Skip to content

The Power of Email + The Psychology of Social Proof = The Social Email

Out with the old, and in with the new. That’s the expression. The old? Email marketing. It’s just so 2010. The new? Social…media, proof, marketing.

Just look at the proliferation and popularity of social media platforms – Facebook alone has 1.94 billion monthly active users – and the increasing use of social ads. Facebook again leads the charge, earning $7.857 billion in the first quarter of 2017 from advertising revenue.

So, goodbye email. Hello all things social. That’s the way of the future.

But the thing is, no one told email that it’s past its prime. In fact, it continues to run circles around all other marketing tactics. Email marketing alone drives as much revenue as all other digital channels combined according to a survey of US marketing execs.

The most recent research says there are roughly 3.7 billion email users worldwide (makes Facebook look puny by comparison, no?). We send a collective 269 billion emails each day, and that’s predicted to hit just under 320 billion by 2021.

Email is far from obsolete. It’s far-reaching. It’s effective. And it’s still growing.

email marketing acquisition and retention
Image Source

consumers prefer at least monthly promotional email
Image Source

Email is where it’s at. Still. It’s affordable. It’s easy. It’s fast. It checks all the boxes. It absolutely must be part of your marketing plan.

“If you’re not building an email list, you’re an idiot.” ~ Derek Halpern, Founder of Social Triggers

Harsh, but so very true.

But here’s the kicker: you can make your email marketing – a wonderful tactic all by itself – even better. In the email vs social debate, it’s not an either/or choice.

Use both. Together. Ladies and gentlemen, the social email.

The Power of Social Proof

This is not an article on email marketing best practices, per se. There are plenty of those out there. Instead, we’re going to look at just one tactic. Just one often overlooked strategy you should be using with your email marketing.

Social proof. And it’s a lot more than just social media.

Together, it combines the power and effectiveness of email with the popularity and psychology of social proof. That’s a dynamic duo.

What is Social Proof?

Ever choose a restaurant because of how many rave reviews it had on Yelp, or decided to subscribe to an online business because of the number of fans, likes, or followers they have? That’s social proof in action.

Put simply, people trust people, not ads or self-promotion. We want to see or hear or read about others using, enjoying, and succeeding with a product or service before committing to it ourselves. Safety in numbers.

social proof stars

Image Source

It plays off our basic human need to belong. Our behavior is influenced by what the majority is already doing. We want in that group.

Social proof is so compelling that Robert Cialdini made it one of his six “weapons” of persuasion in his landmark book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

You want that kind of strength in your email campaigns. And you can get it.

Email + Social Proof = The Social Email

Adding a dose of social proof to your emails is easy, and there are many ways you could do it. Finding the right one is a combination of research and testing on your audience.

Ratings, reviews, media logos, testimonials, endorsements, trust badges, shares, social counts, case studies, user-generated content, and more.

To get started, try these 4 workhorses and build from there.

Show Them the Numbers

Everyone gets numbers. Simple. Straightforward. If you have 207,000 subscribers, mention it. If 87% of first-time buyers become repeat customers, tell them. If users save an average of $73/week using your service, highlight it. If you have 22,000 clients, include it in your headline or subject line.

Impressive numbers establish trust, increase your credibility, and appeal to our sense of wanting to belong. Use it.

While you’re at it, make it easy for them to share your email content by including social sharing buttons. Just keep it reasonable: 2-3 seems to be the sweet spot. Too much choice and they won’t bother. Neil Patel saw a 29% decrease in sharing when he went from 3 to 5 sharing buttons.

What’s the Word?

Reviews, ratings, and testimonials are the simplest and most effective way to leverage social proof.

Nearly 70% of Americans turn to review sites when making a purchase decision, while 82% look for recommendations. Remarkably, 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

So include them at the bottom of your email. Use real photos of real people whenever possible. Link to favorable review sites.

You can even feed this machine by using a “Review This Item” link in confirmation and receipt emails. 70% will leave a review if asked according to BrightLocal.

The Halo Effect

By including the names and logos of well-known brands that you work with or have used your product, media outlets that have featured you or your brand, or awards you’ve won, you can harness the power of the halo effect.

kissmetrics social proof on homepage

Because people already know and trust recognizable brand names and logos, they tend to have a higher, more positive opinion of you by association. And that typically means more conversions.

It’s best to use logos that link directly to the corresponding article, press release, or website. Quicksprout saw their CVR dip by 9.9% when they removed logos from their site.

The more famous and favorable the logo or award, the stronger the halo effect for you. An “As Featured In” or “Awarded/Certified” blurb in your email signature shows them you’re legit and can be trusted.

The Case Study Nudge

For more expensive purchases or lengthier commitments, you may want to include a case study to give them an extra little push.

Case studies are social proof to the nth degree, your greatest hits, your best side to the camera and best foot forward. It shows exactly how real people or businesses are using your product to wild success in the real world.

Necessary for a one-time purchase of $25? Probably not. But a recurring monthly fee of $399? It provides the extra proof they might need to pull that trigger.

Entice them with a brief headline – “See how I increased ROI by 348% for John Doe” – and link to the case study in your email signature.

Getting It Done

Most email marketing solutions like MailChimp, SmartMail, Kissmetrics Campaigns, and AWeber have tools and integration to make it easy. That’s your best bet.

Plugins can help with social counters, reviews, ratings, and social sharing.

Analytics can provide conversion and traffic numbers.

An email signature generator like these from Hubspot or Exclaimer can simplify including everything you want.

Use screen capture services like Skitch.

The tools are available. It’s up to you to find and use them in these and other ways. Make it a core strategy on your email channel. Look to others for inspiration.

Exceedingly effective and incredibly irresistible. That’s the end result of email and social proof.

About the Author: Daniel Kohn is the CEO and co-founder of SmartMail, a company that helps E-commerce stores and online retailers increase sales, average order value, and lifetime customer value through email. Download SmartMail’s 4 highest converting email templates to help jumpstart your E-commerce email marketing program.