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Janet Roberts

Forward to A Friend, Please
By Janet Roberts

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One slow but sure way to build subscribers is to encourage readers to forward your newsletter to friends. Not only does this put your ezine in front of people who might not see it otherwise, it also carries the sender's stamp of approval to give it legitimacy.

Text-newsletter publishers have it relatively easy; just put a note somewhere urging readers to forward the issue (preferably without cutting, to give your ads extra click potential). HTML newsletters, though, will lose all that lovely formatting if a reader just hits the "forward" button.

At the very least, you need to test to make sure you have a functioning subscription link, whether it's an email link or a link to a Web form. Of the 12 HTML newsletters I tested for forwarding, two did not pick up the subscribe link from the original version, four others had a link that didn't work in the forwarded copy, four had functioning links and two had no subscribe link at all, a big viral-marketing no-no.

Enter the "forward to a friend" function, which some HTML templates now include. With it, readers just click the button to bring up a Web form, fill in recipients' email addresses and a short message and submit it. Your system sends out a fresh copy.

(This is different from the "email this story to a friend" function you should have at your Web site, because that just sends out the individual story, not the whole newsletter. A "recommend" function also isn't enough.)

I know what you're going to say: This will encourage people to spam. And the answer is yes, whenever you ask someone to forward your newsletter, you run that risk. However, the Web forms I've seen allow you to add only one name at a time. Maybe I'm lazy, but if I wanted to spam, I wouldn't want to fill out that same form a hundred times.

If losing the formatting would render your newsletter impossible to link, you need this capability. (Please don't ask me how to code this, though, if you don't use a template; I'm not an HTML expert.)

Here are other ideas to encourage forwarding:

Ezine-Tips for May 15, 2002

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