[SMK] Social Media Knowledge


How to use email marketing symbols

Incorporating subject line symbols (such as a ❤ or a ☺) into an email campaign is a great way for your email to stand out from the pack.

Despite this, a lot of marketers are apprehensive about using subject line symbols due to the issues associated with email-browser compatibility.

Browser Compatibility

However, support for symbols outside of the standard character set is surprisingly good across email browsers.

Apart from Outlook 2003 (and older) and Lotus notes, there is near universal support to add special characters into the subject region. Certain platforms such as Outlook.com and iOS devices can even convert certain symbols like a ❤ into “emoji” or a small graphic.

However, it is important that you test your subject lines across various browsers, as not all platforms support every single symbol available. A great way to test your subject line and your email code is through the online testing app Litmus.

Effectiveness of Symbols

In terms of effectiveness, there seems to be evidence that subject line symbols can provide improvements in audience engagement. The guys at Experian indicated that subject lines with symbols had a higher unique open rate in 56% of brands they analysed.

Below are some more of their findings regarding usage of symbols:

• The black heart (♥) is the most popular symbol, but provided only an open rate lift of 2.2%

• Of the 5 most popular symbols, the black sun with rays had the highest lift in open rates (14.9%)

• Airplanes (✈) had a 10.7% lift in unique open rates, while umbrellas (☂) generated a 50% lift

Over at Litmus, they've seen anecdotal evidence suggesting that open rates are about 10-15% higher for emails that used a symbol in the subject line.

Eye catching

Even without metrics, one can understand why symbols might generate an uplift in open rates. Symbols in the subject line help generate better visibility within the inbox and in an age where email is becoming an increasingly more popular way to communicate/market, any technique to generate better engagement is an invaluable tool.

Inserting a symbol into your subject line is as simple as cutting and pasting a symbol into your subject region within your email platform. Some resources for these symbols include FSymbols, Charbase and Dev.W3.

The rule of thumb regarding symbols in subject lines is relevancy and sparingly. Symbols are a great way to make your email stand out from other emails in the inbox, but don't over do it. It's also important to select the right symbol based upon your content. Remember the subject line is a description of the email and in order to establish trust with your audience, your subject line should reflect the contents inside.

Wei Tan has over 8 years digital marketing experience and is currently Co-founder of email marketing agency The Orchard. Wei has a passion for email marketing and works closely with some of Australia’s best known brands in developing tailored email marketing programs focused on delivering solutions based on three core principles: Growth, Conversion & Retention.

The Orchard provides email marketing services, including creative, strategic and campaign management.

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