CategoryProduct Design

Facebook and Twitter Onboarding Emails November 2015

As part of my work on Sidekick and HubSpot’s sales platform, I focus a lot on the new user experience of our products. As Brian Balfour likes to say “user onboarding is the one element of your application that all users will use”. Can you think of better metrics to invest than getting your users activated and set up for success?

As part of thinking through what will help explain the value of our products to users, I like to evaluate what other successful companies are doing on a regular basis. Recently, I took a look at the emails they send to users as part of the signup process as they move them towards an activation event. I thought it was interesting to see how the emails for Facebook and Twitter stacked up against one another. They have a ton of signups and a lot of opportunity to tune these emails to get the best results. What are they doing that might be applicable for your personas / use case?

First Email:

  • Facebook subject: “Just one more step to get started on Facebook”
  • Twitter subject: “Confirm your account, FirstName LastName”
  • Facebook goes with an aggressive headline with “Action Required”. Grabs people’s attention!  Twitter uses your name in the subject, I’m surprised that Facebook doesn’t do the same.
  • Both Twitter and Facebook want you to “complete” your account in the paragraph above, but both say “confirm” in the CTA. The two sentences in the Facebook feel so robotic.
  • Facebook looks to reinforce its value by describing why it’s useful: “helps you communicate and stay in touch with all of your friends. Once you join Facebook, you’ll be able to share photos, plan events, and more”. Twitter doesn’t do anything like this. I guess it’s hard to describe what twitter is to everyone in one sentence.

Second Email:

  • Facebook subject: “Welcome to Facebook”
  • Twitter subject: “Follow Vogue Magazine, Jimmy Kimmel and Rihanna on Twitter!”
  • Twitter is focused on getting you to follow users, rather than build out your profile. I’d guess that twitter is less about making it so your friends can find you, and more about finding content you’re interested in.
  • Facebook is obsessed about getting you to enter your profile information. They try to hook you with content first, but I assume that profile information is the key to showing you friend suggestions and other information you might like.

Third Email:

  • Facebook subject: “You have more friends on Facebook than you think”
  • Twitter subject: “Eric Shawn tweeted: “Should we accept more #Syrianrefugees? A look at one man’s journey @Foxnews, @CWS_global, @John_Kass, Watch:
  • Twitter is all about information and news (granted, I picked some accounts to follow in their onboarding process), while Facebook is pushing you to connect your inbox so they can prompt you to add your friends. This is one long email with a lot of tweets embedded in it.
  • It’s weird that Facebook shows so many different email clients, when I signed up with a test address. Feels like they haven’t optimized this email, but what do I know?

Fourth Email:

  • Facebook subject: “Robinson Cano and Tom Brady are Trending on Facebook”
  • No twitter email (other than more content to view / follow). Interesting that they don’t prompt you to connect your address book, everybody else does this.
  • I’m surprised that the content of the email isn’t more engaging. I’m surprised they aren’t using images more prominently as twitter is, or showing information as it would appear in your news feed.

Here’s the side by side comparison for Twitter and Facebook’s emails. Did I miss something? Are you impressed with their emails, or underwhelmed?





The Search Button is Dead

The search button is dead.  You shouldn’t even have one.

You need a search box – but you don’t need a button for someone to click on.  This might seem like a inconsequential UI change, but it’s an important mindset to integrate into your site design.  It’s called query completion – giving users an indication of what results they’ll see, or steer them to use query suggestions before they hit return.  By thinking of a search box as a central piece of navigation within your site, it helps users find what they’re looking for more quickly.  Rather than having a hierarchical menu of options, let users tell you what they’re looking for and put the appropriate results into categories.  I’ve seen this a lot recently – and I am starting to expect it from every site I visit.  I’ve highlighted some of the sites that I think are doing a great job:


I don’t need to review greplin, as I think it’s a great idea.  Here’s a solid write-up of greplin if you haven’t heard of it already.  As you can see in the screenshot, they don’t even have a search button.


Another site doing a great job with this paradigm is plancast.  While greplin is a search engine and it makes sense that search is very important in their interface, this next example shows how search can be central to any site.  Plancast is a site that allows you to subscribe to the calendar of someone else.  For example, you could follow a famous designer and go to the same conferences they attend in the hopes of meeting them and speaking with them.  Here’s a journalist’s take on plancast, and I’ve taken a screenshot of a query for brad feld.  In the screenshot, it lists the plans for Brad Feld, as well as techstars information and a meeting he is attending.  An example of excellent execution:


The final example is from LinkedIn.  I typed in bro, and they gave me suggested items for a lot of different categories.  They clearly get it as well.  I did a search for bro, and it showed me Peter Bromka, one of my close friends and LinkedIn connections.

Even after you do a search, when you click/unclick certain check boxes you don’t have to hit a ‘submit’ button to make the search effective.  They automatically do the search for you again (with visual feedback the query is being executed).

People think that search is just showing a bunch of links to other pages on their site, while these three examples show how it’s more than that.  How you seen examples of other sites using search effectively?  I’d like to keep a list of sites that get it (other than, you know, the big elephant in the room).

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