How to make your email go viral

Posted on July 26, 2015 at 12:31 pm Written by

Robert-AllenRobert Allen is the Blog Editor for Smart Insights where he spends his days reading and writing about the latest trends in digital marketing. Below Robert shares with us the best ways to make your email go viral.

When was the last time you forwarded an email? It’s natural for us to forward to family, friends and business colleagues, but how do you encourage it in email marketing? In the Digital Marketing world, developments happen fast, so it’s a fairly regular occurrence to see an email regarding a new feature or trend that you think is worth sending over to your colleagues so you all know about the new development.

We tend to associate ‘going viral’ with Social Media, but email also can have considerable ‘virality’, even though this is not always as obvious. According to new research from Litmus ‘more new visitors were reached through email referrals than Facebook and Twitter combined’.

The study examined the forwards generated by more than 400,000 commercial email sends which achieved at least 500 opens between Jan 2013 and March 2015.

How to make your email go viral


What makes email viral?

It is far from easy to make emails go viral, with the median forwarding rate being a mere 0.3%. However, there are plenty of things you can do to massively increase the forwarding rates of your emails.

Segmentation and triggering
Of 200 emails from the top 1% of most shared emails, 13% were segmented and 16% were triggered. This compared to only 3% segmented and 5.4% triggered in the median group. So the most viral emails were 4 times more likely to be segmented and 3 times more likely to be trigger than your average email. Segmentation and targeting should therefore be a priority when trying to generate viral responses to emails.

Personalised content receives considerably higher forward rates than generic content. Of the top 1% of emails studied, 8.9% had personalised content, whilst only 2% of the average performing emails did.

Calls to action
Emails that contained a call to action that ask them to ‘share with your network’ were generally considerably more likely to be shared. The top 1% of emails were 13 times more likely to include this call to action than the averagely performing ones.

Useful content
The type of content contained within the emails themselves was highly important in determining forwarding rates. Emails about events were the most common among the top 1% best performing emails.

News and advice was the 2nd most common topic of highly viral emails, which makes a lot of sense. However this content has to be of extremely good quality to generate virality. The study also found the averagely performing emails also contained a lot of news/advice content, but this was getting shared far less.

How to make your email go viral


Promotions and deals
Generally speaking, promotions did not get higher than usual forward rates, and were actually less likely to be the topic of the most viral 1% of emails than they were of averagely performing emails.

However the research reveals that promotions regarding new products/services or store openings do often perform very well. Emails regarding this kind of promotion were 6 times more likely to be in the top 1% of emails. Emails regarding free trails also performed exceptionally well.

How to make your emails viral
So, we’ve seen from the results that certain tactics and content can make your email much more likely to be shared. The key things you need to do to achieve better forwarding rates with emails are as follows:

  • Target a niche audience and personalise – Targeted messages are generally at least 90% more viral than un-targeted messages.
  • Create highly shareable content that contains great advice, fascinating news or truly exceptional offers.
  • Use calls to action where appropriate to spur forwarding.

If you are interested in optimising your email marketing then our Expert Member guides and templates on email marketing take you through everything you need to know to run effective marketing campaigns.

This article was written by Robert Allen.

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