More On Making Your Emails Shareworthy

Creating "shareworthy" emails means looking at your emails in a whole new light, from the content to the design, even tailoring your message to appeal to your high-volume sharers.

In my previous Email Insider column, I outlined what motivates people to share content, either by forwarding an email or posting the contents on their social-networking sites, and the qualities that make your emails more shareworthy. In this column, we'll dive into some design and content ideas that can lead to increased sharing.

Design Emails Specifically for Sharing

Emails that appeal to people's reasons for sharing are not enough. They must also be easy to share. Following are a few ideas to help you get started or raise your email-sharing approach to the next level:

1.    Target the right social networks and media. While a site like Facebook is a safe bet, there might be specific social media or networks that have either a high or low penetration among your customers or subscribers. There are various studies and resources that can help you determine the right match for your business.

2. Explain how to use your social-sharing feature. Social networking and sharing tools are still a relatively new concept to most people. Suddenly introducing sharing links in your emails will be confusing to some and ignored by many others.

When you launch your sharing capabilities, promote the feature in your welcome emails, and include an explanation or link to more detailed information. Secondly, explain the functionality as you would a new product or feature in the first few emails that you add it to.

Then, in ongoing emails, link to a Web-page explanation, or better yet, use inline navigation that links to an explanation in the footer. This keeps the reader engaged with the email until it's time to share the content or click on the offer.

3. Test the share function design, location and copy.
Using social networks' logos will help with immediate visual recognition, but because of image blocking, they won't initially be visible for as many as one-third to one-half of your subscribers. First, make sure you use the alt attribute for the logo images and consider including HTML text hyperlinks behind the images.
Secondly, while many companies are simply placing share links at the bottom or near the top of their emails, testing different locations might produce significantly different results.

One of our clients tested three different email locations and designs and, not surprisingly, found that simply inserting social links at the bottom of the email delivered the lowest percentage of shares.

The winning position was located above the email footer and included these four elements:



·    The headline "Are you on Facebook?" in fairly large font

·    A large Facebook logo

·    Copy that educated and guided the subscriber: "Share the recipes and coupons in this email with your friends on Facebook."

·    This hyperlinked, text-based call to action: "Share with your friends"

As part of your testing, also make sure that the sharing location and design do not negatively impact the core objective of your email.

4. Highlight shareworthy content. You can encourage more sharing when you make your content actionable and easy and quick to read. A European airline saw strong sharing results with a compelling and very simple free-travel offer: "100% Discount for Your Beloved One."

Other content that practically begs to be shared: For B2C, anything new before it hits other communication channels, such as new products, stores, collections or movies; for B2B, anything your readers can use to do their jobs better, like industry news and links to interesting articles or events.

Long newsletters or emails that lack focus, or content and offers that don't stand out, are likely to be shared less. Readers typically give your email only a few seconds of viewing time before deciding to click or read further. Content that lacks a clear focus gives readers little motivation to share.

If your email has multiple products, offers or articles, highlight the one that is likely to be the most shareworthy. In addition to the design testing above, consider putting share links near the "in focus" content.

5. Track how readers use your social-sharing features, and then use that information to refine your content. Which categories of messages, types of content and offers generate the most shares? What type of content motivates your most frequent or valued sharers versus those who don't share as often? Over time, consider segmenting out your high-value or frequent sharers from the rest of the pack, and send them special offers or content.

6. Test, refine and test again. Sharing with social networks is so new that generally accepted best practices have yet to be determined. Even so, like everything in email marketing, what works for one company might fall flat at yours; so, test everything.

7. Not every email should have a forward-to-a-friend or share-to-social function. These include transactional messages, welcome emails, highly personalized or subscriber-only offers -- any email that's clearly meant for one specific person.

Given that social-network usage is becoming a standard part of the Internet user's day worldwide, making your emails shareworthy can be an additional means of engaging and adding value to your subscribers.

Until next time, take it up a notch!
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