Getting Started in Mangling Mailchimp

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Are you thoroughly confused by the high-paced Youtubes I showed you in my last post on Mangling MailChimp?   Well, who wouldn’t be! I’ve been wrangling technologies since the 1980s and MailChimp is staggeringly complicated even for someone with my experience.  So I’m going to break it down for you.

Warning. I think that MailChimp may be addictive. This was confusing and scary, but fun.

I’m using the recently introduced “new” way to build campaigns in Mailchimp. I started a campaign here for my four guinea pig pals, with the aim to spam them with a Happy New Year message that I’m building here in Mailchimp.   So here’s the interface. Seems pretty self-explanatory.

Okay. I can handle this. Set the “To:” List.  Set the “From” email.  Put in the subject line for the mail. Got it. I can even put an emoji in the subject header! Nice. And now. The content. Design. The. Content.  How hard could this be?

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And so, I hit the cute little Design Email button. . . and I got all these templates. SO MANY TEMPLATES.  Cognitive overload strikes!

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This is only a TINY part of the “Select a template” choice list.  Um, um, what to do?  How to decide?   For a newbie, this choice list can be exciting or scary–but mostly it is exhausting.    Remember to Keep it Simple Sweetheart.

If you have a degree in communications design, well then peace be upon you, go for it.  For the rest of us, start simple and clean. Some color (not too much).  Definitely a picture or two.

I chose the simple 1 column, full width basic design (second from the left, above). This is where it gets tricky.   There are three tabs over here on the right (I know, hard to see in this screen shot. They read “Content,”  “Design”and “Comments.” The Comments tab is for professional, multi-author blogs. Ignore it for now. )

On the left is your design canvas, the place where you will build your email. But on the right is going to be your editing canvas–where you actually put in the content.   But first you have to pick a content element from this list.


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The Content tab is a set of drag and drop elements to drag over to the left on your design canvas.   So we’re going to start with a picture.  I clicked the black button to drop in an image,  then I uploaded the image I wanted to use into Mailchimp. Here is the results.

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Now, I could go on to simple work on my email’s content but I am a CURIOUS kind of person and here they’ve offered me the opportunity to see other MailChimp user’s cool campaigns. . . and so . . . DISTRACTION TIME.  Off I go to take a look at other MailChimp campaigns, purely for inspiration  —- or, um. . .


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DEAR FREAKING BLOG GODS! How can I compete?  These are  TOO MUCH! No, can’t bear this much inspiration, my brain is exploding (hits the back button.)

OH. KAY. Where were we ? Back To Safety! 

Content is still King on the Internet.  Design has its points–you want your designs to be clean, readable, and “relatable” — you want to engage your readers, not turn them off or frighten them away. Start with what you want to say.  

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Because we don’t do anything plain vanilla in MY house, I chose the “boxed text” template and dragged it over underneath the guinea pig picture.  A black box appeared with this default text.

Pro-Tip. You have to click on the “It’s time to design your email” box and throw it in the “trash can” to get rid of it. Or you can just edit it, but ONLY in the editing window to the RIGHT, after you click on the box to select it.  I (heh) ending up sending this to my guinea pig pals because I couldn’t figure out how to edit it the first time.

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So remember, except for that first picture, you put into the template, you cannot edit the text directly in the template. You have to use the editing canvas to the RIGHT.  You’ll see the editing canvas for the “Boxed Text” element.  Note that it looks like the regular kind of blogging platform that you already use.   The sample text in the black box (above) is also sitting here in the editing canvas, waiting for you to change the font, the size, the style, add a picture, a link, and so forth.

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You can put text here but hey, you can also put in images, too!  So, since this is a new year’s card (in email form), I have just the picture I want to use!  I press the image button and discover that there’s not only a way to upload a picture into the boxed text,  MailChimp also has a fairly robust image editor, built right in!  Wow.   So I take this ginormous graphic I have (2600 pixels wide) and resize it in the editor to 500 pixels.  And then I put in the regular text box underneath it and composed my New Year’s Message.

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Not the most uplifting prose, but hey, 2017 was kind of a rough year for everyone.

What about this stuff at the bottom? 

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These are element boxes that are default in the template.    These are two separate boxes.

The first is the social follow box.  

  • You can edit it by selecting the pencil tool. 
  • Or you can toss it out by choosing the trash can
  • The plus block will insert the social follow block A SECOND time (it basically copies the block).  Kind of useless. 🙂
  • The nine dots on the left will let you change the placement of the social follow box.

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Editing the Social Follow Box

If you want to grow your tribe using an email list, offering other channels for your fans to follow you is highly recommended.  Currently I only have a Twitter presence (and since this site is less than two weeks old, I’m doing very well, darn it. 🙂  Twitter is probably the best way possible to build your brand and find your “blogging tribe.”  More on that soon. But I don’t have a facebook page.  Let’s see about editing this cute box.

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You can REMOVE a box just by clicking on the minus sign in the circle on the right.  You can add your twitter handle in the URL or username box and then enter some link text.

This social follow links up to many other services. You can find them by using the pull-down menu–the grey bar with the v sign in it is drop-down menu of services.

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Are you beginning to see the addictive qualities?  I’m finding this fun and easy (but it was sort of scary and hard at first).  Here I’ve filled in the blanks for my Twitter handle and my blog.  I’ve put in LINK text, and we’ll get to that in just a moment.  Notice, though, that ALL THE WAY DOWN at the bottom of the screen is Save and Close.  But let’s go on to the Style and Settings tabs first.  

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See right here is the Save and Close button.  Easy to miss. 

The Settings Tab

Yes, I know, it might make sense to do the tabs in sequential order, left to right, but really, no.  We’ll do settings first because the STYLE tab is dependent on the SETTINGS that you choose.

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Since I’m only using TWO little icons for social media, I changed the layout of them from horizontal to vertical.  You can see that the other alternatives are greyed out.  You can pick either one.

I’m also using the SOLID style of icons, I’m aligning them in the center, and I’m displaying the ICON only, not the link text.  I put in link text in the CONTENT tab, but it won’t show unless I use the pulldown on the DISPLAY bar at the top to change that setting.

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The Style tab changes the color of the Social Follow Box and also controls the style of the font that would appear if you choose Text Only or Both Icon and text above, in the SETTINGS tab of the social follow box. If you click on the background, you can choose colors for the box itself.   This is pretty straightforward.

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The Footer

All email campaigns are required by law to provide certain information about the sender.  You can’t get around this. MailChimp uses some merge codes to gather that information and plunk it down there at the footer for you.  Remember, this is all the protection we get from Nigerian princes. 

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To change these settings, you’ll need to change them in your MailChimp Account itself.  So get yourself a PO Box.  That’s recommended. Just leave the footer settings alone.

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Okay, so now for the test! 

I’ve got an actual email campaign I can send out to my guinea pig pals.   So next, we go up to the big black bar at the top of the screen.  I choose the Preview and Test drop down box to see what my options are.

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It’s a drop down menu with five different steps.

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Preview gives you a full screen shot of what you’ll send out.  Sending a test email to my own email address….didn’t work.  Not the first time.  Hmmmmmm. A third time. CONSARN IT!

Oh. Never mind. Gmail has hidden it in the tab marked PROMOTIONS.  Because I’m not a subscriber to my own email list, and well.  CHECK YOUR SPAM folder.  Heh. 

MailChimp has a pretty awesome help page for testing.

  • If you put the MailChimp app on your phone, the number 3 choice will push a preview of your email to your phone or mobile device, so you can see it there and make sure it looks right.
  • The open link checker will test all your links so that you don’t accidentally send dead links.
  • Social Cards?  I’m still not sure what those are.  That’s for later. You can spend forever fooling around with all these settings.

After you save and exit, you’ll want to go back to your MailChimp dashboard. I hit Save and Exit and argh.  Had to log back in AGAIN.  So, you want to SAVE AND CONTINUE.  Argh.


And Launch!

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This is where things got confusing.  So my Happy New Year campaign is there. If you hit create campaign, you’ll get thrown back to the editor.  So you have to choose a campaign, but  how?  PRO-TIP.  When you move your cursor to the left of the campaign, a CHECKBOX magically appears!  CHECK IT.  It will disappear when you move your cursor away! 

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Next, you have to schedule your campaign.  And I have to confess here. I have no idea what clicks enabled me to get the darned thing scheduled.  But I did, I got to THIS SCREEN  And off it went.

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HOURS OF WORK. And there it is.

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This was a Learning Experience.  The next time will be easier.  We’ll cover more on marketing and tech tips in the weeks ahead.  I hope this was helpful.  ~Lola




Author: Lola

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

5 thoughts on “Getting Started in Mangling Mailchimp

  1. Where to get the emails from for the campaigns? How to comprehend the installation and usage of the subscribe button? These are the driving questions for me as I plunge forward in this adventure too.

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