Social media was originally intended as a simple digital communication medium to allow people to connect with one another. This allowed people from opposite corners of the globe to socialize without having to actually be in the same place. Social media continued to evolve as time passed, and with that evolution, people started using social icons in email signatures. This post details all the best practices if you’re looking to use social media icons in your email signature.
What are Social Media Icons?
Ironically, despite the grand scale of social media, one of its best contributions is the small yet impactful social media icons. These icons reflect each social media platform through very recognizable, distinct, and compact logos. What’s more, these icons can be used as portals to whichever platform they represent through a simple click or tap.
As simple as they are, these icons are a great benefit especially for email signatures, as they help save space and make any design look streamlined. Gone are the days where long URLs would be used to redirect users to social media sites. In fact, linking an icon to its respective platform is widely accepted and recognized.
Why Does Social Media Matter?
The importance of social media in almost any scenario is that it is involved with almost everything. Regardless of the significance of a certain topic, thing, or even person, if even a tiny fraction of social media users deem it relevant, it will most likely be talked about in some shape or form. This makes social media a good avenue for getting exposure to help promote nearly anything.
In addition to this, social media provides an excellent way of interacting with people in a more relaxed manner. Although there are other ways of getting in touch, they can either be too structured (customer service), too formal (emails), or too personal (text messaging).
Social media is a great middle-ground as there are no set rules, apart from the obvious social etiquette when communicating. Since most people already use some form of social media, communicating through this channel is usually more appealing.
Apart from this, social media also allows people to see a different side of a person or business. Although official websites exist, they usually only include selected information. But through social media, people can peek behind the curtain. It also provides a good degree of transparency for any business or person, which can help build trust.
What Are the Best Practices for Using Social Icons in Email Signatures?
Although adding social media icons to an email signature is fairly straightforward, certain things are often overlooked regarding this process. This list aims to provide general guidelines regarding the use of social icons in email signatures.
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1. Obtain Social Icons from Legitimate Sources
Let’s take Facebook (now called Meta) as an example. They have a branding page that highlights the correct usage of their logo and they also provide a downloadable logo pack. Non-compliance can cause legal issues due to copyright, and no one wants that.
You can download social media icons made specifically for email signatures from here. Alternatively, we’ve provided links to download social icons from official sources.
2. Avoid Modifying the Icons
Since social media icons are copyrighted, it is illegal to use them in any way not deemed appropriate or acceptable by the company that owns them. This includes making any alterations or reimaginations. Even a minor alteration like changing an icon/logo’s color is also not permitted outside of the official assets provided. For this reason, companies usually provide guidelines on how to use their assets.
Of course, there are exceptions to these depending on the situation like scaling or resizing an icon to better fit the email signature. Another exception is with the color scheme of an icon where the black and white version is allowed only if the original design cannot be displayed as-is. Other exceptions may be possible if they are requested and then approved by the owning company.
3. Maintain Image Quality
Not only do the icons need to be used as provided (with some acceptable adjustments), their quality must also be up to par. This not only abides by the guidelines set forth by the companies that own the icons, but it also helps improve the email signature’s overall appearance. If bad quality images are used, then that would have a negative impact on the email signature itself.
No company would want their icon to be presented with subpar quality, especially when alongside other icons. Even if only one of the icons looks better (or worse) than the others, it may be seen as a form of favoritism (or bias) towards the company that owns the icon. Thus, it is always important that all icons have the same image quality.
4. Size Appropriately
Aside from having good image quality, social media icons should be sized appropriately. If they’re too big, they can overshadow other parts of the signature. However, if they are too small, they tend to be barely noticeable and are a nightmare for mobile users. Size also affects the icon’s quality. This makes striking a balance between size and quality a must.
Similar to image quality, each icon should be sized equally. This is done to ensure that no icon is emphasized over the others and it also makes them look equal. In fact, companies specify in their guidelines that their icons should be equally sized with others. And besides, it is also quite off-putting to see icons having different sizes even if only slightly.
5. Number of Icons
It goes without saying that it is never a good idea to overload on social media icons. Too many icons can make any email signature look cramped and in desperate need of space. It can even cause email signatures to go to the Junk/Spam folder due to having way too many URLs (due to the hosted images) and hyperlinks.
About five icons should be the utmost limit. Adding more would only crowd the email signature and mess with its layout. Limiting the number of icons will allow better spacing not just between the icons but also with the rest of the signature. It also makes them easier to fit and arrange in certain layouts. And for some email clients (like Gmail), having less icons means fewer overall characters in your HTML code eliminating the Gmail character limit.
6. Uniform Spacing
Another very important but often trivialized aspect of social media icons is spacing. Unlike some of the previous entries on this list, spacing does not need too much planning. It is usually decided on the spot and is fairly straightforward.
Spacing should always promote accessibility. The icons must not be too close together as this makes them difficult to tap especially for mobile users. However, they shouldn’t be too far from each other that it requires way more effort to click/tap on them.
A good rule of thumb for desktop and laptop users is to make sure that it only requires one short swipe to transition the pointer from one icon to another. For mobile users, the majority of the icons should be easily tapped on using the thumb on the same hand that is holding the device.
7. Use Icons Instead of Text Hyperlinks
Hyperlinks are an extremely important part of any email signature. Most email signatures used today have at least two hyperlinks (website and email) and more can be added depending on the need. However, adding “raw” hyperlinks to an email signature has fallen out of favor with the exception of the website and email address fields.
In the case of social media sites, their respective icons are hyperlinked directly to the corresponding social platform, instead of using plain text hyperlinks. This makes sense as social media icons are easily recognizable at a glance whereas text hyperlinks require you to read. Icons are also easily distinguishable from one another, unlike text hyperlinks. If these are not enough, the icon guidelines provided by each social media platform specifically state that their respective icons should be used over text hyperlinks.
8. The Social Media Platform Should Be Business-Relevant
Having even one social media icon in an email signature is always beneficial as it provides additional facets for communication as well as much-needed exposure. However, having the right social media icon(s) is even more beneficial.
Despite the similarities of social media sites today in terms of content, each and every one of them is still heavily associated with a certain type of social media. Thinking of photographs and images? Instagram. Short videos? TikTok. Sharing thoughts? Twitter. And the list goes on.
Not taking advantage of social media sites (and their icons) would be a missed opportunity. It is like a vlogger without a YouTube channel or a job recruiter with no LinkedIn. Yes, it is possible, but you’re fighting an uphill battle. If the business or service does not fall within a particular type of social media, then Facebook is always an excellent one to have.
But of course, you cannot simply link a dead or unmaintained page and hope for the best. That would have the opposite effect. It’s essential that all links point to an active and well-maintained page to get positive results.
Social media and their respective icons are powerful tools that any email signature can (and probably should) utilize. However, one cannot simply use them haphazardly just because of how ubiquitous they are. Their respective guidelines should be followed to avoid any issues down the line.
For maximum impact, it’s important to spend some time planning the integration of social icons in email signatures, following the above best practices. If done right, social icons in email signatures can make a huge difference to the way customers perceive your business.