✉ Using Symbols in Your Subject Lines

Have you noticed the usage of symbols (such as hearts ♥ and stars ✪) in subject lines has been on the rise in recent months?

Some data  shows that correctly using symbols in your subject line can boost your open rates. Whether your open rates sustain after the novelty is yet to be determined.

Swiftpage.com investigated the affect of using symbols in subject lines by using their monthly newsletter as the test subject. Half of their subscribers received the subject line with the symbols and the other half received the subject without. Results showed the e-mail with the symbol subject line had a higher unique open rate of over 25% while the other message received 22%.

Using symbols in subject lines is tricky and can come off as gimmicky, or as a typo, or worse yet, get caught in a spam filter, so caution and your own testing is advised. Care is needed too, to make sure your symbol renders correctly on multiple platforms. Otherwise your symbol will default to this: ☐.

We offered tips on writing compelling subject lines and headlines, Must-Click Headlines, that should still be your guide to writing high-open subject lines and if a symbol offers thematic support to the subject line and message itself within this criteria, we suggest you test it to see if your target audience reacts. Any tool in today’s crowded email in-boxes is definitely worth a look. Some early “top tips” for using symbols in email subject lines include:

Here are some tips for the best use of icons in your subject lines:

    • Use sparingly. While a trick like this works, it can’t be used all the time or it’s effectiveness wanes
    • Use simple symbols that remain legible on a small scale
    • Use symbols in the forefront of the subject line for best impact
    • Test how the symbols render across different email clients, web mail sites and mobile devices (resources below)
    • Test different symbols to measure symbol effectiveness, e.g. do hearts ♥ perform better than stars ✪?

Social media postings are more loosey-goosey and using symbols can spice up an otherwise bland post. We recommend testing symbols with copy, posts, and headlines here before using in email. Plus, if it looks bad after you post it in social media, you can quickly delete it. ✘✘✘

Here are some quick resources on using symbols:

  • List of symbol supported in various email clients, such as Hotmail, Gmail, Outlook, etc., thanks to our friends at Campaign Monitor.
  • Cut and paste Facebook Symbols. Our default for subject lines especially is to cut and paste.
  • If you use Microsoft Outlook or Word, you can use the Insert Menu > Symbol to find any version of symbol that fits your subject lines, headline, or post. And,
  • Following is quick visual on creating some symbols using your keyboard …
Keyboard Shortcuts

How to Make Symbols with Your Keyboard