Mangling Mail Chimp

As an old-school blogger, I am sometimes irritated, often mildly annoyed, by demands for my email address.   I especially hate the websites that block me from seeing the content with a freaking WALL of “ask” for yet another newsletter.  I get cranky about it. It’s not like the Olden Times, when we had “blog-rolls”  and those weird blog circles that randomly spun the reader from site to site.  Yes, it was a bit like Russian roulette with text.  But these were the Olden Times.  Finding content was Really Hard. We were full of dreams but innocent of machine-learning, data mining technologies.

Technorati, long ago, used to provide a search engine for blogs. I used it frequently back then, in the early “OOs.”   Google PageRank algorithms changed that.   Here’s a brief explanation of how Google PageRank works.  Basically, it used some of the olden-days techniques of creating blog-rolls, using as a metric, the  the number of people who link to you.   In the old-style search engines, AGE was a determining factor for getting your material seen.   The older your blog, the more hits it got.  My blog from 1996, teaching HTML 1.3? something like that–before 2.0, anyway, got massive hits.  The State Department even linked to it.  But alas, I left that university and the site was eventually taken down.  Should’ve taken it with me, but I was Busy.  I’m not entirely a failed blogger.  I was successful before it was commercially viable.  We were just beginning to consider banner ads.  Coulda-woulda-shoulda.

For the last several years, I’ve been reading and experimenting with the new technologies and with the new business models in blogging.   Getting 100,000!  Email addresses! is touted everywhere as the key to success. Heck, if I got 100 hits on this baby site, I’d be over the moon.  But torn between my personal irritation with the constant email asks and the “hey, these guys are successful bloggers, surely they know what I’m supposed to be doing”  tendency, I made a nice, free Mailchimp account.  And that’s as far as I got.

This level of marketing oneself is stepping into a new world. Mailchimp used to be a sweet little email service. It’s now a behemoth of marketing.  Cool dashboards.  Amazing templates.  It’s wow and it’s intimidating and I’m JUST getting into it.

Why do this so early

I need to get into a rhythm of writing, creating, and delivering material to my four “personas.”   I need to figure out what extra content I can create to encourage people to be part of my brand.  I’ve done my research on creating a successful blog–and the most important ingredient beyond good content is community engagement.  A blog today has a public face, the blog itself, and an “insider” space, for subscribers. You don’t have to spam your subscribers with daily material, but a monthly newletter with quality extras help people to remember who you are and why they like you. 

Test, test, testing

I tapped four of my friends to be guinea pigs for my initial campaigns.  That was a Good Thing.  Getting some outside feedback on campaigns can be really helpful.  All my goofs are sent out to friends first, until I get the hang of it.

I used this Youtube Mailchimp Tutorial which takes about an hour to get through.  There are dozens of these on Youtube often about an hour in length–they’re “walk throughs.”   This blogger and Youtuber has a nice bright presentation.  She walks you through the little details of setting up a Mailchimp list.   But I have to admit, this Youtuber does get a bit wearing. She has a shorter, 21-minute tutorial just on how to use templates. 

Mailing lists mean extra work — the creation of outreach campaigns with extra content for your special crowd.  In the beginning of a blog, when just creating the content seems like a Herculean task, an email subscription list doesn’t seem. . . smart.  Right now, I’m struggling to produce regular content.  Extra content when I’m only getting a handful of views seems a bit premature.

My advice from my attempt to work through MailChimp on my own is this:

  • Sign up and work through as much as you can on your own.  You’ll be somewhat confused as there is SO MUCH, but try out some things.  The tutorials will go really fast, so having struggled with it for a bit.
  • Do a tutorial.  Better yet, do a few.
  • Play with it. Put one of your other emails on a mailing list so that you can test your content.
  • Begin to think about community engagement in multiple ways.

I sent out the weirdest email to my four guinea pig friends, with the default text from MailChimp, and a picture that I had managed to upload. I also managed to edit the template with a little bit of text I’d managed to insert . I couldn’t figure out how to edit it further.  That email was sent out to people one day after they subscribed, because, um, that’s how I set it up.  So. Many Options.

If your brain is scrambled by the 21 minute video, I’m going to help break it down for you in future TechTip posts.  We’ll suffer together.

~ Lola

Photo Credits: Photo on Best Running







Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

7 thoughts on “Mangling Mail Chimp

  1. I just feel like I’ve got to say “Ditto” and thank you. A yr ago the mailchimp plug in was installed. I’d be happy to magically know what to do with it.
    Communication is key, so is community. Keeping track of followers is still on my list to learn.
    I’m previous a door to door, face to face in person marketer. It’s a new day, yet I believe it must remain personal somehow.

    1. Truly, the email outreach is hard for me to wrap my head around. I’m steeling myself to get on with it. It’s quite an issue, having to come up with content for even a MONTHLY newsletter. So many people subscribe to emails to get updates for blogs. That’s the first thing to get automated. Then there is coming up with useful “extra” content. This was easier when I was thinking of being a food blogger — foodies want recipes. Small bloggers want –community. But how do we build that with email? Listservs? I haven’t seen any of those yet, though I’m pondering creating one.

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