Jan 27, 2012

New: Customize and Automate Video Merge Tags

As described in our v6.7 release, we launched some updates to our video merge tags. For those who don’t know about them, our video merge tags are little snippets of code that look like this:

*| YOUTUBE:[$vid=XXXX] |*

that you insert into your MailChimp campaigns wherever you want to "embed" a video. If you’ve sent email newsletters long enough, you probably learned the hard way that embedding videos will break your HTML emails. To get around this, you have to take a screenshot of the video, open Photoshop, tweak it, insert it back into your campaign, and then hard-code the link. Which is a waste of time. Time you could spend photoshopping cats, or something.

Anyway, since introducing them in 2009, there have always been two complaints about our video merge tags:

1. People wanted more control over the look and feel of them, and

2. People who publish RSS-to-email campaigns wanted to make the tags automagically detect videos in their feeds, then convert them before sending the email.


Customizing Video Merge Tags

In the past, whenever we generated the thumbnail of your video, we added a border. In many cases, we also added the video’s star ratings, number of likes, number of views, and other "flair." Now, you can take all that away and leave it barebones. Here’s an example:

On the left is how this Youtube video is embedded into your MailChimp campaigns by default. On the right is how it looks when we customize the video merge tag like this:

* |YOUTUBE:[$vid=XXX, $max_width=250, $title=N, $border=N, $trim_border=N, $ratings=N, $views=N]| *

You can tweak Wistia, Vzaar, Blip and Vimeo movies as well. Here’s the full documentation for that.


Automatically Converting Videos

These merge tags are cool, but where they really come in handy is in your RSS-to-email campaigns. For example, you can subscribe to receive daily emails from the MailChimp blog (ahem, signup form over in the right column). Our system checks my RSS feed every morning at 10am (that’s when I decided to schedule them) and if it finds new content, it pulls it into a MailChimp campaign. From time to time, I embed videos in my blog posts. I knew those videos would break when they got emailed, but I wasn’t about to modify the way I blog so that the email would work better. On the blog, the blog experience is what matters most.

Anyway, now I can just set my RSS-to-email campaign so that any embedded video it detects will be automatically converted into a video merge tag.

1. Open RSS-to-email campaign

First, I open the smart folder that shows all my RSS-to-email campaigns:




2. Pause campaign to edit

Next, click on "MailChimp Blog Updates" and then I get a list of all the recent blog updates that have been sent. The top one is the "source file" I need to modify:


3. Activate video conversion

Go to step 3 of the campaign builder:


and you’ll see all the different campaign setup and tracking options. In the lower right of the screen, look for "Content Controls" and check the box to autoconvert videos:


Hey, if you’re tinkering around with your RSS campaigns, this might be a good time to tweak your delivery time. Ages ago, when we launched RSS-to-email, we didn’t have the ability to pick a time or frequency. We’ve since added more control, so you might want to go to Step 1 and take a look at the options:



4. Save and re-activate the RSS campaign

Now that the video control option is set, click "Save & Exit" and you’ll be prompted to re-activate the RSS campaign:


Moving forward, any embedded videos we detect in your campaigns will be automatically converted to an email-safe format.

By the way, this automatic video conversion option works on regular MailChimp campaigns, too.


Related, IMHO:

  • Build Your Own Content Digest With MailChimp – a tutorial we found by Jesse Rand
  • We’ve launched tons of new email templates in recent months, many of which would be perfect for RSS-to-email campaigns. Check them out in the template gallery.
  • If you’re a blogger, you probably have some VIPs on your list whose engagement you monitor closely. Our Golden Monkeys app can help with that. Get a push notification to your smartphone if/when a special someone opens your campaigns. Every time my blog post gets sent, my VIPs open and monkeys start screaming from my pocket. No better validation for writers than screaming monkeys.
  • Other MailChimp features we think bloggers might like
  • I’m often asked (usually by bloggers) for tools that can connect them to similar bloggers out there, so that they can promote each other and help each other grow their lists. Here ya go: Introducing Wavelength