Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sharing is the New TAF

If you haven’t implemented sharing tools on your emails yet, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage existing advocates, recruit new ones, and drive substantial traffic to your website and campaigns.

Granted, this is no small feat. For us, it took 2 weeks for me to figure out how to rig the code so that it worked in our content management system and pulled the right information when posting to Facebook and Twitter. But the payoff was well worth it. Preliminary results showed that just in the first day of enabling sharing features on our email, we got 500 tweets and over 15,000 visits to the web version of our email from Twitter alone.

Now, that’s great, but it wasn’t perfect. As Beth has stated before, I’m a HUGE advocate for the listen, learn, adapt method and not afraid to fail before I succeed. It’s frustrating but I don’t give up; I learn from my mistakes and apply the lessons to future campaigns. This project was no different.

I was so excited that I got the sharing features to work properly that I didn’t even think about tracking. When we sent out the email (you can see it here.) and my boss asked me how it did, I blanked. He wanted to know how many people shared and viewed it per service, and how many people viewed the web version of the email.

I had no idea.

I could see in Tweetdeck that people were sharing it on Twitter, because I have keyword searches set up for our brand. That was really exciting to see all the activity, but I wanted actual numbers. I was able to scrounge some stats by using Tweetmeme and for Twitter, but had no idea what the Facebook impact was or how many people viewed the page. We didn’t have a unique URL for Facebook, and we didn’t have Google Analytics tracking codes set up on the web version of the email. Oops.

So, for the next email we sent out, I used trackable URLs from Google Analytics for both Facebook and Twitter. The URL you shared on Facebook now looked like this:

And the URL you shared on Twitter was a shortened URL linking to this:

Oh yeah, and I made sure the Google Analytics tracking code was installed on the web version of the email. Don’t forget that.

Now, I was able to see stats in Google Analytics for each separate medium. My predictions were correct; sharing on Facebook almost doubled that on Twitter. The numbers were significant, and when I shared them with my team, they were floored.

By adding this simple feature, we’re enabling and encouraging people to spread the word, and making it as easy as possible for them to do so. And we’re seeing how well its working by making sure we can track everything.

Here’s how to enable sharing for your emails:

For Facebook Share: Grab the code off the Share Partners page on Facebook, but take out any javascript. There’s also some great info on that page about how to configure your code to make sure Facebook pulls the right information into the title and description when sharing. Replace the URL with the web version of your email.

The trick: if the web version of your emails begins with “https”, you have to take off the “s”. Sharing functions are not fully compatible with secure pages just yet.

For Twitter, you can set someone’s status by using “”.

The trick: make sure you use the + signs in place of any spaces. Then, shorten the URL to the web version of your email using or your favorite URL shortening service. We add “(via @humanesociety)” in there to give our Twitter account a little extra exposure.

Note: You might be wondering why we didn’t use an existing tool like AddThis or Share This. While those tools are great (we even use them on our website), they just didn’t do everything we needed for email.

Some best practices:
  • If you’re using a CMS like us you’ll need to make sure you’re using an email wrapper that pulls unique meta data into each email.
  • Take the time to tweak and customize your sharing code. By simply adding “via @humanesociety” anytime someone shares on Twitter, we’re giving our Twitter account huge visibility.
  • Make sure you use tracking codes from your stats program so you can track your success. Use unique URLs for Twitter and Facebook.
  • You’ll get better results if you ASK. Basic constituent engagement – if you ask, more will participate. We did a “PS” in our first sharing-enabled email asking people to share it.
  • If you’re sending out a big campaign email, set up keyword alerts with something like Tweetdeck or Tweetbeep. Some people like to customize the Tweets that they share, so you may not see it. For instance, when we sent out the first email, I started monitoring the keyword “Petland” so even if someone took out the “via @humanesociety” or changed the title, I still saw it.
  • Don’t be afraid to respond to people who aren’t following you when you come across something. I found many people talking about going to Petland and thinking of buying a dog there. I replied and introduced them to our campaign, asking them to consider adoption instead. Starts the conversation in hopes of educating and changing behavior.
Traditional Tell-a-Friend methods like email and web forms are not dead; but like any other emerging technology that’s out there, we have to recognize that people are sharing information in new and different ways than they always have. And we have to adapt by fitting these methods into our communications strategies or we’ll simply fall behind.

Has anyone else implemented sharing features on their emails? I’d love to see examples of how other organizations have made it happen and how it has worked for them.


Alberto said...

Hi Carie,
Thanks for this really interesting case history! Is not so usual to find a so complete insight in a e-mail campaing...

i have discovered your blog on Beth's one, and... surelly I'll continue to follow it!

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