Doing all you can for the open

I got an email from the new service called Summify. I won’t go on about it but it seems like another social media content aggregator that uses your network’s retweets and FB likes to populate the content it gives you – I’m not unimpressed, time will tell to see if this has got more legs than – which is apparently starting to annoy some people.

The email, I initially read in Thunderbird, had a pretty novel bit of alt text in the first section of content:

Summify load image alt text

As you can see in the preview pane view, the alt text in the main article section asks to load the images.

I of course then went over to Gamil to see if it visible in there, it was not.

I’m aware that different inboxes treat alt text differently and are often somewhat ambiguous about when they will display it.

I then hit Google with a quick search and ironically I found 2 of my own posts from 2009 & 2010.
Both referred to two of the industry’s experts in email and creative optimisation:

Here I found that the reason that gmail did not show this clever alt text trick was because the alt text was too long.

gmail summify screen shot

As you can see the alt text is not displayed for the ‘load images’ call but the logo in the top left has alt text – which is very short.

This got me thinking, when I talk about rendering differences with people, many of them use the fact that something can only work in a few inboxes as an excuse not to use it, which to me is really rather barmy.
The important thing to remember is: just because it doesn’t work in all inboxes, if it doesn’t break it in other inboxes it will still optimise that inbox – so do it!

In this case, if I refer to Ros’s table of ALT text in image clients, all you really need to do it keep the text short to get it rendered. Of course just having: “load images” might be a bit too blunt, however, to keep it all in context use images around it to pull the content together. For instance, if there is an image directly above it start the sentence there so it all sits together and concatenates to a friendly load images call to action.

There are a few things you can add that will only work in some inboxes but improve the experience.

  • Use image alt text in an image at the top of your email to be your inbox snippet text
  • Make Outlook 2010 add it’s own browser view link
  • Make your top line of plain text snippet ready because Outlook will take it from there an not your HTML version
    • ME, just now.
  • Check Out HTML Email Boiler Plate for a full HTML template including all of the necessary style attributes to override the various style changes many inboxes try to apply to your email. IT’s also got a very cheeky little slide show to add more content and information about how and why it’s all going on. Everyone who codes for email should book mark this page!

To be honest I’ve not tried the Outlook thing lately, they might have got rid of it, if you’ve tried it and it works, please let me know in the comments.

I want to build a community around one email

[tweetmeme source=”getintheinbox” only_single=false]I want to build a community around one email…
I want to Like an email and it to mean something!
I want to be able to engage with my community about one email…
I want to know if my community is engaging with each other about one email…

That’s a lot of wants but they’re all pretty much the same…

Allow me to quickly illustrate how I got here..
I was inspired by a recent OI discussion – of course the content of that is confidential – but it got me thinking about something quite different: how easy it is to give an email a thumbs down but you can’t deliberately give it thumbs up out side of normal engagement.

I then spent much of this morning reading “Email Reputation Causes Penalties in Google Search Results” and all of the links that came of it – it a good read, check it out… Thanks to Mark Brownlow of Email Marketing Reports for bringing to my attention, then I read Tim Watson’s first post for Smart Insights “Improving deliverability best practice“, again through a Brownlow retweet of Tim’s original which was higher up on my stream than Tim’s – obviously.

Somehow all of this came together in this latest brain dump where I want to be able to engage in discussion with my online network about content I get in my inbox and emails that get that level of engagement should get an improved inbox placement or even flagged as popular in my networks.

First let me start with the facts…

Emotional reactions to email are far more likely to harm inbox placement of the sender than help…That’s not fair!

For instance, normal lack of engagement is to ignore the email then archive or delete it, normal engagement is an open and a click. A thumbs down is hitting the spam button, what do I do for thumbs up?

On twitter, I can click or not click; If it’s some idiot spammer I can report them; If it’s a great article or deal I can retweet in two ways – the general twitter way of the old RT way where I add my own comment.

For Facebook I can like a page or not; I can add a comment; I can go onto Facebook and comment on someone’s like or share, I can go onto my own and add more comments for my network to see and interact with. But I’ve got to a lot of looking to find the optimum spot for discussion.

Twitter and Facebook are so dynamic I have to use lists and look into retweets and FB- likes and I still miss content because I can’t spend every second of every day looking at it and if I miss it for 2 hours, I’ve missed a load of content. Of course you could say, if it was that good, there would be enough retweets to keep it in your stream?

If I’m in my inbox and I want to give it a big thumbs up I have to send that email to my existing social networks and use that route.
I’m not happy about that, not just for the immense lack of SEO Juice from people clicking through from Twitter or FB then to an external view of an email then to your site, but because online is about community and sharing. Social Media did not invent social or online communities, social media is here and doing well because people like the community or Triibe if you like, which have been around longer.
Why should an inbox be any different? In fact the inbox should be the most powerful vote of confidence of all content anywhere…
Email is the original community and was around before the internet.
If I’ve trusted a brand enough to give them my email address, and if I like what they’ve got to say so much that I want to make sure others know it and see it, even if they already have it, I should be able to.
This is the core of community, I want to make sure I’m reading what my friends are reading and visa versa.
For instance:

In one provider, lets say Gmail, I should be able to give one particular email a thumbs up and Google should know about it and help that email avoid the junk folder. If other people personal setting have caused the content to go to junk, un-junk it. Even have a view to order email received that day or week by recommendation. This way, like social media, emails in the big busy inbox are able to get more attention.

If there is an email that my connections are reading a lot – that’s in my inbox too, I want to know about it. I’ve got an address book, we’ve both got each other’s email address so there is no privacy issue. Technically I don’t need to know who’s reading it, just that it’s popular. I can then engage with it, click through and find any discussion going on in FB or twitter or linkedin etc. or the page itself.

Ideally I’d then like to know where to engage with my connection about it. The FB likes can show me who’s liked but I’d like to know where comments have been made – my friends’ wall(s), the originating brand’s FB page. You can know which links have been shared on twitter so why can’t my inbox make it easy for me to engage in the right place.

Even if the email was archived, I want to know!
On that subject, I really struggle to use Yahoo, Hotmail etc. because they don’t have a global archive; it’s the inbox or delete? The first thing I do with when I get a new Free email account is make an archive folder so I can move email out of the inbox without having to delete them.
So to summarise: it really comes down to obvious reflections about how general sharing of content should be made more obvious within each individual’s online network of people allow them to make a mini group on the fly without having to be tied into a particular bit of software or brand. The discussion happen on line and that is all, doesn’t matter where, I just want to know about it so I can play too! And that kind of engagement should help the inbox placement subsequent engagement opportunities of an email.