What’s Up with those Social Media Icons at the Bottom of Your Email Messages?

Don’t get me wrong – they’re at the bottom of my email newsletter too. But why are they there? And are they effective?

I felt like everyone was including these in the footer of their emails, but in reality that’s not true. An informal and thoroughly unscientific survey of emails from 50 different brands in my own inbox showed that 29 had generic social media icons at the bottom, while 21 did not.

I looked at 20 B2B email messages, 10 of them newsletters (editorial) and 10 of them focused on e-commerce (selling something). Only 50% of the editorial messages had generic social media links at the bottom, while 80% of the e-commerce messages included them.

In the B2C realm, 60% of the 10 email newsletters I looked at had general social media links, while 90% (9 out of 10) of the e-commerce emails had them.

The last 10 messages I looked at were transactional in nature — they were a mix of B2B and B2C, and only 1 of them, 10%, had social media icons at the bottom.

So almost all of the e-commerce emails had the links, while only about half of the newsletters out there have them. And almost none of the transactional messages are trying to send readers to social media.

Then I started wondering why we even sometimes include generic social media icons at the bottom of our email messages. And whether it’s actually a good idea to have them there?

Here’s the thing. I view social media as a great low-commitment way for potential customers to learn more about your brand.

 People can view your brand’s
Facebook page, look at your company’s Twitter feed, check out your business’s
LinkedIn profile page or peruse your organization’s Instagram pics with no

They don’t need to provide an email address or any other contact
information to view this information.

If they like what they see of your brand on social media, they might follow you on that platform. But that’s a limited relationship – if they leave the platform, or if the platform goes away, you have no way to reach them (anyone remember MySpace? or Vine?).

It’s also a one-to-many relationship. There’s no way to segment
your social media followers and target content based on their individual interests.

Here’s where email comes in. Once someone is comfortable
with your brand on social media, the next natural step is an email
relationship. This will allow for more personalized communication, as you
segment your list and target you content appropriately. It also moves the
relationship outside the silo of the social network into the real world.

So you’re sending an email newsletter to your house list, all
people who like your brand enough to have opted-in to receive it…

…and the social media icons at the bottom of your email
newsletter are going to send them back to your general, non-targeted social
media pages.

It’s like a circular argument. Why send them back to
one-to-many communication channels when they’ve already committed to a
one-to-one email relationship with you?

Now, it’s a different story if you’re featuring a
particularly interesting comment from one of your social media discussions and providing
readers a link to it to join in. That makes some sense. It allows them to
engage with the brand and with other people who are fans of your brand. There’s
value there.

The other thing I’ve seen with some brands is that their social media channels are full of disgruntled customers. In this case including generic links to your social media presence in your email communications is not just a bad idea but a terrible one. Why send people who like your brand enough to opt-in for email to commune with people who don’t?

So why are the social media icons still at the bottom of my
own email newsletter?

Because no one ever clicks on them. Well, maybe once in a while. But it’s rare. And I’m fine with that, because if they’ve opted in to receive email from me, that’s of more value than getting another like or another follower on social media. But now I’m thinking maybe I’ll remove them.

So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have generic social media links at the bottom of your email newsletter template? Why or why not? Do people click on them? Have you removed them or considered removing them? I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts — I’ll be floating these questions the Only Influencers (OI) discussion list the week of December 16th. Not a member of the OI community? Learn how to join us.

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