Simple 4-Step Process To Send Out RSS Driven, Yet Curated Email Newsletters Like a Pro
For a while now I have been trying to set a specific day of the week to put outgether our weekly newsletters. Since I use Mailchimp, basically what I have to do is select what I want to send out and then add the selected updates/photos into the newsletter template I have already designed and saved. Believe it or not, this takes up more time than it sounds. Plus it’s boring. Thinking about what content to put in what sections of the template, then cropping and adding the images relevant to each update would take up almost half my day.
As a result, I rarely got around actually doing that on Mondays. Excuses were many – I didn’t feel like doing it that day, I couldn’t make time to do it because I was too busy working on multiple logo projects that week or making a new art piece.
This was when I realized this system was not going to work for me anymore. I now had to come up with a new system that would not only take less time but would also be more fun so that I would stop avoiding it.
The idea of sending out RSS driven newsletters was appealing in the sense that it would happen automatically with very little to no dedicated time required from my side. The campaign would simply send out all my blog & portfolio updates as they happened via my blog feed. However, the fact that with an RSS campaign, I will not be able to control what exactly is getting sent out to my subscribers made me uncomfortable.
So here’s what I did. The concept was to make a system where, throughout the week, I could randomly bookmark stuff I want to share and then feed updates from this bookmark collection to my Mailchimp campaign via RSS. This seemed to be a fun, much more practical & faster way to populate my weekly newsletters.
I decided the first thing I needed to do was to create a RSS feed from my Pocket bookmarks (My favorite bookmarking site). For those of you who don’t know what Pocket is, it’s a social bookmarking app.
A little Googling helped me find my Pocket RSS feed however, on feeding it to Mailchimp and doing some testing, I realized that the updates/new RSS items would show up in my newsletter with missing images. When I checked the Pocket RSS, I realized the it did not contain images to start with.
So this meant, feeding my Pocket RSS to Mailchimp directly was not an option because images are an absolutely necessary part of any email newsletter.
So next, I checked my options at IFTTT. I created a new applet that would send my new Pocket bookmarks to my WordPress website by creating new posts. I adjusted the settings so that the applet, for every new Pocket bookmark, would draft a new WordPress post and save it to a dedicated category named ‘Newsletter’.
Now I needed to get the RSS feed url website’s blog posts belonging to the ‘Newsletter’ category.
You can generate your RSS feed URL for a specific blog category by replacing ‘example.com’ by your domain and replacing ‘categoryname’ by your own category name in the following example URL: http://www.example.com/category/categoryname/feed
Also, to make sure my blog’s RSS contained featured images connected to all posts, I installed ‘Featured Images in RSS w/ Size and Position & Mailchimp Email‘ plugin.
Now that I had my RSS feed URL ready to go, I created a new campaign in my Mailchimp dashboard. I Selected ‘RSS’ campaign under ‘Automated Campaigns’, copied my RSS feed URL to the ‘RSS feed URL’ text box and hit ‘Save’. Once you reach this stage, you can further proceed to setting up the rest of the campaign in terms of sharing options, design, recipients, timing to send out etc.
There you go! Now all you have to do is, keep bookmarking stuff that you want to send out in your next newsletter throughout the week. All this stuff will automatically create new WordPress posts on your website and save them as drafts. You can check these WordPress drafts and edit them as you like, even alter the publish dates and control the order of your updates, ideally a day before your RSS campaign is scheduled to be sent out every week. And don’t worry, unless & until you publish these drafts (in case you are on vacation), nothing will be sent out.
Alternatively, if you’re sure you have set up everything perfectly and do not wish to edit your drafts, you can set the IFTTT applet to publish your new Pocket bookmarks automatically to WordPress thereby sending them automatically to your Mailchimp account and in turn sent out as per the campaign schedule you have set.