Sunday, November 29, 2015

How to Sidestep the Spam Folder in Your Email Marketing

How to Sidestep the Spam Folder in Your Email Marketing

Spam is the scourge of the Internet. From phishing messages to malicious attachments and links to viruses, spam affects billions of email users each year. Although spam messages are at a 12-year low, nearly half of email sent is spam.

If you're running an email marketing campaign, and your emails are mistakenly flagged as spam, you'll lose conversions as well as revenue.

This article will outline how a small business or email marketer can avoid the spam folder by following the CAN-SPAM law, using email best-practices, and testing regularly.

Follow the law

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 protects consumers from common spamming practices by fining violators up to $11,000 for each email address violated, along with criminal prosecution. It requires that emailers avoid using deceptive headers, subject lines, and reply-to addresses. It also requires that the sender provide a physical address in emails and include an unsubscribe link that's valid for at least 30 days.

If you're working with a reputable email service provider (ESP), following the major provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act is easy because your ESP will have checks in place to avoid violations. (For example, Mailchimp will not allow you to send any emails unless you have filled in a physical mailing address.)

Require double opt-in

The best way to stay out of the spam folder is to make sure you're sending mail to people who actually want it.

Some marketers live by the motto that any email address they have access to is fair game for their marketing emails. But doing that puts you at risk of being marked as spam when the person gets that first email.

Instead, add people to your list only if they are expecting emails from you. And to make sure that's the case, require double opt-in: After your subscribers sign up or are added, your ESP will send a confirmation email that asks the owner of the email address to click a link to confirm their subscription. Only after they have confirmed will they be added to your list and receive your emails.

Keep your lists fresh

Subscribers will also mark your emails as spam if they can't remember signing up for your messages.

Let's say you collected emails for your company newsletter at a conference event. When you got back, you added the emails to your marketing list. Your ESP sent a confirmation email and got a confirmation from the subscriber. At this point, those subscribers know who you are and why they are receiving these emails.

But if you don't send any emails for a few months, it's possible that subscribers may forget they ever signed up. So, the next time you send an email, they don't remember you and mark you as spam. So... send messages regularly. You don't need to overload your subscribers, but avoid long periods of no contact.

Don't use spammy copy

Your recipients can't read your emails if spam filters block the delivery of your messages. Filters work by examining your email content for signs of spam. They flag each instance, assigning points, the amount of which can vary depending on how the server weighs the specific spammy words or phrases it flags. Once the accumulated points reach the ESP's spam threshold, the email is automatically sent to the spam folder.

Filtering standards aren't published, because then spammers would know how to beat them. However, here are some common practices that can trigger filters:

  • Using all caps
  • Mentioning a lot of money
  • Promising a money-back guarantee
  • Using lots of exclamation points
  • Using the word "free" too many times
  • Using trigger words like "iPhone 6," "XXX," "money making," "earn big buck," or "$$."

Keep testing

Keep in mind that spam filters adapt and evolve over time. When email users mark messages as spam, the email filters learn more about which emails recipients consider required reading and which they think are a nuisance. Accordingly, you need to perform regular testing of your email marketing campaigns to determine your deliverability rates.

Many ESPs have metrics built into their products. You can see the deliverability rates for each campaign. By analyzing those metrics based on the content of your campaigns, you can get an idea of whether you need to change your approach.

If you don't have that information available through your ESP, consider doing homemade tests. You'll need to create email addresses from various major providers—Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.—and use various email clients to access them. Add those addresses to your email marketing list. When you send out your campaigns, log into each address to determine whether the message was delivered.

If you find that a campaign has not been delivered, check your content and practices for characteristics that may have triggered the spam filters. (If you find that after a few tries your messages still end up in the spam folder, you may have been blacklisted.)

If you need help with your email, web site, video, or other presentation to promote your company, product, or service, please give me a call at 440-519-1500 or e-mail me at

X2 Media can help you target your content and get your message to the audience in a way that it is not only seen and heard, but remembered.

Until next month….remember, “you don’t get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression”. Always make it a good one!

From X2Media I would like to thank you for your time.

John E. Hornyak
X2Media, LLC

Six Nifty Content-Suggestion Tools for Social Media Marketing

Six Nifty Content-Suggestion Tools for Social Media Marketing

Two popular content-curation tools shut down earlier this year: Buffer announced it would be closing its content suggestions feature, and Swayy was acquired by SimilarWeb, which led to the tool's shuttering.

Sharing great content, particularly via social media, can seem like an uphill task without tools like Buffer and Swayy, so here are six other tools you can use to keep your social media pages buzzing with great content.


Pocket is a smart-bookmarking service that lets you save articles, videos, and images for later use. The tool also comes with a useful browser extension; once you install it, each time you come across a video, an article, or image you'd like to use, all you have to do is click on the Pocket icon on your taskbar to save an item.

The tool is particularly useful to content marketers and social media managers who end up spending a significant amount of time online, but don't always have the time to read an interesting article as soon as they find it. It also lets you archive or delete saved items.

Pocket makes it easy to organize content with the use of tags. If you're going to be using Pocket, it's a good idea to add tags to each item when you read/view it. Doing so makes it more accessible should you want to revisit it in future.

Items saved to Pocket can be shared individually on Twitter and Facebook.


Flipboard is a content-aggregation tool that offers localized content in 20+ languages. The tool aggregates content from several sources, including social media. It not only gives you access to a wide variety of topics but also presents all that content in a pleasing, easy-to-use magazine format.

The tool aggregates content in all formats, including text, images, videos, and podcasts.

When setting up an account, you will be required to follow a minimum of five topics out of the thousands of topics available. You can add more topics to follow later by clicking on the Search icon and typing in the topic you're looking for. Considering the variety of sources and topics on the tool, it's unlikely for it to not return any results for a particular subject.

Flipboard lets you share the content you discover on Facebook and Twitter. You can also organize content into magazines, and follow other people on Flipboard to access their curated collections of content.


Feedly is a free RSS reader that originally gained popularity as an alternative to Google Reader. However, over the years, it has become a go-to source for content marketers, thanks to the quality of its sources and recommendations.

The tool has been built with a minimalist design and interface, making it user-friendly. It lets you track people and businesses within your industry, follow specific blogs and bloggers, organize your RSS feeds, and share the content you discover on Twitter and Facebook.

To set up an account on Feedly, you will require a Gmail account. However, once registered, you can log in using Facebook, Google, Twitter, Evernote, or Windows authentication.


DrumUp is an intelligent content discovery, curation, and social media scheduling tool. It uses machine learning and Natural Language Processing algorithms to sieve through thousands of Web pages and recommend fresh and relevant content for your social media accounts.

You can connect any number of social accounts to a single dashboard. The content suggestions on DrumUp are refreshed every day based on the keywords you set for a particular social account. Since the tool lets you specify a separate set of keywords for each account, it becomes easier to avoid cross-posting.

DrumUp is integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Apart from scheduling content to be posted on those platforms, the tool lets you add custom posts, along with images. You can also connect your blog feed to ensure that your posts get shared on social media as they're published.


Prismatic is basically a content discovery app, but it doubles as networking site. Users on Prismatic have access to a vast amount of content that is aggregated from thousands of sources on the Web, and they can comment on the articles within the app itself, without having to navigate to the original source.

Content recommendations on Prismatic come with a time stamp to indicate their freshness. For content curators who are constantly on the lookout for relevant and engaging content, Prismatic is a great tool to use since its recommendations include stories from sources that may be less popular but are nevertheless good.

The tool uses machine learning algorithms that understand your content preferences based on your social media activity; your social accounts (Facebook, Twitter) have to be connected to the tool for it to refine your search results based on what you and your connections are sharing. lets you find and share content based on a keyword search. You can review the content recommendations and Scoop the ones you like to create your very own content bucket. Once you create a Scoop, use the Suggested Content tab to add more content to it. You can also upload your own documents to

The tool offers both sharing and scheduling options for social media management. However, the latter is available only to paid users. If you're using a free account, you can share your Scoops only individually. Even with a free account, you can post on multiple social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. The paid version of offers advanced features such as newsletter creation, content analytics, and integration with Marketo, Mail Chimp, Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Buffer.

Five Tips for Brands That Want Success on Facebook

Five Tips for Brands That Want Success on Facebook

Even though Facebook is the most widely adopted social network and has more than 1.3 billion users, it's not always easy for brands to know how to best deliver relevant content to the widest possible audience.

Facebook continually changes how it displays page content to fans; in turn, users daily find new ways to use Facebook.

Still, there are ways brands can create Facebook content that stands out and leads to more engagement.

1. Post visual content

A brand has only a few precious seconds to catch users' attention before they move on to the next item in their Facebook News Feed. Creative visual content is a great way to stand out. It's eye-catching and it takes up more real estate in the News Feed, giving fans more opportunity to engage with your content.

In particular, video works well on Facebook, which is now one of the largest video hosting sites in the world and accounts for more than 4 billion video views a day.

Shorter videos tend to perform better than longer ones, so keep your videos brief. Include something that grabs your audience's attention immediately—in the first three seconds—to get them to watch more instead of scrolling down their News Feed. Videos play automatically, but with the audio off, so include a relevant description in the post or a title in the video itself.

Photos also work great on Facebook, so consider adding more of them to your posts. Images of bright colors, people, and faces perform well.

Travel brands, such as Airbnb and Virgin America take advantage of the beautiful scenery associated with their products or service, showcasing photos taken from a plane window, unusual rental homes, colorful landscapes, and so on.

Even if you don't have such imagery associated with your brand, you can come up with some creative ideas. Share pictures from your office, your employees, your product in action (or, even, quality stock photography)—anything that can add color and visual interest to your brand's page.

2. Post more content when your audience is around

This tip seems obvious, but it is one of the easiest things to overlook on Facebook. Pay attention to what you can learn from Facebook Insights or other analytics about the days and times your fans are active on Facebook. Use that information to help decide when to post.

If you post most in the mornings, but your fans are active at night, are they still going to see your content? Test by deliberately posting at different times on different days, pay attention to engagement rates, and adjust for future posts. To test, you will likely need to schedule content outside traditional business hours, specifically in the evening and on Sundays, when many audiences are most active.

Also consider the time zones of your audience. If you have fans in other countries and time zones, be sure you're posting new content when they'll be paying attention. It's amazing what a difference even just a couple of hours can make.

Some brands work around this issue by posting frequently all throughout the day. This approach works great for BarkBox, for example, because it has a seemingly endless supply of dog photos and posts, but it can be difficult for brands that don't have as much content on hand.

3. Use hashtags effectively

Select the right hashtags, and use them sparingly. One or two hashtags per post works best on Facebook. Determining what hashtags to use will take some experimentation.

Different hashtags speak to different audiences and work for different types of content. So start with a test to find out what resonates with your audience; try adding 1-2 new hashtags to each of your posts over a week or two, then check on your results.

This approach really can work: We've seen brands increase engagement with their content just by finding better hashtags to add to their posts.

And if you can "own" a specific hashtag to help organize conversation about your brand or a particular campaign across Facebook, do it! Encouraging fans to use a particular hashtag when they post about your brand is a great way to expand the reach of your brand.

For example, Always has done a wonderful job with its #likeagirl campaign, racking up thousands of fan posts with the hashtag, spurring an entire conversation about the movement, and, of course, winning advertising awards.

4. 'Boost' some of your content to extend the reach of all your content

On Facebook, paid campaigns can actually lead to an increase in organic post reach and engagement. "Boosted" posts get more engagement from the paid impressions, but the other content on your page will also get shown more often. You'll also gain new fans, which can help increase engagement on future posts.

We've found that the best strategy is to run a variety of paid campaigns across Facebook to complement the organic posting and other activity. They'll work together to create the maximum brand lift across your pages.

5. Create content that works across channels

Even if you have unlimited resources to dedicate to creating Facebook-specific content, it's still a good idea to create materials that will make sense across the Web.

Ideally, you'd create striking images and useful links that will have maximum impact on social media, no matter the platform. Think about the implications of your post's being shared outside Facebook: Can it stand alone, and will it make sense?

Humorous, informative, and beautiful content works just about everywhere. Essie, for example, shares images of its nail polish in all kinds of situations across Facebook and Instagram. And to be sure the content is tied to the brand, Essie includes the name of the polish and the company logo on all images.

Such simple, elegant, and colorful photography performs well nearly everywhere it's shared.