Counterpoint: Why FTAF Usage Should Thrive

When I read this article promoting the death of Forward to a Friend (FTAF) written by Ed Henrich over on ClickZ, I admit I was disappointed. While the stats say Share With Your Network (SWYN) usage is steadily increasing and FTAF usage is steadily decreasing, I have to ask everyone to take a step back and ask "Why?".

Let’s get real for a minute: today, neither SWYN nor FTAF produce gang-buster numbers for your email marketing campaigns. The reality is that very few of your subscribers will choose to share your content to their friends, family or network.  But when they do — oh, when they do! — my belief is that you’ll want them to do it through an email forward versus social sharing.

Because it’s my belief that emails that are forwarded to friends, whether through the FTAF mechanism or not, have more traction and a higher conversion rate over SWYN all day, every day.

Hear me out:

The metric that we can actually report on — those that click the forward link, fill in their friends’ email addresses and hit submit — vastly under-reports the true number of forwards. I don’t know about you, but when I want to share an exciting deal from LivingSocial or sale at Old Navy, 99 times out of 100 I use my email client to forward versus the FTAF link.

The same could be said about SWYN, so I’ll move on to my next point: views. Ask yourself this question: "If you were to receive an email forwarded from a colleague or friend, how likely are you to open it and check it out?"  Most probably, your response is "very likely."  How likely are you to, first, see a tweet/Facebook post/Digg/Tumblr post… that a friend posts and then click the link to read more? I would imagine the likelihood here is much smaller.

The stats for social sharing and views are highly debated with only anecdotal numbers to date, but the latest study reports that it produces an 1% lift in views and a 24.3% increase in reach when shared on social networks.  Please note that views and opens do not equate to sales, which I imagine is an exponentially smaller number.

So let’s get to the bottom line: people aren’t just going to magically share your emails; you have to ask them to take action and give them clear reasons to do so.  I encourage clients to include a FTAF link due to, to borrow a Dela Quist term, "the nudge effect" of including a request in the email. If you don’t ask, it’s not likely to happen.

Having folks share your content is a big win regardless of the medium, but in my opinion FTAF wins in the epic battle of FTAF vs. SWYN (if there should even be one or the other) every time.

For or against FTAF or SWYN? Weigh in with your opinion in the comments section.

– Kelly Lorenz
Email Marketing Strategist at Bronto

One thought on “Counterpoint: Why FTAF Usage Should Thrive

  1. Kelly,

    I absolutely agree with you that FTAF is still valuable to include in messages.

    It is not very common that an email would be appropriate for or valued by the varied group of people I’m connected to in social spaces. I still tend to FTAF over SWYN (and outside of the email link provided). Granted, as social media platforms become more advanced and we can better group individuals into categories and share directly to those categories, I may be more included to share via SWYN. But for now, don’t deny the power of FTAF links.

    We’ve seen the studies that tout the effectiveness of friends-and-family campaigns – simply because these campaigns SUGGEST/ENCOURAGE sending the message to others. I would venture to say that most of the success created via that approach has been through forwarding rather than sharing in social places.

    I believe FTAF links are still vital, valid and potentially influential and will continue to be so for quite some time.

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