Opt In to Social Media

Whether it’s a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account or a LinkedIn profile, more and more companies are leaning on social media to enhance their business. Email programs are no different – we are seeing more and more clients leveraging social media platforms to grow their customer base. Social media affords companies of all sizes the ability to reach a broad audience in a timely fashion at a relatively low cost compared to more traditional marketing approaches. Along with these benefits come inherent risks and this post will look at best practices and recommendations to mitigate these risks and successfully integrate social media into email programs.

Social media platforms, like all other points of email address collection, should adhere to industry best practices, specifically as it relates to Opting-In new subscribers and expectation setting. This is particularly relevant for anyone utilizing the common approach of Importing Address Book – taking the address book from one subscriber and importing all of their contacts into your email deployment file. These ‘new’ contacts are not likely expecting any email from the sender and the results can be significant damage to a sender’s reputation through the following deliverability metrics looked at by many ISPs:

  • Higher complaints as the email was not expected/wanted
  • Higher Unknown user rates as most email recipients do not actively manage their address book resulting in numerous outdated or non-existent email address being mailed to
  • Significantly higher Spam Trap hits – unused or abandoned emails being mailed to

Return Path’s recently released Sender Score Benchmark Report analyzed data from across our client base and found that social networking senders had the highest complaint and unknown user rates among any business sector. Furthermore, social networking sites averaged 20.8 spam trap hits per IP address – consumer products was the sector that had the second most spam trap hits with an average of 2! These numbers should not only be alarming to social networking senders, but any commercial sender using similar aggressive acquisition practices (like Address Book Import) to grow their email deployment file.

Those are the risks and concerns to consider when implementing similar list acquisition tactics – now let’s look at way to mitigate these risks and really capitalize on the ever-emerging social media platforms and technologies available.

From and email senders perspective, the underlying strategy of social media efforts should be to get new subscribers to voluntarily provide their email address to receive future communications. This will allow new subscribers to opt into your mail streams and also properly set their expectations in terms of who will be sending them email. A recommended, and common, way to do this is directing customers via social media platforms to a landing page or a web form to complete. Once on this page, senders can collect new user email addresses and also dictate what other type of demographic information is required to sign up (gender, age, location, etc). Here are some suggestions to achieve this through a few of the most popular social networking channels:

  • Tweeting a promotional offer or coupon with a link to a data collection form – @company name is offering 25% off your next purchase! Click here to get your discount coupon.
  • Dedicate a tab on your Facebook account to a web form where people can sign up for your email. Tweeting a link to this form is a good way to integrate social media platforms. This is a great way to convert ‘Fans’ or ‘Followers’ into subscribers and customers.
  • Include ‘Email to Friend’ and other social sharing buttons within your email – it is important to include a “Subscribe” link the email so new recipients can easily opt in to your program

Following the best practices outlined in this post should empower senders of all sizes to leverage social networks to enhance email programs while maintaining reputation…and as we all know, reputation is key! Happy sending!

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