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How Social Is Socially Acceptable in Email?

by Stephanie Miller  |  
September 15, 2009

Marketers face a bit of a quandary in deciding how social to be. There is a seemingly endless number of social networks, all with conversations that might be relevant to the business.

There is also nothing more mind-numbing and action-halting than a list of 15 or more social-media and network logos lined up in the sidebar of an email or Web page. When presented with too many choices, most readers simply will not act.

If supporting every social network out there is too much, but integrating no social activity is a big miss, how do you decide which networks to include in your email marketing?

The answer is simple: Ask your subscribers. That's exactly what SmartBrief did earlier this year.

The B2B content aggregator publishes more than 100 email newsletters with news summaries for vertical industries (e.g., restaurant owners or retailers) and business topics (e.g., social marketing and leadership). The company polled 80,000 subscribers of its SmartBrief on Leadership newsletter and asked them which social networks were most important to their businesses.

That feedback was then correlated with data on which sites subscribers were actually posting SmartBrief links. The top three sites were Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Links to them were then added next to the Forward to a Friend email button.

A click on any of the Share buttons will auto-update the user's status. Automating the process certainly helped. Adding the social-media links increased sharing activity 25% more than the email-sharing link alone, said Rob Birgfeld, director of Audience Development at SmartBrief. Activity on the email forwards has stayed the same.

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Stephanie Miller is vice-president of market development for Return Path, Inc. ( Reach her via Twitter (@StephanieSAM) or

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