MailChimp is a great tool for managing email subscriptions and marketing campaigns. It is free to use, up to 2,000 subscribers. I use it to send out notices about my recent work, upcoming events, and new blog posts. One of MailChimp’s wonderful features is the ability to create RSS campaigns that automatically send email notices to your blog subscribers when a new post is written. I’ll walk you through the steps of creating and sending an RSS campaign.
Create a Campaign
- Log into MailChimp – you’ll land on your Dashboard.
- Look at the top left corner to find the main menu. Click on Campaigns. You’ll see a list of existing campaigns, if you have any.
- In the right sidebar, click on the Create Campaign button.
- What do you want to Create? pop-up window – Click the Create an Email button.
- Create an Email pop-up window – Select the Automated tab, then select Share Blog Updates.
- Share Blog Updates pop-up window – Fill in the field for Campaign Name. Select a list. For this tutorial, I named my campaign “RSS Tutorial” and selected my main list. Click the Begin button.
NOTE: The navigation items for the next few steps are at the bottom of MailChimp’s pages.
- RSS Feed page – Configure the feed and scheduling.
a) Fill in the field for your blog’s RSS feed. The URL for your feed is usually the website blog URL, followed by /feed/. My blog’s RSS feed, for example, is: www.askdesign.biz/blog/feed/
b) Select the frequency of how often and what time the campaign will be sent. Even if you select Every Day from the dropdown menu, you can still limit it to the days it will actually send by selecting only 1 or 2 days. You can also change this setting later on if you want.
c) Select Resize RSS feed images to fit template.
- Recipients page – Send to the entire list or a segment of the list. My blog subscribers are a segment of my main list.
- Setup page – Most of the fields will already be populated. Fill in or edit the field for Preview Text.
In the Social Media section, select the Auto-tweet and/or Auto-posting to Facebook, if you want the campaign to automatically get sent to Twitter and/or Facebook.
- Template page – Explore the options. I recommend starting out with the Basic 1-column template.
- Design page – You build your email here using content blocks. The left side is the email you will send. The right side contains all of the block (Content tab) and design (Design tab) options . Click and drag the block from the right side to the left side. Once the block is on the left side, click on it to edit the content. The blocks that you will absolutely need for your RSS campaign are:
a) RSS Header
b) RSS Items
NOTE: Do not edit the RSS Header or the RSS Items block. Leave them exactly as they are. These two blocks will automatically pick up the title and first few lines of your blog post.
One option that I recommend is to add an image above the RSS Header block. MailChimp’s RSS settings do not pick up the blog post images automatically. So, if you want some visual interest, you’ll have to add the image manually.
After you become familiar with MailChimp, you might want to explore the Design tab. This is where you can change the colors, fonts, and type sizes. You can customize the settings to be in sync with your website design.
- Confirm page – Make sure everything in this list has a green checkmark. Take care of items that don’t have green checkmarks.
a) If everything looks good, click on the Preview and Test dropdown menu and select Preview Mode. Desktop mode will appear first. Click the Mobile tab to see how it will look on mobile phones.
b) Go back to the Preview and Test dropdown menu and select Send a test email. This will give you an even better idea of how the email campaign will look when actually sent.
- Save and Exit OR Start RSS – If your blog post is not ready to be published yet, or if there are still tweaks you want to make to the RSS campaign, select Save and Exit. If your blog post has been published and you’re ready for the world to read it, click on Start RSS.
Congratulations! You’ve Created an RSS Campaign!
Now what? 🙂 Creating the campaign is the first step. Once you’ve got it configured, you simply write the blog post as you normally would. MailChimp will automatically send out each new post that is published, based on the schedule you configure. A day or two before the post is scheduled to go out from MailChimp, follow these steps:
- Log into WordPress and publish the blog post.
- Log into MailChimp and revisit the Setup page – Fill in or edit the field for Preview Text.
- Revisit MailChimp’s Design page – If you want, add an image and add/edit the custom text.
- Revisit Confirm page – double-check all items.
- When everything is ready to go, click Start RSS.