As email marketers, we focus a lot of our efforts on content and images that are designed to do one main thing: get recipients to convert.
That built business in a one-way, Web 1.0 world where digital communications were all about the message you wanted to deliver and the actions you wanted recipients to take: mainly, "buy this," "download that" or "sign up."
But the Web has evolved to Version 2.0 via social media like blogs and social networks, where interactivity rules. People want and deserve not just to consume content but also to create it or serve their own purposes with it.
Do your email messages give subscribers the option to do something else besides what you want? Equally important, do they make it possible for subscribers to act, whether it's to convert or do something else, like seek information or solve a problem?
If you haven't updated your message template to build in social connections and usability, you're becoming as obsolete as Internet Explorer 3.0.
The New Value Proposition Includes Social and Mobile
Email is now part of a new communications ecosystem, sharing time and attention with social media and mobile communications. In this new reality, your email must provide new value.
In email's early days, the value was getting messages directly from favorite or familiar brands in the inbox. The value served the company's needs, mainly the value proposition and call to action.
Today, that definition is too narrow. An important aspect of an email's role and value to recipients is how well the message helps subscribers do what they want to do.
This utility factors in message content, such as those that allow users to change email preferences, contact customer support, or check out a product or service other than the one(s) being promoted in the message.
Adding Social Links and Usability Adds Value
I first covered this topic in a 2007 Email Insider ("Email Life Can Be Hard -- Make it Easy For Subscribers"), where I explained that adding links to your email messages makes them more useful to your recipients and thus more valuable and action-worthy.
Links to preference updates, customer support and contact information, FAQs and other administrative functions can collect a fair number of clicks and are important to the user, even if they aren't the central feature of your email message.
But even that previous Email Insider column is relatively obsolete now that Web 2.0 is here, and Web 3.0 (the predictive and collaborative Web) looms in the background.
Mobile adds another set of requirements. Because viewing email is the No. 1 Internet activity on mobile, you need to be sure your message can be viewed and acted on easily in all screen environments, from the 1x2-inch screen of a basic feature phone to a 15.4-inch laptop and a 21-inch desktop.
The single-column email design is becoming a popular approach to make it easier for subscribers using mobile -- especially older devices. Testing is essential, not just on the message content but its usability.
Following are a few links that have become crucial to add in this new email environment.
1. Share-with-your-network reminders.
2. Invitations to follow/fan your company on social networks.
3. A preheader that states the email value proposition, call to action or link to the landing page and might be the only copy visible on a mobile screen.
4. Invitation to review or rate purchases.
Examples of Socially Savvy Emails
Many marketers are putting Web 2.0 imperatives into practice. Here are four examples:
A. A computer retailer invites subscriber comments with an invitation to submit questions or comments in its administrative footer.
B. Along with its social-network links, a travel newsletter links to its blog, which gives readers another avenue to provide input.
C. A food manufacturer adds content to its share-to-Facebook link: "Share the recipes and coupons in this email with your friends on Facebook."
D. An entertainment vendor adds "Where's My Order?" to its administrative footer to reassure or solve problems for buyers.
These and other links can help you take your email up a notch or two and make it more useful and valuable to your email subscribers.
Until next time, take it up a notch.