Oct 3, 2008

TwitterKeys for Email Marketing

TwitterKeys is a service developed by the folks over at The Next Web Blog that allows you to insert certain Unicode characters in your tweets. Instead of posting that you have a conference call and coffee date before you head to the airport this afternoon, you might tweet something like "☎ then ♨ before ☞ ✈" To address the challenge of trying to remember all these great characters, @bomega and @sandervdv created a bookmarklet that brings up a floating pop-up window with three tabs. Once you drag it to your web browser’s bookmarks toolbar for instant access, you simply double click on the character you want to use.  Just ⌘ c to copy and ⌘ v to paste in to Twitter.

As a Twitter evangelist myself, I added TwitterKeys to my bookmarks toolbar as soon as I found out about it– and especially since The Next Web uses MailChimp!  (To read more about that, check out our recent interview with Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, one of the founders of The Next Web.)  Since the bookmarklet was occupying such prime browser real estate, and with the ease of copying and pasting characters, I started sneaking them into IM conversations.  But my obsession didn’t end there.  Like a giddy pre-teenage girl, I started using  TwitterKeys anywhere and everywhere text was involved… including email subject lines!

TwitterKeys for Email Marketing compatibility chart

click to download the TwitterKeys for email marketing compatibility chart (.pdf)

It didn’t occur to me that this was a big deal (in a good way), until I was talking to Ben about successfully making contact with some very prestigious MailChimp customers using subject lines like, "MailChimp ♥ Ubercool".  I thought about the fact that these special characters might not render correctly on the receiving end, but at that point my attempts at making contact hadn’t been very successful.  I was starting to get bummed out and a little discouraged and figured it was worth a shot.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it was time to try something that would make my email stand apart from the crowd.  Email marketers take note: it worked; using TwitterKeys in my email subject lines produced the response I was looking for and dramatically improved email open rates.

In order to make sure my discovery was actually something to "write home about," I ran a battery of tests using MailChimp’s Inbox Inspector.  Inbox Inspector allows you preview a campaign in all the major email clients, test spam filtering and check firewall compatibility before you send it out to your list.  So just to give you an idea, I ran inspections both with and without TwitterKeys characters in the subject line.  Then inspections with TwitterKeys in the body of the email but not the subject line and vice-versa.  What about multiple TwitterKeys characters in the subject?  Was there any relation between TwitterKeys and spam filtering?  How about multiple TwitterKeys in the subject line, the body of the email, and no other discernible text?  You get the point here:
e x t e n s i v e  testing.

One of my most surprising discoveries was the fact that these special characters don’t have any impact on spam filtering, meaning that if you use them, your email is no more likely to be filtered out and classified as spam.  This is great news for email marketers!  I’ve compiled my findings into a one page chart that you can download and use as a reference.  It’s broken down by email client, and I’ve listed whether TwitterKeys work in the subject line (yes or no), as well as which characters (if any) will render in the body of the email.  One thing to note, however, is that TwitterKeys almost never work in plain text emails.  MailChimp allows you to copy the text from your HTML email and use it for the plain text version as a time-saving tool– just remember you’ll have to replace any TwitterKeys symbols with the actual words they represent.