Seven Tips for Better Peer-Initiated Email Invitations

I meet a wide variety of cool innovators, and I love hearing about their next big thing. They’ve got hot ideas, and they want them to go viral. Peer invitation systems are popular way to grow a service virally. After all, if your subscribers love your service, why not empower them to tell their friends? Email can be social, after all.

If you are implementing a peer-initiated invitation system, here are some tips to keep these invitation emails out of the spam folder:

  1. Never, never, never allow your subscribers to send invitations to their entire address book. Address books contain old, stale addresses that have been converted to spam traps. If your invitations hit spam traps, your subsequent messages will be blacklisted or filtered by ISPs. Avoid this by making your inviter deliberately select each invitee.
  2. Limit the number of invitations each inviter can send. When your customers are careful to invite only those who will appreciate your service, you reduce the risk of invitees reporting the invitations as spam. If enough people report your invitations as spam, your invitations will be blocked or filtered.
  3. After the initial invitation, don’t send more than one follow-up (reminder) email to invitees that didn’t respond to the first one.
  4. Limit the number of invitations an invitee will receive. Don’t bombard a particular invitee with too many invitations from multiple people.
  5. Clearly display the inviter’s name or email address, so the invitee knows who sent the invitation. (Peer-initiated invitations are most effective when the invitee knows and trusts the inviter.)
  6. Don’t use the inviter’s email address for the “From address” of the invitation message. As DMARC  becomes more widely adopted, mail sent with spoofed From addresses will be discarded. The invitation messages’ From address must reflect your brand. One way to do this is to use the inviter’s name in the “friendly from” part of the address. For example, if Abigail Adams invites her friends, you could use a From address of “Abigail Adams” <invitations@yourservice.com> and a Reply-To address of <Abigail.Adams@herdomain.com> so that replies get sent back to her.
  7. Clearly express the purpose of the invitation. Recipients must understand what they are being invited to.

Your invitations are more likely to reach the inbox when you structure your systems and processes to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time, with the right frequency. If you don’t, your messages will be marked as spam and your marketing results will suffer. You can avoid that pitfall.

Next month I will offer more tips in part two of this series. If you have suggestions, drop me a line at paul [at] sendgrid.com or via twitter @cyclingup.

Edited: You can read part two here.

Paul Kincaid-Smith

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