Integration Of Email And Social Strengthening, Despite SWYN's Decline

Ten months ago, I predicted that SWYN adoption would hit 50% by the end of 2011. I was wrong. Really wrong.

In July I looked at retailers' adoption of SWYN for the just-published "Viral & Community Links" report and found that only 25% of top online retailers included SWYN links in all of their promotional emails. And that number declined slightly year-over-year.

That finding confused me and many of my colleagues, who also expected SWYN adoption to have grown significantly. Part of our surprise stemmed from the fact that many marketers don't do a good job of differentiating their SWYN links from their community links. There's been a significant shift away from text links and supportive text to just letting Facebook and Twitter icons stand on their own. It's often impossible to tell if the icon is a share link or a community link until you click on it. Unfortunately, there are too few retailers like Orvis who do a really great job of differentiating the two kinds of social links.

Orvis differentiates their SWYN and community links well

In the end, what we found was that retailers were much more convinced of the effectiveness of SWYN links at the website level rather than email level, with 76% of retailers including SWYN links on their product pages. In most cases, it's probably best to be selective in your use of SWYN, using it when the content of your email is particularly shareworthy and placing the SWYN link prominently within the primary content block. For instance, this Aug. 19 email from Dick's Sporting Goods about concussion prevention in high school sports is a great example of a compelling use of SWYN.

However, SWYN is just one way that email content and social media are tied together:

Community Links: Email is a key tactic for driving traffic to brands' social media pages. Among retailers, 88% now include links to their pages on Facebook, Twitter and other social media in every promotional email they send.

Voice of the Consumer: Including testimonials from product reviews on your site is now a tried-and-true tactic for bringing a social endorsement to a product. Now marketers can also draw upon comments made via social media for use in their emails. For instance, J. Jill used four comments from their Facebook fans to promote their Wearever collection in this July 29 email -- and even touted the Facebook connection in the subject line: "Our Facebook fans give Wearever rave reviews! Plus, take 15% off." And in an Aug. 13 email, CB2 drew on comments from both Facebook and Twitter for their new newsletter.

Comments from Facebook and Twitter used in a Aug. 13 CB2 email

Contest Host: Facebook has almost become the de facto host of all contests that I see retailers promote in their emails.

Event Hall: Marketers are also using Facebook to host chats. Dick's Sporting Goods promoted a chat with Buffalo Bills running back CJ Spiller in a July 26 email; Bed Bath & Beyond promoted one with a back-to-school panel of "college experts" in a July 12 email; and Coldwater Creek promoted one in a June 26 email, offering to answer subscribers' style questions.

Banner promoting a Facebook chat with CJ Spiller from a July 26 email

Social Thresholds: Retailers are also experimenting with social thresholds for deals, taking a page out of Groupon's playbook. For instance, in this July 27 email, Buy.com offered to trigger a great deal on a Sony Dash if 500 people were to "like" it on the product page. And putting an email spin on the social threshold tactic, SmartBargains rewarded subscribers for helping them gain 3,000 new subscribers in a single day in this June 22 email.

Facebook Stores: And finally, there continue to be occasional signs that e-commerce may actually be embraced by large retailers. The most prominent example I've seen of a Facebook Store being used in an email was in this Aug. 22 email from the Gilt Groupe. This email included a banner to announce the opening of the Gilt Facebook Store and used a "Facebook Store" ribbon over several content block images to indicate that clicking though would take subscribers to Facebook.

What other ways have you seen social media used in emails?

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