In Email, Sharing is Caring but Content Remains King

This article first appeared in the November issue of Advents, the Direct Marketing Association of Washington’s print magazine.

You are testing everything from the length of your subject line to the time of launch.  You are segmenting (at the very least you are not batching and blasting) and your double opt in list has the kind of permission only a 16 year-old could wish.

You want more.  You are not just satisfied with keeping up.  Like Queen famously sang (more like bellowed), you want it all and you want it now.  While I can’t promise you email marketing dominance (or any of it all for that matter), I can hip-you-to some of the latest trends that will keep you ahead of the curve.

Number one on the short list, Video, is forcing itself into email inboxes everywhere.  The power of the word video in your messaging is enough to raise open rates and increase engagement.  However, the problem with video is that it does not always deliver well and if it does get delivered it might not display properly.  To get around these issues you can use two different strategies:

  • Send a message with a still image of your video and then link to it on your site.  This allows you to take advantage of the allure of video and avoid the pitfalls of spam filters and flags.  Sign up to receive emails from and you can see some of the most extensive use of video in email out there.
  • Use animated GIF images to display video to the reader inside of the inbox.  This can work nicely because an animated GIF won’t raise any red flags with spam filters and is generally quick to load and play.  Note that animated GIFs don’t play sound and some email clients won’t play them.   Animated GIFs are used frequently for quick movie trailers and product demos.  See Lexus and Mercedes-Benz campaigns for examples.

The second (and possibly the sexiest) trend is the inclusion of social media sharing options in your message.  Everyone from newborns to grandmothers, seems to have a Facebook page or Twitter account, and you see more messages encouraging readers to – as Greg Cangialosi, President of Blue Sky Factory, calls it –  “Share with your network” or “SWYN” for short.  Greg, a veteran in the email-marketing field, loves this new trend.  He says that with SWYN, “the reach that email marketing has is growing every day, and the possibilities seem to be endless.”

A couple of quick items to note when incorporating SWYN:

  • Brainstorm on how you are going to include sharing and what social networks you want to focus on.  Talk to your email service provider about what they are doing to help.
  • When you have selected particular social networks, I encourage you to use the branded images supplied by each.  It helps the reader recognize where they are clicking to and adds to the legitimacy of your message.

The third and final trend has emailers saying less and encouraging more action from the reader.   This pushes the engagement paradigm from just click thrus and open rates to more fulfilling actions like direct customer-to-customer interactions or even discussing topics in real time with the sender.  Rick Christ, VP of Online Fundraising at NPA/Amergent, is doing that very thing by “working with emails that invite the recipient to DO something.” It’s not uncommon to see short (sometimes text only) email communications that quickly ask the reader to respond.  Rick adds, “People don’t read web pages. They prefer to DO them, or at least watch them. So we include surveys, videos, and other engagement techniques in our emails.”

Remember to test any new addition to your program to make sure that these trends (or any for that matter) work with your particular audience – can they help increase your engagement and even your overall reader satisfaction?  At the very least, these new additions can help your campaigns stay fresh and interesting.


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