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Improve your email click-through rate using these five types of social proof

Social & Digital

Improve your email click-through rate using these five types of social proof


Social proof really works, writes Aaron Beashel. Here he shares some tips on how to take advantage of it in your email marketing.

Your new product or service has finally arrived, and you know it’s going to a big win for your business.You’re excited to launch it, so you put it on your website, send your email campaign and wait for the sales to roll in. But for some reason they don’t come. Despite your best efforts, people aren’t clicking on your email and purchasing the new product from your site. Here’s where using some social proof can help. In this post, we’ll discuss what social proof is and give you examples of five different types of social proof you can use to increase your email click-through rate and drive sales.


What is social proof?

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people conform to the actions of others simply because they believe that if other people are doing it, it must be the right thing to do.  In a study published in the Wall Street Journal, researchers tested whether social proof was a more powerful driver of human behavior than saving money or saving the environment.

They used four different messages to try and convince people to use fans instead of air conditioning:

  • message one: Informed the customer that they could be saving $54 a month on their utility bill,
  • message two: told customers that they could prevent the release of 262 pounds of greenhouse gasses every month,
  • message three: informed customers that saving energy was a socially responsible thing to do, and
  • message four: let customers know that 77% of their neighbors were already actively using fans to save energy.

Guess what message was the most effective at getting people to use less energy?

Message four – the one that invoked the use of social proof. That’s how influential social proof is on human behavior.

Our desire to fit in is actually more persuasive than saving money or protecting the environment.


Five types of social proof to use in your email marketing campaigns

So how can you use insight into how human beings are motivated to act to improve your email click-through rates? By adding elements of social proof to your email marketing campaigns.

Here are five different types of social proof you can use.

1. Customer testimonials

If you’ve got a great product that your customers love using, including testimonials in your email marketing campaigns can be a great way of letting potential customers see that passion.

Freshbooks does a great job of this in their email campaign announcing the launch of their new ZenPayroll integration feature.

The testimonial from a happy customer who already uses the solution goes a long way in persuading others to try it out as well. By seeing that other people, like Rudyard here, are successful using the product reassures others that they will be as well.

2. Customer or usage numbers

While FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) is commonly joked about, it’s actually a recognised psychological phenomenon where people are driven to take action by the fear that they may be missing out on opportunities others are receiving. Anybody who has ever felt FoMO, even in social situations, can attest to the fact that it’s a powerful driver of human behaviour, so it’s worth leveraging in your email campaigns to help increase your click-through rates.

InVision does this effectively by showcasing the fact that that 300,000 other designers are using their tool to improve their design process.

By showcasing customer numbers like this, InVision triggers people’s fear that other designers may be getting opportunities or benefits they’re not receiving, and are compelling people to click-through from the email and try out their product.

3. Awards

Another way to use social proof is to showcase awards your company has received. Industry awards, particularly well-known ones, typically hold a lot of credibility among members of a particular industry. So when you or your product are honoured with one of these awards, that credibility and respect is passed over to you due a psychological phenomenon known as the ‘halo effect’.

Werkpress used this in its campaign announcing the launch of its new site. After informing customers of the redesign, it goes on to say that the site has been honoured with an Awwwards honourable mention. This is a well-known industry award (in the design industry), so the fact that their new site received the award gives it a new level of credibility that encourages people to click-through the email campaign and check it out.

4. Product reviews

Adding reviews from real customers who have used your product is a great way to increase your email click-through rate.In fact, when eCommerce store Figleaves.com tested including product reviews in their marketing, they saw a 37.5% increase in conversions.

Franklin Rd does a great job of this in its email campaigns. By showing customer reviews in its campaigns, Franklin Rd reassures potential listeners that clicking through and checking out the albums is worth their time. This element of social proof, combined with other information and visuals like the album cover, increases the chance people will click-through and drives conversions.

5. Press mentions

If you’re lucky enough to have had your product reviewed, or even mentioned, by popular news sites or industry publications then including that in your email campaigns can be a great way to increase conversions. In a similar way as industry awards, these publications hold a lot of credibility and authority with your potential customers, and showing that they’ve been talking about your business gives you instant credibility. Oribe does an awesome job of leveraging media coverage in its email campaigns.

Oribe was fortunate to have its product featured on The Today Show, and while that in itself is a huge win, it’s their use of that mention as social proof that’s really impressive. By including it in email campaigns, they are showcasing to potential customers that their product is one of The Today Show’s ‘Favourite Things’ and passing the credibility and likeability the show has onto their product.

Tips for using social proof effectively

Before you start implementing social proof in your email campaigns, let’s look at some best practices for doing so as not all forms of social proof are created equal and getting it wrong can actually hurt conversions.

Be careful of negative social proof

Wording is everything when it comes to social proof, and it’s easier than you think to get wrong. In a research study conducted at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, researchers tested a number of different signs to try and discourage people stealing wood from the forest. One of the signs read:

‘Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, destroying the natural state of the Petrified Forest’.

Even though the sign points out the damage that theft is doing to the forest, when this sign was up the amount of theft tripled. Why? Because by telling people that many visitors before them had stolen wood from the park, they were showing people this action was a common activity being undertaken by others, effectively making the bad behavior more acceptable in people’s minds. So if you are going to use social proof in your email marketing, the key is making sure you are saying that majority of people took the action you want them to take, not the action you don’t them to take.

Personalise your testimonials to increase credibility

While testimonials remain a great way to increase conversions in your email campaigns, it’s unfortunate that some less credible marketers than yourself have used testimonials liberally. As a result, people have become less trusting of them, knowing that it’s pretty easy to simply make them up, or quote friends or colleagues saying great things about your product. To overcome this, make sure you accompany your testimonials with details about the customer, such as their full name, position, company and even a photo.

Freshbooks’ use of a testimonial in its email is a perfect example of this. Rather than just including a quote from ‘Rudyard M’ they go all in, including his full name, position, company name and even his image. This reassures people it’s from a real person, and adds a level of credibility to the testimonial that makes it more effective at driving conversion.

Avoid displaying small amounts of social proof

While social proof is useful, you don’t want to start using it until you have something to show off. InVision’s use of its customer numbers in email campaigns works because it’s a large number, and triggers people’s fear that they may be missing out on opportunities or benefits that hundreds of thousands of other designers are receiving.

However, if they only had five customers then showcasing that number would likely achieve the exact opposite effect. It would show potential customers that not many other designers are using this product, and that it’s probably not worth their time exploring.


The wrap

Social proof isn’t just a marketing tactic, it’s a fundamental driver of human behaviour and genuinely influences how people decide to act.

By incorporating the tips in this post, you can leverage social proof to increase your email click-through rate and drive sales.


Aaron Beashel is head of content marketing at Campaign Monitor. Disclosure: case studies mentioned are Campaign Monitor customers.



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