Perception Vs. Reality: SWYN Adoption

Our perceptions of what are common practices are often severely colored by our own excitement level regarding that practice. Read enough articles on XYZ tactic and pretty soon you're noticing it everywhere -- not necessarily because it's there, but instead because you're on the lookout for it.

For instance, someone recently told me that trimming inactives from email lists was a pretty standard hygiene practice. I took a quick look at some data I've been collecting over the past 2+ years on the topic, and I can say with certainty that it's not a common practice at all, despite tons of the articles and industry conversations on the topic this year. Many people, including myself, would like to see be a common practice, but it just isn't yet, and likely won't be for at least another couple of years.

The same overly inflated perceptions exist around the adoption of share-with-your-network (SWYN) functionality, which allows subscribers to share the content of an email with their friends and family on various social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I was talking with a reporter recently who said casually that most marketers now use SWYN. Despite being a huge proponent of SWYN, I wasn't so sure. Last year I would have sworn that SWYN adoption was at 25%+ among major retailers. But when I compiled data on it, the adoption rate was just 12%.



I've now completed a follow-up to that forward-to-a-friend (FTAF) vs. SWYN report, which we'll be publishing in a few days. That report will reveal that SWYN adoption among retailers is at 26% as of August, probably a far cry from what most email marketers think it is.

Even though the adoption of SWYN has more than doubled over the past year or so, it still trails the adoption rate of FTAF, which some industry insiders have already declared "dead." FTAF usage stands at 44%, down from 48% last year. At the current rate, it will be another 12 to 18 months before SWYN adoption overtakes FTAF.

As we approach the holiday season, it's a little shocking that major retailers aren't doing more to empower their subscribers to extend the reach of their email campaigns through SWYN and FTAF. It's free marketing that's going used and money that's being left on the table. But change can be deceptively slow.

Are there other practices or trends that have the appearance of being widespread -- but you suspect that those perceptions are just overinflated?

5 comments about "Perception Vs. Reality: SWYN Adoption".
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  1. Lorenzo a. Morales from Massive Company, October 12, 2010 at 9:59 a.m.

    "...FTAF, which some industry insiders have already declared "dead." FTAF usage stands at 44%, "

    Where do you get 44% for FTaF?

    My 2cents is that users disregard the FTF buttons in the emails and still use the FWD button in their email client and there are ways to measure those actions now too, Litmus is one of them.

  2. Chad White from Litmus, October 12, 2010 at 10:36 a.m.

    Lorenzo, that's the percentage of retailers that incorporate FTAF into their emails, not the percentage of consumers that use FTAF. You're correct that consumers use the "forward" button in their email client to forward emails more often than they use FTAF mechanisms to do so.

  3. Christina Inge from Measurable Marketing Strategy, October 12, 2010 at 10:43 a.m.

    It's really surprising how low the adoption rate is for SWYN--on the other hand, though, many companies don't yet know how to integrate their social media and email strategies, and rightly think that developing integrated messaging is the first step to making email more social. They may be putting off integrating the technical functionality until they've got a clear idea of how to make the content of their emails something that consumers will want to share on social media.

  4. Amy Garland, October 12, 2010 at 11:50 a.m.


    Interesting article. Often times at Blue Sky Factory we think we're talking about the same old thing and that it's old news, whether it be SWYN, A|B split testing, or re-engagement campaigns. The reality is that many of these topics are actually new to some of our clients and other email marketers. Just because the industry (ESPs and other "insiders") talks a lot about certain features and other trends, it doesn't mean marketers are keeping up with the news and implementing these practices.

    It will take continuous education from ESPs, but I'm confident SWYN adoption will increase in 2011! We just have to be committed to explaining the benefits (even if it's old news to us).

    Also, I agree with you on FTAF:

    Amy Garland
    Blue Sky Factory

  5. Andrew Kordek from Trendline Interactive, October 27, 2010 at 8:06 p.m.

    There also might be confusion with certain people as to what SWYN vs a generic jpeg and link to the companies social presence. Think about it for sec. Companies want to drive you to their FB or Twitter page so they can have people subscribe to those feeds vs getting people to share that email out.


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