From my personal experience, it has – completely – FTAF is dead to me. Along with a number of other people I have talked to, it is dying or has already been fully replaced for some time. Think about it – when was the last time you used a FTAF page instead of “Tweet This”?
With the rapid adoption of the Facebook “Like” button (I use it – click on it some time at the bottom of this post) and the easy installation of tools like “ShareThis” on any web page and social bookmarking site like StumbleUpon and Delicious – the need for forward to a friend is rapidly diminishing for most people. The largest benefit in these Social Sharing techniques that that the message usually gets shared well beyond a typical FTAF program – maybe 5 people max. Alone I could reach 1150+ people on Twitter with an article or link being shared.
Why I feel FTAF is becoming a thing of the past:
- It’s easier to simply hit “Forward” in my email client – the recipients will have my address in their address book already
** More importantly I’ll have the addresses in my address book, reducing data typos and bad copy/paste errors and increasing the number of people I’ll send messages to
- Remove the worry about legislation (personal messages are exempt in most cases), suppression, privacy and data use when providing information on your friend to a third party
- You need to rely on the infrastructure of the website to actually deliver the message in a way the recipient will get the message (much harder with email authentication then years ago).
** Send as “email@example.com” to “firstname.lastname@example.org” and will likely see an increase in non-deliverable messages, send as your company and people might think it’s spam.
- Toolbars are adding social features – ex: the latest Google Toolbar includes a share to social option that interacts with 40+ social networks
** With or without your site having social sharing enabled
83% of marketers place their share-to-social links at the bottom of their messages. ~Email Stat Center
Should you abandon FTAF?
No, but I would look at evolving the channels and methods you want people to use to share your content – direct the conversation to places you are already participating in. Forward this web page is still an effective strategy, but consider testing the ways your enabling that forwarding…
51% of respondents report having clicked “forward to a friend” links in marketing email, but 38% have never seen these links. ~Email Stat Center
Ideas to assist your move to Share to Social:
- 1 – Contests and program referrals can be done with encoded links targeted to each of your subscribers, especially if you are planning on rewarding them for their referrals. Look at how Groupon does it – I have a personalize referral link (http://www.groupon.com/r/uu709344) that I can share via IM, Twitter, Facebook, email, this site… to anyone I want with any method I want.
- 2 – Add social sharing via “ShareThis” or “AddThis” type applications to all your online properties – these allow for users to make easy sharing decisions and spread your information far and wide and in networks you may not currently be participating in.
- 3 – Enable individual links for Social Sharing – and not just the entire site or newsletter (you can do this as well though) – as personal experience shows I’m more likely to share one story/item then an entire newsletter or site with my extended network – Remember: it is all about relevancy.
Are Social Networks the next evolution of Forward to a Friend?
Agree, Disagree? Discuss…
P.S. Don’t forget to “Share this post”