Inbox Reserve Part I: How Email must Reverse Engineer Social Now

Sharing a good bottle of
wine with friends is simply a much richer experience than consuming one
alone. Additionally, a mutual appreciation for the same types of wines you
and your friends consume creates a far more substantial sharing experience. In
this two part series, I’ll explore why mutual associations with brands will
dramatically increase open rates and drastically reduce spam complaints, paving
the way for better deliverability metrics, engagement and brand reputation.

As marketers, we put too
much pressure on our subscribers.  First, we insist they recognize the
label on our wine bottle, (The From: Name) then we expect them to read our
subject line, and subsequently we hope subscribers actually “taste” (open) the
email and glance at what we’re peddling.  If we haven’t lost their
attention by now, we continue to plague them by asking them to share the given
email using a functionality called SWYN (share with your network).  If that isn’t enough, we still yearn for a
conversion…..and it all gets to be too much, ultimately, perhaps, pushing the
subscriber away. 

Messaging of this nature
is still outbound.   

What lies ahead is a
significant evolution in email marketing which will work in concert with social
networks to “reverse engineer” the social characteristics of email and bring
social directly to your inbox.

Email offers will
drastically change in the near future. 
Next-generation emails will benefit from a deeper level of peer transparency.
This new level of transparency will be earmarked by advanced or universal
preference centers and highly intuitive sign up processes. By selectively capturing social media
credentials of your subscribers, several layers of data points will become
immediately available to harvest.  These socially focused data points will
change ordinary subject lines to engaging peer notifications from a given

Consider this:  you
are far more inclined to “friend” someone on Facebook if you have mutual
friends, correct?  And, you are more inclined to become a fan of a
Facebook page if other members and colleagues of your social network are fans
of that same page.  So, why not apply this same concept to email?

Industry statistics from Bazaarvoice
illustrate that 74% of online shoppers who receive advice from their friends on
social networks allow that advice to influence their purchasing decisions. Also
this article by Shiv Singh supports that
statistic with its discussion of when and why we trust our peers when
determining types of online purchases. Furthermore, in a recent Purchaser Influence Survey by EXPO, featured today in, over 90% US Moms trust peer reviews more than manufacturer information. (Special Thanks to Anthony Schneider of Mass Transmit and Jeffrey Rohrs of ExactTarget for that snippet.)  With that said, we must reverse-engineer the current dynamic of outbound
marketing based emails and bring our social networks to the coveted inbox.  At its core, should be a socially focused
“über-email” program which acts as your brand’s private reserve.

Shoppers of a given brand
instinctively want to know what “a subset of their trusted friends” bought
online.  Similarly, shoppers also want to
know what their friends think about those same products before they decide to
purchase them.  Our marketing based email messaging should produce
unbiased, first-hand knowledge of how our social networks “feel” about a
product, not a subjective marketing message from your brand with ordinary
subject lines.  Moreover, user-generated
content is comprised of written and/or video testimonials of a product or
service.  But, these testimonials which are often placed in an email, or
on a brands landing page come from random people we don’t necessarily know.
These testimonials although sincere in nature, don’t reverberate.

Reverse engineering
social email

Would you like to know if
any of your friends subscribe to the same brands as you do?  Wouldn’t it be
wonderful to see which of your friends reviewed that new trendy restaurant on
Yelp? Would receiving immediate notifications from peer actions with the brand build trust, directly after
that review?

Currently, dynamic
content in email allows us to customize a message to a particular segment or to
an individual on your list, based on attributes in their profile.  We’ve
learned that FedEx has as many as 144 attributes for a given record, which
allows for granular customization of each email communication for each given
email stream.  With increased Social Media data points culled together
through an evolved master preference center adds an increasingly richer
dimension for email marketers.  With these richer dimensions comes
pinpoint information about your friends’ recent actions associated with a given

Savvy marketers will
ameliorate the quality of such social media data points by dynamically
inserting social attributes into a given email program. This concept completely
reverses the current outbound system which is somewhat dysfunctional, because
marketers still rely on subscribers outbound actions. The evolution of
such a program will bring these messages to the inbox and will have far
superior return on your email marketing investments, because this messaging
adds increased value for the subscribers. 
More value equals a more relevant email. With more relevant messaging
comes drastically reduce spam complaints and dramatically increased open rates.

Let’s say you received an
email from Barnes and Noble.  And, Barnes
and Noble has been granted permission by you and many members of your social
network, to publish information about actions your social network is undertaking
with Barnes and Noble. Images of your friends may be dynamically and creatively populated in the creative, so when you open up your email, not only will
you see friends’ images with links to their social media pages, you’ll
also know which of them are subscribers, and which ones purchased that new
Stephan King book Barnes and Noble is featuring.  What’s more is that
the subject line will be highly engaging because it’s about your network
“first” and not about the item being featured.

Part II of this series will discuss the challenges associated with this concept and why future marketing based subject
lines will no longer matter. Subject lines will become highly relevant notifications, and how these “relevant notifications”
will increase open rates and dramatically reduce spam complaints.

Fred Tabsharani 
Port25 Solutions


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2 Responses to “Inbox Reserve Part I: How Email must Reverse Engineer Social Now”

  1. Nicole Delma
    March 11, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    Thank you for covering this topic–highly timely for my organization. Do you have any good examples of socially-focused preference centers or registration pages that you can share?

  2. Fred Tabsharani
    March 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm #


    Thanks for your feedback. Currently, I do not know of any socially-focused preference centers as described above, hence the article. Currently social and email are still outbound in nature with Forward-to-a Friend (FTF) and Share-with-your network (SWYN) technologies in place.

    Interest is brewing with the email industry that would like to "test" and see this concept mature. Once I have more information on socially -centric preference centers, I'll alert you.