The trend of viral marketing is commonly associated with social media platforms such as facebook, twitter etc. This is hardly surprising as the intensity of the virality is easily trackable by means of likes and the sum of shared content. However, we should not underestimate the significance of email forwarding: according to Litmus, a large proportion of the generated visits is reached through forwards via email.
Viral in the social media context means that information such as status messages, posts or likes reach the entire network of a person and are shared further by this person’s contacts in their respective networks. In viral marketing, we try to use these effects in a targeted way in order to push the quick and cost-effective distribution of marketing messages with high coverage via digital social networks.
Email forwarding in this context describes the forward of an email to another email recipient or the sharing of email contents on social platforms. These types of viral marketing can achieve forward-to-open rates of up to 175% according to studies by Litmus.

Success Factors of Email Forwards

Since private inboxes are actively managed by their owners, email messages / newsletters are more positively accepted than e.g., status messages in social networks. Furthermore, contents from emails can be tailored to the personal requirements of users and are therefore more relevant to the recipient. In order to have emails not only read but also forwarded to family, friends and colleagues, the following factors need to be considered:

  • Audience Size: The smaller the recipient group, the more personalised the newsletter. Customised content has a great influence on the forward rate of emails. In the best case, the context is personalised exactly for the individual recipient, i.e. it is tailored to his requirements, interests, attitudes, consumer habits etc. What is relevant for one specific individual is probably also relevant for some of his friends and acquaintances and is therefore often shared.
  • Share with your network: The most effective method of email forwarding is the SWYN button. If the email contains a link for the recipient to share the content directly in social networks or send it to his contacts, the likelihood of a forward is higher.
  • Highly shareable content: Events, promotions, deals and discounts as well as exclusive news are popular content which motivate email forwarding. However, it is important that the content of the email is not overloaded. Keep it simple

In addition to the generation of coverage, you can also measure the quality of email marketing by using the sum of forwards. The tracking of the forward-to-open rate can assist in the adaptation of content for the individual forward habits of subscribers. The forward-to-open rate can be identified by putting the sum of email opens in a ratio with the number of resulting email forwards.