Is Share-With-Your-Network Killing Forward-To-A-Friend?

Share-with-your-network (SWYN) is a relatively new phenomenon in the email marketing space. SWYN includes links to social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg etc. Some email pundits believe that SWYN is slowly but surely putting an end to forward-to-a-friend (FTAF) functionality in email. I personally don’t believe this is the case. What is clear so far is that forward-to-a-friend remains a fixture among most email marketing campaigns.

The email marketing agency Smith-Harmon found the following in their report FTAF vs. SWYN – The State of Email Sharing:

“There’s been some murmuring in the industry about the death of forward-to-a-friend (FTAF) lately because of the emergence of share-with-your-network (SWYN) functionality. Unlike FTAF, which is generally one-to-one sharing, SWYN allows subscribers to share an email’s content with all their friends on a social network. Shown to be considerably more viral than FTAF, SWYN also avoids entanglements with CAN-SPAM rules. Despite all those advantages, FTAF enjoys a four-to-one adoption rate over SWYN among the top online retailers. While only 12% of retailers use SWYN, 48% use FTAF—and FTAF adoption is up from 44% in 2006.”

Among retailers using individual SWYN links, Facebook and Twitter are the most popular. MySpace and Digg were the third and fourth most popular, with Delicious, ThisNext and StyleHive seeing minimal usage.

FTAF currently enjoys much higher placement in email designs than does SWYN. According to the report mentioned above, nearly 65% of those using FTAF included it above the fold, while only 15% of those using SWYN placed it above the fold.

Looking at a random sample of emails in my inbox, I also found that these trends hold true. The screen caps below are a sampling from fifteen creative examples that I’ve highlighted with purple boxes to call out SWYN content.

  • 13.3% of the emails below have the SWYN content above the fold. (2 out of 15)
  • 20% of the emails include the forward-to-a-friend (FTAF) and the share-with-your-network (SWYN) icons in the same space. (3 out of 15)
  • 6% of the emails list a specific person who clickers will be following on Twitter. This is the CEO of Bluefly. (1 out of 15)

Sport Chalet and Macy’s are in the minority since they place their SWYN icons at the top of their creative.

The rest of the examples below have their SWYN icons towards the bottom of their creative. Notice the wide variety of ways that both forward-to-a-friend (FTAF) and share-with-your-network (SWYN) are presented in email.


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