|In the middle is the forward feature: people were entered to win a signed poster of Aguilera for passing on the e-mail to three friends. |
Looks like they were using an embedded tell-a-friend form.
Other ways of tracking forwards are looking at unique IPs for an embedded image over a certain time period, although this is pretty inaccurate.
There are other ways (using vbscript, etc) - however, since these pose a security risk & have serious privacy implications, it is not wise to consider using them.
I recently had a demo of this kind of system, which used vbscript to send back details of the reader's email address, time of opening, time spent reading, and actions taken (forwarding, deleting etc). All presented in a nice report with all the metrics you could ask for.
It had our sales director *very* excited, but I was wary of the privacy implications - plus I wasn't convinced that this kind of thing would get past virus checkers etc for very long.
Man, I read that article three times (twice in print and once on the web) and I still missed the key sentence. Thanks, emailtools.
I'm really wary of the privacy implications as well - and since most of the campaigns I get near use text-only, we don't have nearly the same options available anyway. But my campaigns are small potatoes next to BMG. I can usually learn all I need from click-through numbers and conversion rates.
These guys have a product (maestro I think) that does just that, they use a transparent gif that contains the identifier of the parent (referrer). There has to be an explicit referral made through a special form, otherwise it can't be tracked with any degree of certainty. There's reporting and everything.
Smack me on the head! Of course a web bug would get forwarded and then make another server call when the email is opened again. Even with nothing more than that, you would see that the email was passed on. And if you got a sign-up from an address not in your database, then you would also know that was viral.
You would still need a script to see how many total forwards were made compared to opens of forwarded email. But the sweet thing about virals is their high (extremely high) open percentage, because they come from a known party.
Sometimes I can't see the simplest answers.
The easiest way to do this is write a tall a friend script that instead of sending a plain text email with the www.domain.com, it sends an html email with a link with a tracking code on it that will then report back to the script who and how many times it was clicked on. Very good idea if I do say it myself.
Yes... a web bug would work. And if any HTML message with a web bug gets sent to my SpamAssassin protected inbox, it's automatically thrown out as spam, as it should be. I never -- not one single time -- get mail with web bugs in it that I need to read.