A lot of people have asked me how I designed my emails that come out the day after a new post. While I’d like to take credit and say I do them by hand, the truth is that I actually had (I recently switched to Aweber) it set up as an RSS-Driven Campaign in MailChimp that would basically pick up new posts from my RSS feed and automatically create an email based on a pre-designed template. It sounds complicated but it really isn’t.
Let me walk you through the steps
Step 1: Create a New Campaign
Once you’re logged into your MailChimp account, simply go to your campaigns on the top menu bar and you’ll arrive at the screen that lists all your existing campaigns. Click on “Create Campaign” on the top right.
Step 2: Pick The Type Of Campaign
You’ll be asked to pick a campaign type. The one you want is called an RSS-Driven Campaign.
Step 3: Enter Feed Details
If you’re using WordPress, your feed address is really easy to remember. It’s simply your domain name with /feed/ at the end of it.
Step 4: Pick The List The Email Goes Out To
For this step, you probably already have a list created so simply pick the list that you want the email to go out to. In the screenshot above you can see that I have a few lists (mostly from playing around) and once you have one selected, you’ll have options to send it out to everyone or a specific segment. Most likely, you’ll want it sent out to everyone.
Step 5: Fill In Campaign Info
On the next page, you’ll want to enter in some general setup information MailChimp needs. Take a look at all the fields filled out in the screenshot below. A few of the special fields that you should pay attention are:
- Name your campaign – This is really just a name to identify the campaign in MailChimp.
- Email subject – You can do some pretty neat things here by using what’s called “merge tags”. These are essentially snippets of shortcode that pull dynamic information from the newsletter itself. For instance *|RSSFEED:TITLE|* pulls the title and *|RSSFEED:DATE|* pulls the date.
- From name – You might want to do some testing here but I’ve seen some use their personal name versus their blog name (seen in the screenshot). Make a gut feel call on what you think will attract opens.
- From email address – This will be the address that your fans will see the email from.
- Google Analytics link tracking title – Come up with a short name like “TBB-RSS-Newsletter” to show up in Google Analytics when someone clicks through on a link to your page.
- Auto-tweet after sending & auto-post to Facebook after sending – I don’t have these turned on because I like keeping my newsletters just for subscribers but if you want the link to the newsletter shared on social media, you can turn this on.
All other fields are turned on by default so no need to do anything else unless you’re doing something even more custom.
Step 6: Pick An RSS-To-Email Template
The next step is to pick one of the several pre-built templates by MailChimp designed specifically for RSS use. What you’re going to want to do is go to the “Themes” tab and in the drop down select “RSS-To-Email“. From here you’ll see 9 different templates.
You can select anyone that suits your design needs but for me, I ended up picking RSS 2C because I liked how it had the three column layout at the bottom. The only difference between 1, 2, and 3 is just the color scheme.
Step 7: It’s Designing Time
While the “code” may look a little overwhelming at first, the best way to figure out what does what is to go into preview mode.
Take a look at the image below where I’ve done a side-by-side comparison between the design view (left) and preview mode (right). All the dynamic sections are highlighted. All of it is ready to go out of the box but if you want to make adjustments like remove the date and author. For me, I also removed *|RSSFEED:TITLE|* because the title image I used had the blog name.
MailChimp’s interface for editing the various sections is super intuitive and will give you the flexibility of changing everything from the color, font and border.
Step 8: Confirm and Start
The last step is to confirm all of your details. If you want to make any other changes, you can go straight to them here but for the most part there’s not much else you need to do except hit the “Start RSS” button on the bottom right.
Note: Social Cards are going to be disabled by default but if you want to turn it on for Twitter and Facebook
And that’s pretty much it!
Beyond that if your image alignment is a little funky, check out the Align RSS Images plugin.