Likes vs. Shares: What Should Your Email Ask For?

should you ask for likes or shares in your email marketingAlthough I titled this post, “What Should Your Email Ask For,” I could have titled it, “To Get What You Really Want, Ask for What You Really Need,” because that’s what we’re actually talking about. If you’re including social media buttons in your email marketing, it’s for one of two reasons: Either you want people to like you (or follow you), or you want them to share your email. Be clear on what you want, so you ask for the action you need from that subscriber.

Know what you want
These days, email service providers (ESPs) make it really easy to include social media buttons in your email design and content…maybe too easy. Not having to think about how they can be used, marketers sometimes forget that those buttons—and social media itself—can be used for two different purposes:

  1. To build audience
  2. To extend reach

There’s a difference between asking for likes (or followers) and asking for shares, and understanding the difference—and your goals—will affect how you use the social media buttons in your email marketing. Plus it will ensure you’re making an appropriate ask in your email, and therefore one more likely to get a result.

Building audience
What brand doesn’t want more likes and followers? We all want more, because it looks good (and feels good), and the more fans, likes or followers your brand has, the more you’re likely to get too. That’s building audience: the group of people who will see your tweets, Facebook posts or LinkedIn updates.

Obviously, building audience is important, and asking people to like or follow your brand via email is totally acceptable.

But keep context in mind when you are asking for a like or a follow: Is it the right ask at the right time? The “ask” that will do you more good—i.e. the ask for the like vs. the ask for the share—should depend at least in part on the purpose of the email. For example, a welcome email will likely go to someone fairly new to your brand. That’s a good time to ask for a like or a follow. Besides, the content you include in a welcome email is not likely content you’d want shared. Plus you’re still in the beginning stages of a relationship with this subscriber. Is it really the right time to ask them to share your stuff and tell their friends about you? Or is that jumping the gun just a tad?

Extending reach
On the other hand, if you’re sending regular email marketing communications or email newsletters to an audience, that’s when you should probably be asking for shares instead, in order to extend your reach. Getting your content shared is how you build your reach, which in turn can (and should!) lead to building your audience too, as people see your content shared by others and get introduced to your brand.

You should be focused on creating great content after having established the start of a relationship via your welcome emails, and that content you’re working so hard on is what you want shared. Also by this point, you can probably safely assume that if a subscriber were going to like or follow you via social media, they probably already did, so asking for that is redundant and a waste of valuable space in your email marketing message. Your relationship has progressed, and therefore so should your ask.

Be obvious in your ask
However, it doesn’t matter what you ask for if your ask is so subtle it goes unnoticed. I don’t know about you, but I get plenty of email marketing messages with social media buttons that just sit there like decorative elements. There’s no verbiage asking me to like or follow a brand. It’s like the marketer plops the social media icons into the template and crosses that off the task list: Done!

But it’s not done, if that’s all you’ve done.

Whether you’re going for a like or a share, make your request obvious, and ask them to do what you want them to do. Simply including social media buttons in your email marketing is a little bit anti social. You can’t assume they will see a Facebook button and think, “Oh, I should like this brand on Facebook!” That might happen, but you’ll probably get more likes if you include an ask such as, “Like us on Facebook.” Better yet, including a reason why they should like you on Facebook: “Like us on Facebook for special deals and coupon offers.”

The welcome email presents a special opportunity to make this kind of ask. I’ve not seen this in my own inbox yet, but I would like to see a welcome email from a brand new to me say something along the lines of, “Now that we’re connected by email, let’s connect via social media too,” acknowledging that this is a new connection, and suggesting a next step in the relationship.

The same applies for sharing content: Don’t assume they will. Include verbiage such as, “Share this email with your friends,” or, “If you like what you see, share this email with your friends.” Or be really specific. Maybe your email is about the best way to fix a gadget with your gizmo. Your ask could be as specific as, “Know someone else with a gadget that needs fixing? Send them this email!”

Use your social media icons, but know the difference between growing your followers vs. growing your reach. And know that you’re using every bit of your email marketing message and email design in the most effective way possible.