There's no denying that we live in a social media world. While email and newsletter marketing has still been shown to give the largest return on investment for both expenditures and effort, it would be a bad business practice to not consider how to implement social sharing and the opportunity to grow your social network base into your email templates. Not only is it ideal to encourage your email subscribers to share email or newsletter content through social networks, it's also great to encourage them to join your social networks or to use social networks to convert other members to sign up for your email list.
Tips to Share Email No. 1: Share Your Newsletter Content via Social Networks
Any time your company creates content, whether it's for the website or for an email marketing piece or newsletter, you want for people to share email content through as many social networks as possible. While including social share buttons on any landing pages or content pages themselves is an important part of this process, allowing users to share content directly from your email is equally important. How do you do this? There are two steps.
Make Sure There is an HTML Webpage Copy of Your Email: It should really be a best-practice that you're following regardless to ensure that there is a standalone html webpage version of any email that you send that users can view if they are unable to see your email in their email client. Many email marketing platforms, such as Comm100, provide this automatically along with a link at the top of the email to "Visit this url if you cannot see this email." However, if you're not creating an html web page copy of your email, you'll need to do that in order to optimize the chances for a social share of your email newsletter or marketing email.
Code Your In-Email Sharing Buttons Properly: Next, you'll need to ensure that your social sharing buttons in an email template are coded to share that html webpage. You don't want to make users visit a separate html webpage and then hit a "Tweet" or "Facebook Share" or "Google +" button in order to share your content or promotion with others. If you're unsure of the proper code to use to tell a "share" button what url to share, then we suggest asking your in-house development team to research it. It's too complicated and specific to cover in this book, and it also changes rapidly. However, many email marketing platforms will provide this feature by default.
In today's internet world, never waste content! You want to make it as easy and as seamless as possible for users to share your email across the internet via all possible social networks.
Tips to Share Email No. 2: Entice Newsletter or Email Subscribers to Join Your Social Networks
While your email marketing list will almost always give you the highest return on investment per contact, growing your social networks is also important to your company. Not only does it give you a secondary customer win-back and retention tool, but it also improves viral brand marketing and can have a significant impact on search engine optimization (SEO). It's never a waste of real-estate in your email template to provide buttons or text links to encourage subscribers to join your social networks.
Encouraging subscribers to join your social networks isn't unlike any other value proposition. Particularly given that your email subscribers may already feel as though you have access to communicating with them via email, you'll need to take a tiny bit of extra effort to "sell" the idea of liking you on Facebook or following you on Twitter. Convincing users to take these actions isn't significantly different from the methods that you'll use to build email list. You'll need to present a value proposition that is different from the value that they get by receiving your email. The most common and effective ones will be special offers and deals that are not offered via email or tips from experts that are not offered via email. You may also want to consider reminding people that following or liking you on a social network gives them access to real time and time-sensitive information that they may not have access to via email newsletters or communications.
Tips to Share Email No. 3: Put Social Share Buttons in the Right Place
As we've previously discussed, real estate within an email template is critically important, particularly the top three inches (roughly 500 or 600 pixels). For that reason, it's important that you balance where you put your social sharing buttons and how important it is that users see them versus the most important content in your email. For example, if you put your social sharing buttons below the fold, it's possible that even if your email content is incredibly compelling and interesting and features an amazing offer, users may not share it on their social networks because they won't view the email outside of their email preview pane and therefore won't ever see your social sharing buttons. The same applies for adding users to your social networks via newsletter promotions. However, if you put the social sharing buttons and features above the fold, you are taking room away from other messages or important information that you want to ensure that users see. You'll need to determine your own business objectives and what role utilizing social sharing in email needs to play in that in order to properly determine where to put your social network buttons. There's no right or wrong way or best practice.
Email testing is your friend here! Consider doing an A/B test where you put your social call-to-action above the fold in one email and below the fold in a second email. Then track all the related metrics, including overall traffic to the web version of your email, sign-ups to your list, new Facebook likes and tracked tweets. You may find that positioning makes a great difference in your social activity. You may also find that it doesn't make any difference at all and therefore it either doesn't matter where you put the buttons.
Tips to Share Email No. 4: Provide Text Alternatives to Social Share Buttons
It's also important to remember that, while the standard for web design is to use identifiable buttons for social sharing or to join social networks, those images may not be visible or appear in your email template. Always design your email template so that there is a text link alternative for joining or sharing content via social networks. It may seem unnecessary, but you will absolutely see improved social sharing if you do not rely on images in order to convey the message to your users or subscribers that they can share your content via social networks or join your social circles.
Tips to Share Email No. 5: Provide Your Social URLS as Well
In addition to providing your social sharing and social network joining solicitations via a text link, it's also a great best practice to consider including your social network urls or handles in your email template. Users may not want to click a join or share button immediately, but they may be interested in viewing or checking out your social network locations. They also may not want to do that directly from their email, or they may be reading their email at a work location or other location where social networks are blocked. Be sure to include the urls of your Twitter, Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn or other social network locations for them to note or remember for a later time.
Best Practices for Social Sharing in Email Templates
Best practices for social sharing components in emails are changing almost as fast as the social network space itself is changing. However, the following will all help to improve your email's value in the world of social network sharing.
- Be Sure to Have an HTML Webpage Version of Your Email:You should be doing this anyway! However, in order for the content of your email to be shared via social networks, you'll need a static html webpage version of the email.
- Code Share Links to Directly Share Your Webpage Version: Make sure you're not relying on users to go to your html web page version of your email and then share. Code the sharing buttons or links within your email to post the webpage directly.
- Give an Incentive for Joining Social Networks:Email subscribers may be disinclined to join your social networks because they feel as though you already have access to communicating with them. Be sure to give them content or offer incentives to like, follow or add you.
- Test Social Button and Link Placements:Test various placements for your social join or share buttons and links in your emails in order to find the right placement and balance for you.
- Augment Buttons with Links:Remember that while buttons are the common way to denote a social network share or add on a web page, graphics and images may not appear in your email templates. Make sure there is always a corresponding text link.
- Provide Social URLS:Subscribers may read your emails at locations where social networks are blocked (such as at work). Be sure to provide your social urls within the body of the email as well for them to remember later.
Email marketing and social media work best when they work hand-in-hand. Don't shy away from promoting social sharing or social networks within your email.