Share Mail from the US Postal Service is not a new service. It lived an earlier life as Alternative Postage, not quite as fun and bouncy as “Sharing.” In many respects it resembles Business Reply Mail, in that the mailer does not need to affix postage, but the resemplance and use cases pretty much end there.
Share Mail allows mailers to include postcards or letters in their mailings that their prospects can “share” with others without affixing a stamp. There’s no specific permit address, so it can be much easier to administer than BRM – one permit can cover multiple remitance locations throughout the country.
The applications we see most often are in political mail:
- Sending small packs of postcards - to a strong supporter of a candidate or party, and have them mail them to their friends with a personal note. They can be preaddressed or blank for the supporter to write the address.
- Lobbying Packages - a letter is sent to a voter with a card addressed to their Representative and Senator. The voter can sign it, add a note, and mail it without affixing postage.
- Voter registration mailings - the mailer can address the registration form to the appropriate registration site. Share mail allows the prospective voter to mail the form without affixing postage. This removes one more barrier to registration, and gives you tracking.
There are other uses of course, but these are the big ones we see. One great thing about Share Mail is that it is very trackable. We can tell you who responded and when in great detail, so you can see how your efforts are working, and with whom you may need to follow up.
Share Mail is one of those funny products that is not too hard to do, but not so easy, either. We at SnailWorks are happy to help you through the design and registration process, but in the end you will need to register yourself as the postage payer/Account holder. The USPS will assign you a special MID. They will need to approve your mail piece in advance – and they are pretty strict on approvals. Once that is done, we can help you get the right IMb’s and set up your tracking. And, Share Mail postage is a bargain, compared to BRM – current rates are $.58/ea for letters, and $.40/ea for postcards.
Share Mail is driven by our favorite barcode, the IMb (Intelligent Mail barcode). The general format and encoding is the same as any other IMb, but the content can be different:
- The Share Mail IMb uses a Service Type ID (STID) that is unique to the program, and identifies that the piece is Share Mail, and whether it is a letter or postcard.
- The IMb contains a specific nine-digit Mailer ID (MID) assigned to the specific piece by USPS. The MID links to a BRM or Postage Due account of the organization that will be paying the postage.
- There is no routing code in the IMb – no ZIP+4 or any other destination. The IMb has fewer characters numerically, but still the same number of bars (65). That’s just how IMb encoding works.
- The IMb must be printed by the mailer above the address area.
- Share Mail pieces also have their own special Facing Identification Marks (FIM). FIM E if you want to get technical…and we do!
- The Indicia in the upper right corner of the piece is:
If you are interested in incorporating Share Mail in your efforts, we urge you to check out https://postalpro.usps.com/mailing/share-mail . There are a lot of useful resources there, including design guides, and Publication 600 – Share Mail. And if you need help, contact us. We will try to give you the guidance you need to succeed. Because sharing is caring.