What to know about Facebook’s mail announcement

You may have heard that Facebook was deviously plotting the end of Gmail and others by creating an email platform of their very own. Well, we tuned into the announcement for a little more insight, and I'd like to share a few takeaways. Turns out email's still not dead (no surprise there), but Facebook would love to be the center of the messaging experience for their 500 million users.

What it really is.
The most important thing to understand is that Facebook's primary goal was to create a seamless messaging platform, and email is one piece of that. While it's true that all users will have access to a new @faceboook.com email address, the goal is to fill a gap in an overall messaging system, which includes their mobile apps, instant messaging inside the application, texting and more. Email, therefore, helps round out a suite of options for communicating inside the Facebook ecosystem. (Oh, yeah — we called it an ecosystem.)

Why they built it.
They wanted to build a modern messaging system that eliminates the "friction" of traditional communication channels. In other words, they're simplifying the notion of a conversation between two people, without restricting the channel that the message goes down. For example, let's say I email my friend at her new Facebook.com email address. That friend happens to be logged into Facebook, so my message shows up in a chat dialog box. She responds to me in her chat window, and Facebook sends me her reply via email, since that's where my message originated.

What does it mean?
The announcement raises some interesting questions about the future of social media and how we might integrate different forms of communication. Still, HTML emails — like the ones you send in Emma — will probably be a challenge for Facebook. There's a lot of complexity rolled into how Facebook will decide how to route a message, so HTML seems like a difficult hurdle.

We'll plan some serious testing to see how their filtering and sorting works. Your messages will be sorted with something similar to Google's Priority Inbox, depending on your user preferences, so we'll have to see what that means in terms of even getting a message into someone's inbox, much less what folder it lives in once it's there. It's easy to see from the outset, though, that this system was built for users, not for marketers — all the more reason to make the content you send valuable.

They didn't talk about fan pages at all in their announcement, so many people have questions about whether becoming a fan of a brand is the same as adding someone as a friend and how that relates to inbox sorting.

We'll just have to keep everyone posted as they release it and we can test it more. In the meantime, we put together a graphic to help make sense of it all.

(Additional writing by Jim Hitch.)

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

Video tips: Holiday Email Ideas

Your friendly Emma support crew offers five solutions for your upcoming holiday email campaigns.

We know it's a busy time of year, so we put together a video full of festive content ideas and examples – whether you're planning a party, raising money or doing something else entirely. In fact, I'm so committed to helping out that I even put on my least favorite holiday sweater from Great Aunt Mildred for your viewing pleasure. So join Miles from our Community Relations team and watch our video (but please, don't judge the sweater).

Video credits: Annie Parsons, Daniel Brown, Elizabeth Williams, Mary Claire Zibart, Miles Price, Trey Piepmeier.

Calling all biz dev pros in Portland: Emma’s hiring!

We're looking for someone in Portland to be the face of Emma to the local business community. (Spectacles and flip hairdo not required.)

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We love our Portland office -- the balcony offers an especially great view of the city.

Emma's hiring a Business Development Specialist to join our office in Portland, OR, and that means we're looking for someone who's deeply involved in the local community of businesses, non-profits and agencies.

So what does a Business Development Specialist do, you ask? I think it's best described as part marketing, part networking and part selling key accounts. You'll also spend time building solid relationships with some existing local accounts. However you describe it, it means this person has his or her finger on the pulse of what's happening in Portland.

In my similar role in Austin, I interact every day with great local brands like Sweet Leaf Tea, Alamo Drafthouse, GSD&M, Proof Advertising, Parkside Grill, Caritas Austin and dozens more. I also develop partnerships with associations such as Greenlights, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and Ad Fed Austin. And I work with our marketing team to develop marketing and advertising partnerships with folks like KUT (Austin's NPR affiliate), Austin Monthly Magazine, the Chronicle and SXSWinteractive.

I know. What a sweet gig, right? A day in the life of an Emma Business Developer is action-packed, and I'd say that my job is challenging, rewarding and engaging. Since Emma brings a stylish, branded solution to customers who understand and value that approach to email marketing, the position lends itself to working with some of the coolest companies around the country.

While based in Portland and focused on your own community, you'll work on a team with other business developers around the country in cities like Nashville, Austin, New York and Denver. You'll need to bring experience from past sales, marketing and business development roles — but it's a learn-as-you-go environment, where you'll be part of Emma's entrepreneurial culture.

You'll be able to test the waters on marketing and business development programs and ideas that you dream up. You'll be measured on success both as an individual and as part of a team. You'll be who we go to when we have questions like, "What do we do in the Northwest to drum up the hottest five new creative agencies and turn them into Emma customers?" or "What 10 upcoming small businesses are going to be rock-star brands in three years and how do we bring them onto our team of customers?" or "It's Wednesday — what's Portland Pedal Power bringing for lunch today?"

Come help us build a growing list of local brands, which already includes customers like Mabel and Zora, Ponzi, Portland Roasting, YWCA & YMCA of Greater Portland, Beast, Aha Marketing, Disjecta and Office PDX. (Of course, this list will soon include all of your favorite brands, too.)

Ready? For more details on the open Portland Business Development Specialist opportunity, and to apply, click here.

Free, festive buttons help your email campaigns give back

Let your email campaigns do some good this season with these free "donate" buttons.

If you're a friend of Emma, chances are you're a fan of charitable giving, community partnerships and, of course, stylish design. It's in that spirit that we present to you a collection of snazzy "donate" buttons, designed by our own quite snazzy designers.

Holiday Buttons
Download 'em right here on the Emma blog, and upload your favorites to your holiday campaigns. You can then set up links to your favorite charity's website, or to your own fundraising page if you're a nonprofit.

If you'd like to help but aren't sure who needs a hand (or a link), check out some past Emma 25 honorees who would surely appreciate some holiday love. (And until November 15, you can still help us spread the word to deserving charities about this year's Emma 25 — we're taking applications now.)

Not sure what to say? As always, we recommend keeping it simple, personal and concise. Try opening with a short description of the nonprofit and the reason you chose this one to highlight. Then use a call to action to ask your readers for their help.

Feel free to model your caption after this sample text:

Feeding America is a hunger-relief charity that touched our hearts with their backpack program, which helps children who need nourishment on the weekends. They would love your support this holiday season — click above to make a difference!

Ready to give a helping hand? Click here to download a zip file of these free holiday buttons and get linkin'! (Or pick your favorites from our Facebook gallery instead.)

And if you'd like to send your holiday greeting on some custom seasonal stationery, take a look at your design options.

Hugs and holiday spirit,
Your Emma Design Team

Thanks for the great ideas and congrats to our winner

We love all of your Facebook ideas, and we're pleased to say: Congratulations, Jamie Rose … you're our blog giveaway winner!

It's my pleasure to announce Jamie Rose as the winner of our recent contest here on the Emma blog. She's the proud new owner of a $100 gift card to use at Emma customer GoCoffeeGo.

All of you had such great ideas, and we're definitely going to bring them to the table as our Facebook presence takes shape. You may see us highlight success stories from Emma clients, as Merritt requested. Or maybe we'll focus on the ins and outs of designing more customized campaigns – Matthew, LPete, Susan and Jessica all are interested in that topic. Perhaps we'll even include some Tom Brady trivia, just to keep things interesting for Paul and Heather and their fellow football fanatics. Or it could be that we start to share more and more about members of the Emma Community. As Jamie said, so many of them are doing wonderful things that the rest of the world would enjoy.

See what I mean? They're all great ideas!

Thanks for playing along, everyone. We really do appreciate you putting your thinking caps on and joining our team, if just for a brief few minutes. See you next time.

Want to see more Emma customers in action?
You can find customer stories on our website and also right here on the blog.

Meet Blood: Water Mission

How a Nashville nonprofit makes the most of a free Emma 25 account and helps save lives in Africa.

One of Blood: Water Mission's beautiful email campaigns.

Although it started as a small passion project in 2005, Blood: Water Mission has since become an extraordinary organization with multiple operations and international reach. But they aren't just bringing clean water and better sanitation to all different parts of Africa — they're also using thoughtful, effective marketing strategies to get the most out of their fundraising efforts.

Two years ago, Emma was thrilled to recognize their work through Emma 25, our annual program that awards free email marketing service to deserving nonprofits. (And this year's Emma 25 is now in full swing — you can apply now through November 15.) We've been proud to play a part in the incredible story of their project, and they impress us to this day with their smart marriage of mission and branding. Their email campaigns consistently see great open and click-through rates, largely because their supporters are actually getting the right message — and seeing things beautifully.

How do they do it?

They keep it simple and honest. In this campaign, for example, they highlight their matching initiative and follow it up with a simple thanks to their Give Health Blogivation supporters. Compelling, relevant imagery enhances each point, and the textual content doesn't force the eye to process too many colors and font styles — again, lovely and personal.

Blood: Water Mission could not function without its volunteers, so they reach out to share their gratitude after every event. They also use the survey feature to collect and track feedback, which is helpful internally and also demonstrates to the community that the organization listens to its supporters.

Why we like it.

Besides the amazing work they do saving lives, their brand image is incredibly thoughtful. The bold design stands out, and the logo itself conveys a strong message of action, simplicity, humility and intensity. The photos are treated with rustic appeal, and the entire newsletters carry the same earth tones and weathered sophistication. The buttons have clear calls to action and feel immediate and touchable.

Want to see more newsletter examples?

  • A few simple buttons in this campaign tie into the brand, and it makes a huge difference.
  • The photo of a young woman in this email draws attention and creates warmth.
  • This example features one of the group's beautiful, brand-consistent posters.

If you'd like to know more about Blood: Water Mission, check out their site and see all the awesome work they are doing in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zambia and Rwanda.

More about Emma 25
Do you know of a non-profit who could use some Emma love? Encourage them to apply for the 2010 Emma 25 by sending them this link: http://myemma.com/emma25. We're accepting applications through Friday, November 12th, and we'll announce the honorees the first week of December. Click here to read about more past Emma 25 honorees and how email marketing has helped them grow.

Stationery Suite showcase

As the seasons come and go, I am always reminded of the diversity of needs they usher in: Now, for instance, it's warmer clothing, stronger caffeine and all things pumpkin. Of course, effective and dynamic marketing is essential year-round, but each season brings a new opportunity to extend existing branding — and our Stationery Suite is a great way to deliver your important messages dressed in timely design.

Earlier this year, we introduced the Stationery Suite as a trio of designs that share a consistent visual concept, although each individual template has its own seasonal look. Many of our fabulous clients, however, have found other creative ways to make the Suite work for them, beyond the seasonal variety. Some divide up the Suite into audience groups, divisions of the company or types of email campaigns. Let's take a look at some recent examples to see how the Emma community is putting the Suite to use.

Talent Resources Stationery Suite

Client: Talent Resources
Emma designer: Jessica Peoples
Design level: Stationery Suite

The folks at Talent Resources, a boutique marketing agency, pride themselves on being out-of-the-box thinkers. Boasting clients such as Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Ferrari, they concentrate whole-heartedly on consistent branding with personality. Their newsletter, especially, is where they can connect with their readers on a less formal, more personal level. They wanted something that would exude fun while remaining modern and fresh. They already had a strong brand identity in place, complete with a special color scheme associated with each division of the company.

So Jessica created one design inspired by their slogan ("Connect the Dots") and existing dot motif, and adapted the other two designs from there. Because of the consistency in design, readers are sure to recognize the familiar branding and respond confidently to the content of the campaign. Talent Resources were so pleased with the results that they moved forward with custom sign-up screens as well!

Skinsation

Client: Skinsation, LLC
Emma designer: Jimmy Thorn
Design level: Stationery Suite

Skinsation is a medical skin care and aesthetic laser center, and they needed a soothing design that would appeal to their current and future patients. Their target demographic predominantly consists of women, but they didn't want the design to be so overtly feminine as to exclude men and children.

All three headers adhere to a single design concept, but each one has a different purpose. The variety they were looking for, however, was not an issue of color, but rather the content in the top right corner of their design. "The Skin-E" is a regular newsletter, whereas "Love the Skin You're In" lends itself more towards product and service promotion. The butterfly header, on the other hand, has a much more playful look and wordlessly communicates the rejuvenation or reinvention of self that Skinsation can help provide. And since it's not specifically labeled as a certain type of mailing, this version is incredibly flexible and can be used for really any message.

Monticello West Stationery Suite
Client: Monticello West Retirement Community
Emma designer: Kelly McClain
Design level: Stationery Suite

After updating the website, Kristen was eager to set up her company, the Monticello West Retirement Community, with some snazzy stationery designs. The Monticello West is a vibrant home for senior citizens that goes way beyond just housing; in their 30 years of operation, they've mastered the art of caring for people in a relaxing and invigorating environment. They stand on pillars of dignity and respect when caring for the residents to create an atmosphere of gracious living.

You can imagine that effective marketing is key to the success of such a facility. The goal was to target potential residents, current residents and their families, and the community at large, so Kristen asked for a Suite of stationery with different color schemes and images that reflect the activity and vibrancy of Monticello West residents. Kelly took the materials provided and knit together three beautiful stationery options, each of which could be used for any of the target audiences while providing just enough range to spice up regular mailings. Here's to you, Monticello West!

Could the Stationery Suite be right for you? If you're already an Emma client, you can request yours here. If you have yet to get started, please say hi!

Until next time,
Your Emma Design Team

5 ways to get your email marketing ready for the holidays

Even Santa needs a plan.

Looking for a strong showing in your email results this holiday season? Craft a plan now with our tips, featuring special appearances by North Pole guests.

If you haven't started your holiday plan yet, you still have time. And there's a tremendous opportunity during the year-end months for you to make the most of email marketing. You numbery types might like to know, for example, that email-driven sales were up 11% from 2008 during the 2009 holiday season.

Of course, your holiday email goals may not be sales-focused. Perhaps you're out to drive donations, promote an event, or just share a festive little greeting with your customers. A little holiday campaign planning really does go a long way. (Insert "making a list, checking it twice" joke here.) So, ask the big questions first. What do you want your holiday emails to accomplish? What are the main messages or offers your customers will connect with over the next few months? And how can email help drive the holiday initiatives you're planning offline?

Effective use of elfin charts.

1. Look for trends in recent response data.
As you're crafting your holiday sending strategy, spend some quality time digging into data that'll tell you what's been most and least effective over the last few months. For example, if you notice that click-through rates are higher in your more graphic-rich emails, design your holiday campaigns accordingly.

How to: In your Emma account, your Response page displays interactive charts of your mailing results that help you spot big trends at a glance before you drill down to see who's opening, clicking and more. If you'd like some help interpreting those charts, see some real-life scenarios and advice elsewhere on the blog.

Set the right pace with your emails.

2. Consider your sending frequency and volume.
In 2009, we saw the Emma community's overall sending volume increase 29% in the holiday-packed final quarter of the year. But think about your email frequency carefully — every fatigued subscriber who opts out in December is someone who won't see your emails at all next year. Send an email now that gives your subscribers the option to manage how frequently they hear from you, or start slowly ramping up your frequency now (and keep a close eye on ye olde opt-out rate).

How to: Your readers can update their own subscriptions by using the "manage your preferences" link at the bottom of your Emma stationery. You can find more details on customizing that subscription form in our Help Guide. Emma's survey feature provides another way to learn more about your subscribers, and we've got some helpful tips for creating effective surveys.

Reindeer can be sooo chatty.

3. Keep your emails social.
People stay busy during the holidays, but not too busy to keep up with their social networking. In fact, according to Experian, traffic from social network sites to retail sites during the holidays was up 37% last year. So make sure your subscribers have an easy way to share your emails with their friends and followers, and add easy-to-spot links to your organization's social networking sites, too.

How to: With Emma's simple built-in social sharing feature, recipients can share your emails with their friends and followers, and you can track your email's online reach. Read our 5 reasons to embrace social sharing, and then check out the video overview in our our Help Guide for more details about how it all works.

Find the right enticement.

4. Give folks a reason to join your list.

Are you planning on sending exclusive offers and content to your email subscribers during the holidays? Update the language on your website's email sign-up form accordingly.

That way, your casual site visitors will spot that juicy incentive and become more loyal email subscribers. Just to be clear, you may not want to involve actual juice with your incentive.

How to: You can customize your Emma-powered signup form and publish it to your website, blog or Twitter feed. Our Help Guide provides handy instructions for customizing your form and posting it anywhere you have an online presence.

Make newcomers feel at home.

5. Welcome new subscribers right away.
Here's one thing you can count on. When someone signs up for your email list, you know they're interested in hearing from you. Probably right then and there. So build a strong relationship with new subscribers right away with an automatic welcome note. Set a great foundation now, and you'll have more loyal subscribers through the holiday season. If you're already sending a welcome note, good for you, and also, take a fresh look to see if it could use a little holiday-specific tweaking.

How to: Welcome emails are a snap with Emma. See real-life examples, or check out the Help Guide for instructions on how to set up any campaign to send automatically whenever someone joins your list. For extra bonus points, consider creating an entire welcome series.

One last thought about your holiday planning: Consider special holiday creative. Since your subscribers get more and more emails in their inboxes during the holiday season, fresh and festive design can focus even the most fruitcake-addled attention spans. Rework your standard template design with a few holiday touches, or put together a memorably designed holiday card or greeting. Need email design help? Emma offers affordable custom holiday designs.

And happy holiday planning from all of us at Emma!

Illustrations by Taylor Schena, Emma designer extraordinaire

Giving back through backpacks

How one of our favorite causes helps feed hungry kids … and gives us elementary-school flashbacks.

Some backpacks pack more punch than others.

We recently participated in a Giving Back initiative involving backpacks, which made me remember my all-time favorite: the hot pink thread, the pseudo-embroidery and that sparkling, bodacious red puff paint spelling out my name. Oh, yes — that was just the beginning of my life as a designer, and I couldn't wait to get to school and strut the halls.

Here at Emma, of course, we appreciate function as much as style, and our friends at Feeding America have taught us how a backpack can truly transform a child's life, and not just with puff paint or even books. They're using backpacks to feed hungry kids.

Formerly known as America's Second Harvest, Feeding America is a hunger-relief nonprofit that supplies more than two billion pounds of food and grocery products to hungry families each year. In 1995, they launched a backpack program that sends deserving kids home with non-perishable food items to help them stay nourished throughout the weekend. Most children who qualify for reduced or free lunches often struggle through those two days without sufficient supplements, and a backpack full of food is a discreet way to help.

When we heard about the initiative, we knew we wanted to get involved. We had an upcoming sponsorship at the annual SXSW Interactive conference, and we wanted to give those conference-goers a way to get to know us and also to support a worthy cause. So we proposed a plan to fill 1,000 backpacks with the help of the attendees — to be specific, it was a plan to super-awesomify the backpacks — and then we let the rest of the world in on the plan as well.

Anyone and everyone could super-awesomify a backpack with flames, mustaches and more. And once we reached 1,000 super-awesomifications, we started the process of funding several Feeding America backpack programs. We picked the food banks closest to our Emma offices, so that means we got in touch with the organizations in Denver, CO; Nashville, TN; Victoria, TX; Spokane, WA; and Minola, NY (those last three are the ones closest to our offices in Austin, Portland and New York City).

We think this backpack program takes an innovative approach to a difficult problem, and we're so pleased to be involved. If you'd like to learn more, click here to find a backpack program near you. And if you'd like to see some of those super-awesomified backpacks, you can view them online at myemma.com/backpack, hot pink embroidery and all.

Resources
Feeding America's backpack program
More about Emma's Giving Back program