.

At dotMailer we were the very first ESP to include trackable social media bookmark links in our email editor, and we’ve been developing new social media sharing tools for dotMailer  and dotCommerce ever since (watch this space…).

So my question to you is this: ‘Do we kill off Forward to a Friend’?

You can help us decide this feature’s fate by taking part in our 10 second mini survey.

It’s time the email marketing nation spoke. I’ll be reporting back on your verdict right here in the dotDigital blog next month.

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