Engagement In A Post FTAF World

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In a recent webinar highlighting IBM Enterprise Marketing Management’s Social Features and capabilities a poll was taken to ascertain how many marketers were still using Forward To A Friend (FTAF). Although the results were not ‘shocking’ the metrics did give me pause and allow me to reflect on a murky topic: engagement.

Forward To A Friend

Once upon a time Forward To A Friend (FTAF) was a standard and integral component of every marketer’s website and email. Forward to a friend was how digital marketing spread. Even though it would happen freely below the radar, by consumers simply forwarding email, providing a mechanism to consumers meant that the action could be tracked and measured. For the empirically minded marketer it was an existential question: if I can’t measure it, did it happen!?

That was then—this is now. We’re in the post FTAF world where sharing happens more quickly and rapidly than marketers can keep up with. If ever there were a silver lining for marketers it would be the amount of data, tracking and general measurement possible in the cross-channel behavior consumers are engaging in through social networks and the markers they leave behind across company websites, Facebook pages and twitter feeds.

Marketers can harness the power of their websites to track and measure online behavior. That data can be combined and analyzed through Facebook company pages, which can be examined through the lens of Twitter posting, link sharing from web properties and from emails.

The long and short of it is there’s more ways than ever to measure engagement. That’s right, everything is a form of engagement; FTAF was one form of promoting engagement or we can call it email engagement 1.0. FTAF could be measured—it pointed to a kind of fandom, someone found the content/product/offer engaging enough to spread it ‘virally’. In the dark ages of digital marketing, engagement couldn’t be measured in the cross-channel manner we can gauge it now. Engagement was murky; it could be inferred, often debated, poked at and prodded into something that resembled a viable metric but always subject to intense scrutiny.

In the post-FTAF world scrutiny isn’t off the table however, engagement can be given, a how, what, where, when, who kind of label thanks to a fire-hose of data across channels in the form of raw numbers and the added benefit of sentiment analysis. The result is not only a paradise for data driven marketing decisions, but the benefit of fleshing out exactly what consumers are saying without ever snail mailing a single questionnaire.

As excited as I am about the many prospects and possibilities around today’s engagement metrics and opportunities I’m equally dismayed when I think about how much low hanging fruit is still dangling on the tree. In another poll taken during the webinar attendees were asked if they used OpenGraph protocols or embedded Like buttons on their websites to promote social sharing. Now if 9 out of 10 marketers have abandoned FTAF then I’d expect the same to have embraced the technologies that power social marketing, alas we’re in that middle ground of almost but not quite there:

OpenGraph usage

So what do you have to keep in mind in today’s post FTAF age?

  • If you’re no longer using FTAF in your emails and web pages you should leverage social networks and the dialogues that go on there by embedding LIKE buttons and Share With Your Network links.
  • Insert SWYNs (Share With Your Network) links in your emails. You are driving more social traffic than you realize through your emails. Want to know more? Social Email Analytics may hold the answer. 
  • Use the OpenGraph protocols to properly connect images and links that will show up when shared to Facebook.
  • Own the conversation by being part of it. Set up your social network profiles and listen more than you speak.
  • Be sure to respond to criticism appropriately while at the same time rewarding fans and proponents who are actively engaging with your brand and helping spread the word.
  • Track every link on your website and in all of your emails. Every click is a form of engagement and will help you measure the viral potency of your offers and content.

Rejoice that we’re in the post FTAF world, but there’s still some work to be done. With a little preparation and savvy you can ensure that engagement manifests in a measurable way and that you are a part of the conversation that ensues on social networks.


Registered for the Smarter Commerce Global Summit? Well we’ll cover engagement, ways of jumping into the digital conversation and how you can optimize your cross-channel marketing efforts. Don’t delay, it’s gonna be a great event.


-Len Shneyder
Product Marketing Mgr.

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