Can I dectect if an email has been forwarded?
May 3, 2011 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Tracking forwarded emails in ExactTarget

I understand quite a bit about email tracking. I know how to (try to) track opens and clicks and bounces, but my friends in Analytics keep telling me that Exact Target can track email forwards, and I can't imagine how. I can't find anything direct in the documentation and a Google search has failed me.

Can Exact Target (or any other ESP) track email forwards? If so, how?
posted by stubby phillips to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's a setting to create a "forward to a friend" button. I think it's in the template part you use when you create the email. I can't remember if it shunts you to a website where you type in a friend's email address, or if it just instructs the user's email client, or if that behavior is customizable. Your company should have an account executive you can ask though; mine didn't send that many emails, and we did.

I'm sorry, I can't remember exactly where the option is located; it's been a while since I used Exact Target. But googling "forward to a friend" and "exact target" does yield results, so I hope that will help.

That will mean you can track forwards that way IFF the original recipient presses the button in the email. But if the original recipient just hits "forward" in her own email client, it wouldn't show up.
posted by lesli212 at 6:17 PM on May 3, 2011

And, because I guess I don't have to be that lazy, I clicked on one of the google results links. Forward to a friend instructions here.
posted by lesli212 at 6:18 PM on May 3, 2011

Yes. "Forward to a Friend" sends you to a web site that "forwards" the email, but sends it from an ET address. I'm asking about actual forwarding of the email from the recipient's own email address. Sorry for the confusion.
posted by stubby phillips at 6:20 PM on May 3, 2011

I don't know how much you know about email tracking in general, but here is the theory (non-ET specific):

Email tracking is done through uniquely titled pictures in the email. For example, in an email I receive, the company logo is called "logo-533147.gif" and in an email you receive, it's called "logo-151348.gif". These are saved on ET's (or equivalent's) server, and when the user opens the email (and has their email set to download the pictures) the system can say "This unique picture 151348.gif was accessed, so that means Stubby Phillips opened the email, and we're going to write down Stubby's IP address and put a cookie in his web browser if he clicked through to the site."

Now, you want to forward it to your friends. The system can't actually say "Stubby then clicked the forward button in their email client and sent it to three people, one of which opened it." because email clients don't send out information like that, they just display emails.

It can say "Stubby opened the email with a unique picture from this particular IP address and visited the site with this browser cookie. Then another person, without a browser cookie and from a different IP address used the *same* unique picture. That appears to be a forward to a new person." It doesn't catch the other two people who it was forwarded to and never opened.

This gets a little iffy when you first open the email on your phone, then go into your email on your computer to check it out again. Different IP address, different browser cookie, but it's still you. Depending on how much is tracked and how they analyze the data (i.e. any web site tracking done outside of email tracking) you will get better data on forwards vs opening multiple times from multiple devices.

This is why all email marketing systems include the "Forward this message" button, as anything forwarded through that is real (and gives you more email addresses) otherwise you just get their best guess.

I don't know what kind of reports and such ET gives you, this is just the theory behind how it would work.
posted by cathoo at 4:35 AM on May 4, 2011

BTW, cathoo is exactly right about how email tracking works.

I think your coworkers must be referring to the "forward to a friend" feature -- did you ask them, stubby?
posted by lesli212 at 2:44 AM on May 16, 2011

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