Do users really click the "Email a friend" link and thus "self promote" your site?


Its a common feature of many sites... the "Email a friend" link that sends an email to the users' friend(s).

e.g. something like:

Hey {friends name} ,

I found this great site called {} that lets you {verb} all your {noun} s in one place and you can share them with all your friends!

Check it out at {} Regards, {username}

I'm fairly skeptical myself and never click these links/fill out the forms but I'm presuming that I'm not like everyone else.

On the flip side I'd like to think that the current user would best know who might be interested in my site/application and thus be the ideal sales(wo)man for me.

Any stats on how successful these are would be greatly appreciated.

PS I should state that in my case I am considering this option for a Web Application vs. a Web Site (I'm not sure that makes much difference but thought I'd add that)


asked Oct 27 '09 at 10:31
310 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

8 Answers


According to preliminary findings of a study (N=245) by MarketingSherpa and QInteractive (pay site), e-mail is still the dominate means of sending links to friends and family.

Here are the numbers:

  • 78% use e-mail
  • 22% use social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • 17% use other means
  • 13% share it offline (phone, txt, or conversation)
  • 4% post it to their blog

Multiple answers were possible, I guess.

This does not answer the question, of course, since it say nothing how this is done. However, it's probably save to assume that most people use copy'n'paste instead of these "ShareThis" buttons.

Hope that helps.

answered Oct 27 '09 at 17:48
Claus Schwarm
1,599 points
  • Thanks @Claus, this is indeed the kind of info I'm after. I agree with @Justyn that Twitter and Facebook maybe better options but I think there is still value in offering all 3. In time I guess I will see which ones get used the most, and which generate the most successful references. – Scunliffe 14 years ago
  • You're welcome, scunliffe. It probably also depends on your product, target audience and your prdouct's diffusion. I'd also say, the call-to-action (for sharing), its place and its design are more important than the combination ot means. – Claus Schwarm 14 years ago
  • +1 valuable. I wasn't anticipating that Claus – John Bogrand 14 years ago


In my experience, these aren't used as much as you might think. You'd probably be better off with "Tweet This" and "Share on Facebook" options. People are more likely to share when they don't have to feel guilty about sending their friends yet another email.

answered Oct 27 '09 at 11:38
892 points
  • @Justyn - seems this answer got the most votes but it looks like there is still some life in user based email marketing. @Claus & @DThrasher point to some articles/data that indicates a multi-pronged approach is likely best - as email still seems to be king in the way people share data. – Scunliffe 14 years ago
  • Adding my vote here. There are so many ways to share that don't seem disingenuous - like "Tweet," "Share," "Digg," etc. - that sending a clearly impersonal email is probably unwise. – Josh Sam Bob 14 years ago


The MIT Haystack blog recently featured a post about social link sharing behavior. It has some interesting statistics about the key ways people discover interesting sites. It also discusses the motivations behind why people share links.

answered Oct 28 '09 at 04:17
D Thrasher
894 points


I had a membership site with that as one of the tools for our members to promote the site to others. Yes, it got a small percentage did get used. I think the approach should be about giving your users many different options (as mentioned above, share on facebook, tweet this, email a friend...and more. A lot of little options can add up to a decent number. And if there's any community aspect to your app/site then the more people can recruit others they know, ultimately the dynamic of the site overall will be all the stronger. The downside is development cost, which shouldn't be very much. And some screen real estate. Promote all of them, track your metrics, see what works and go from there.

Best of luck.

answered Oct 27 '09 at 13:01
4,214 points


Yes another way to get users to share the link is to give them an incentive. Dropbox has done a wonderful job with this.

answered Jun 18 '10 at 06:22
Jeff Epstein
1,532 points


I don't have any hard stats for you but I have seen this type of feature used on large sites quite a bit. Not in a generic "come see this site" way but rather to forward useful/relevant information to a friend. For example, a product or a real estate listing. It's faster than opening and e-mail client, composing an e-mail and pasting a link.

answered Oct 27 '09 at 10:46
Oleg Barshay
2,091 points


I've seen people use these to email the website link to their own email address to save it for later or to check out on their phone.

answered Oct 27 '09 at 15:49
Ben Mc
421 points
  • Good point! I've actually used this to email myself in the past... I'd forgotten about that angle. – Scunliffe 14 years ago


We've been using AddThis with their "Share" button on our start up web site. It's easy to create, customize, and add a link to a page that enables the "share this" menu you'd like.

They provide excellent analytics support - you can not only see what sharing services are being used but you can also tell which services are being used for which content and then which services are bringing new people to your site.

Easy, effective, and free. What's not to like?

answered Jun 18 '10 at 21:13
Warren E. Hart
2,181 points

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