All the how-to sites on blogging tell you to start capturing email addresses for a subscriber list as soon as possible. The way you do this is to offer people who visit your site something that will make them give you their email address—an e-book or a checklist or something of value.
The reason you capture emails is because it gives you direct access to people who are interested in what you have to say or perhaps what you have to sell.
I don’t have anything to sell at the moment. And I don’t have any e-book prepared yet. So I am offering to alert subscribers that I have updated my blog. I am sure that will draw ’em like flies.
I Need Two Mail Chimp Email Subscriber Lists
I have two blogs that probably have two different audiences: 1) the main blog I call my “Christianity and culture” blog and 2) the one where I blog about setting up my blog, which I call “My Blog Project.” I want to be able to let people sign up for one or the other or both. So I will be posting about how I did that.
Now to actually deliver on such an offer (that is, to notify people when I update my blog), I am going to need some program or plug-in that will automatically send out the update notifications to my subscriber list. I will want to divide the notifications so when I update “The Blog Project” people that aren’t interested in that won’t get notified when it is updated and those that are interested will.
The recommended program I have been told about is Mail Chimp. It’s free to use if you have fewer than 2000 subscribers. I have about 1992 fewer subscribers, so I think I’m good.
Creating a Mail Chimp Account
So I created an account at Mail Chimp. It’s kind of scary, because it seems that every country has created anti-spam laws that all the illegitimate spammers ignore (because they are illegitimate) but which apparently can cost you thousands of dollars if you get sued for sending someone spam who did not sign up for it. So, there are several rules you have to follow. They aren’t too onerous, but one is that you have to have a mailing address listed on any emails you send out. I really don’t want my home address listed on emails, but at present I do not have a PO Box. So before I start this in earnest, I think I will get a PO Box or maybe just use an unsuspecting friend’s home address (I kid, I kid.).
Mail Chimp is helpful in that it makes sure all the needed information is on your emails: the unsubscribe button, a note to the recipients that reminds them why they are getting this email, and the address of the emailer.
What is Double Opt In?
It also employs “double opt in” so that you have a record of the subscriber actually electing to get your email. The subscriber fills out your subscriber form then Mail Chimp sends a follow up email asking them to confirm that they indeed subscribed. They don’t get added to the list until they confirm. Mail Chimp keeps a record so that you can prove the subscriber wanted to receive email from you. Apparently there are spammers who sign up for email and then accuse you of sending them unsolicited email so they can get money from you. Nice.
Just as a side note, I got a notice that I could be party to a class action suit against Linked In. The suit was based on the fact that Linked In followed up an initial invited email with a couple of subsequent emails that the plaintiffs claim they did not give Linked In permission to send. Just one of the many ways unproductive people make money and contribute nothing to the general well being.
Importing Subscribers from WordPress
If you already have subscribers on your site, you can export the subscriber list you have to a CSV format file (that will open in Excel) and then upload it to Mail Chimp. There is no automatic way to export the users from your WordPress subscriber list. You have to use a plug in called Export Users to CSV.
Then follow the instructions on Mail Chimp to upload the CSV file to your Mail Chimp subscriber list.
Even if you start with an exported list or no list, you will want to capture all your subsequent subscribers in your Mail Chimp list. You will want only one list (not multiple lists for multiple mail outs). You will manage one list and then use some extra columns in your list (i.e., fields) to sort and filter your list. Mail Chimp calls these “Groups” and “Segments.” Groups are self-selecting groups. That is, the user selects what group he wants to be a part of. Segments are what you use to divide up your list into groups that you want to control. So if you gather, say, age information from your subscribers, you could segment your users by age, and perhaps send different kinds of emails to the different age groups.
Also, now all your subscribers will be held in a Mail Chimp subscriber list, not in a list on your site. This is actually a good thing as it reduces the load on your own site. But that means that if you require registration to comment on the site, that requires a different sign up.
Setting Up Mail Chimp for Two Blogs
You can use Mail Chimp to send out on-going email notices of blog updates or a one-time email offer for an e-book or something else. So right now, I am just sending out blog updates.
So I will post next how I set up the subscriber form on my site that links directly to Mail Chimp. And I will also describe how I set up my email notifications for two different blogs.