How to Make Email Marketing Mobile and Social

Apr 16, 2012 2:15 AM  By

Email marketing is alive and well. In fact, email marketing investment will grow at a 10% compound annual growth rate between 2011 and 2016 as marketers create more sophisticated email campaigns and use email to introduce customers to emerging marketing experiences like mobile or social.

How can you make sure you are leveraging email to promote some of your more experimental interactive marketing efforts?


One of the easiest ways to get experience with mobile marketing campaigns is to extend your emails into a mobile environment. Here are a few best practices to make sure that your mobile emails are immediate, simple and contextually relevant:

Create text-only translations of your email files: The swiftest way to make your message mobile-accessible is to create text files. Most email marketing service providers, like ExactTarget or StrongMail, can manage this conversion with the click of a button.

Decrease email file size: Make your emails quick to load via mobile devices by reducing the file size to less than 100 kilobits. Device simulators, available for free through most mobile phone manufacturers or through some email vendors, can help you visualize how formatting will appear on a range of mobile devices.

Fit content to mobile screens: This means formatting your messages to suit mobile displays, either by designing against the pixel requirements of commonly used devices or applying cascading stylesheets.

Shorten subject lines: Mobile inboxes will truncate long subject lines, so tighten yours to 30 characters or fewer.

Use mobile-friendly calls to action: Smart email marketers will also tune in to the immediacy and on-the-go nature of mobile use to develop email programs specifically for mobile users. For example, Target’s daily deal emails deliver only a few items—not a full online catalog—to allow for simple browsing and immediate action.

Add “finger space” around email links: The average adult finger is 45 pixels wide, and is less precise than your PC’s mouse. To accommodate, add 10 to 15 pixels around mobile links to allow for “finger-clicking.”

Link to mobile-optimized landing pages: Link emails to landing pages with simple interfaces that fulfill users’ mobile needs, rather than to traditional websites. For example, Gap’s mobile website provides store directions for on-the-go shoppers and allows for one-click purchases for registered users.


Email is the original social medium. Email users want to respond to and share email messages. The following tactics for integrating email with social media can help grow your email lists, extend campaign reach, and harness social insights to inform targeting.

Promote email registration within your social media presence: Encourage fans who already engage with your company blog, discussion forum or Facebook page to sign up for emails as well. Bluefly prominently features email registration on its blog, Flypaper.

Invite social sharing: Prominently position a call to action like “Share with a Friend” next to the icons and links that allow sharing at the top of your email, instead of burying sharing options in the footer with unsubscribe links and privacy policies.

Use social content to make emails more relevant: Incorporating ratings and reviews within email messages generates higher response than messages without peer information, and is a great tactic for those seeking to create a conversational tone. When Bath and Body Works Direct added product reviews into emails, order value went up 10%, sales per visitor rose 12%, and bounce rates declined by 2.3%.

Expand multichannel efforts to include social: Email marketers who already coordinate email sends with their direct mail calendar or website promotions should now use social channels to introduce upcoming email or offline campaigns. Coach has coordinated email and Facebook campaigns for its seasonal look-book. It first previewed the look-book to its fans on Facebook and before emailing subscribers to encourage access to the look-book either online or in hard copy in stores.

Sarah Takvorian is a research associate with Forrester Research. Shar VanBoskirk is a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research.

Want to increase your email response rates? We asked 12 b-to-b and b-to-c email marketing experts what they’re doing to improve them. Here are their answers.