One of the ways to keep your users actively following your website and updates is to set up an automatic newsletter.

This tutorial explains how you can do this using Magnet Platform’s Mailchimp integration.

1: Configure Your Mailchimp Mailing List

In this tutorial, we’ll assume that you have set up the Mailchimp integration and created a list that you want to use for your free newsletter according to the steps outlined in our documentation.

Next, we’ll add a few fields to the list to allow the subscribers to change their subscription preferences:

First, on your Mailchimp list’s page, click on the drop down menu item, Settings > List Fields and *|MERGE|* Tags.

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On the next page, you’ll see an editor for defining the fields to save for each of your mailing list subscribers. By default, you probably ask for a name and email address.

Now, as we are going to set up an automatic newsletter, we’ll want to give the subscribers a chance to define how often they want to receive these emails. This way, if they feel like they are receiving too much email, they always have the option of changing the frequency instead of just unsubscribing!

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Click on the Add a Field button at the bottom of the page to start adding a new field. A selection for different field types opens up:

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Select the Radio Buttons option.

Now, a new field is added. Fill in the newsletter frequency options applicable to your newsletter. For example:

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  • Label: Send me updates about new posts
  • Options: Once a day, Once a week, Once a month, and Never. Having the never option gives your subscribers the option to stay on the list for your other communication even if they prefer to follow your site’s updates in some other way.

Click Save Changes.

Now, your mailing list subscribers have the option to select the automatic newsletter frequency when they sign up through Mailchimp’s own subscription forms.

Next, let’s combine this with Magnet Platform’s signup forms and account page.

2: Configure Magnet Platform to Use the New Field

On your Magnet Platform site, go to Membership > Options and select the Mailing Lists tab.

Now that we have added the new mailing list field, you’ll see a new option for selecting if you’d like to display it also to the members on your site:

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Select the locations where you’d like to include this field and save the settings.

If you leave some location out, the default option defined in Mailchimp settings will be used for people subscribing through that location. They can then update the preferences through Mailchimp or through their account page (just remember to check the account page checkbox).

Notice that this functionality isn’t limited to just this one field: if you add more fields to your Mailchimp mailing list, they can all be configured here in the same way, one by one.

After saving the settings, take a look at the new user registration page to see the option in action:

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3: Configure the RSS Newsletter in Mailchimp

Now that you are collecting the data about how often your subscribers want to receive the automatic newsletter, all that remains is setting up the newsletters to be sent to them when you post new content to your blog — one for each frequency.

Step 1: Create Your First RSS Campaign

Go back to your Mailchimp account and click on the Campaigns menu item at the top left of the page. Then, click on Create Campaign, now on the right.

A popup for creating your new campaign opens.

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Give your campaign a name (e.g. “Automatic Newsletter (Daily)”) and select RSS as Campaign Type.

Then click Create.

Step 2: Define the Campaign’s RSS Source and Sending Frequency

Next, you’ll need to define the source for new articles to notify the subscribers about, and the frequency of this newsletter. Now, we’ll first create a daily campaign (or some other frequency) and then clone it for the other sending frequencies. This way, you’ll only have to set up the campaigns template and looks once.

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In this screen, first enter your website’s RSS Feed URL. For Magnet Platform sites, it’s http://YOURDOMAIN/feed.

Then, select at what time and how often you want the newsletter to be sent. If you want, you can also leave some days off the schedule (for example, if you know that you aren’t posting new content on weekends).

Once you’re happy with the configuration, click Next at the bottom of the screen.

Step 3: Specify Who Will Receive This Campaign

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Next, it’s time to select who this newsletter goes out to.

To do this, we’ll create a group / segment based on the subscriber field we added earlier.

First, select your free mailing list from the dropdown right below the question, “Who are you sending to?”

Then, click on Group or new segment to define the subset of recipients who have selected to receive the emails daily.

In the first dropdown, scroll down to the section with the title “Merge Fields.” There, you’ll find your new field, in our example, “Send me updates about new posts.”

Select it, then pick the right value for defining the segment — in this case, “Once a day.”

If you want to see how many of your current recipients fit this definition, you can click on the Update Recipient Count button.

Then, click Next to start building the campaign.

Step 4: Setup the Campaign’s Basic Info

On the next screen, you’ll specify some basic info about your campaign:

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  • Campaign name: This field is just for your own bookkeeping, to make it easy for you to find your campaigns in the Mailchimp admin
  • Email subject: Enter a subject line for your emails. Try to make it clear that this is a message they have requested to receive and will be happy to open. You can use RSS merge tags to customize the content of the subject line (e.g. *|RSSFEED:DATE|* to show the date of the RSS campaign).
  • From name and From email address tell the recipient who is sending the email. Use an identity that is easy for the subscribers to recognize.

For a full explanation of the fields available here, use the instructions on the Mailchimp page and in their online documentation.

Again, when you’re ready with the options, click Next.

Step 5: Design Your Campaign

As the final step in building your first RSS newsletter, you’ll get to define how it will look like.

Start by selecting a template that you like. A clean layout such as the basic 1 Column Layout often works the best.

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After selecting your template, it’s time to build the contents. In Mailchimp, you do this by dragging and dropping different elements to the editor from an element palette on the right.

Here’s how a basic but fully functional RSS newsletter might look like:

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Let’s take a look at its parts and how it was built:

First, at the very top left, there’s a small section that gives your subscribers a preview of the email already before they open it in their email software. Click on it to edit its content and write something like "Latest posts from <YOUR WEBSITE>".

Then, there’s a Text element containing a brief welcome and reminder of what the message is about and why the subscriber is receiving it. Notice the use of the merge tag *|FNAME|* to greet the reader by his or her name.

Also, in this text, it’s a good idea to remind the recipient of the option to change how often he or she wants to receive the newsletter. This way, they can quickly make that change instead of unsubscribing for good. In the link field, use the merge tag *|UPDATE_PROFILE|* to point the subscriber to the right URL for editing preferences.

Below the text box, I added a simple divider element.

Then, we get to the core of an RSS campaign’s design: the RSS element.

You’ll find the element on the tool palette on the right. Drag it below the content and start configuring how you want your latest posts to appear in the newsletter.

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You can do basic customization using the element’s options (and often those are good) but for full control, select Custom in the style dropdown.

Now, in the text field below, you’ll see some tags. They are simply placeholders for the data from your site’s latest articles.

  • Right at the beginning of the RSS section, enter *|RSSITEMS:|*, and at the end, it’s opposite *|END:RSSITEMS|*. This means that all of the content within these “tags” will be repeated for each of your recent articles in this newsletter.
  • *|RSSITEM:TITLE|* is replaced by the article’s title. You can format it just like any text in the rich text editor.
  • *|RSSITEM:IMAGE|* outputs the post’s image if one has been posted to the RSS feed.
  • *|RSSITEM:AUTHOR|* outputs the name of the article’s author.
  • *|RSSITEM:DATE|* outputs the article’s publication date.
  • *|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|* outputs the article’s content as read from the RSS feed. You may also want to use *|RSSITEM:CONTENT|* if you want to post an excerpt instead of the full content.
  • The link “Read in browser” uses the merge tag *|RSSITEM:URL|*, which outputs the link back to the article on your site.

For a full list of available merge tags, see Mailchimp’s documentation.

After making changes to the template, you can test them by previewing the email. You can do this by clicking on the menu item (at the top of the page), Preview and Test > Enter Preview Mode. Or just pressing 1 on your keyboard.

Step 6: Confirm and Start the Campaign

When your campaign looks good to you, click Next to move to the last phase where Mailchimp shows you a summary of your choices to let you verify that everything looks good.

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If you spot anything wrong in your RSS campaign, click back to the correct step, make changes and return to the Confirm step. To do this, you can use the links to different steps at the bottom of the page.

When all looks good, click on Start RSS at the bottom right corner of the page.

Mailchimp will start to send this newsletter to those of your subscribers who have chosen to receive updates daily.

Step 7: Repeat for Other Publication Frequencies

Now, you know how this works and all that’s left is to copy the RSS campaign for other publication frequencies.

To do this, click on Campaigns at the top of the page. You’ll notice the new RSS campaign that you just created.

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Click on the bottom facing arrow in the button at the right side of the campaign to open a drop-down menu. From there, choose Replicate. This will copy the entire configuration for the campaign, and all you need to do is to edit how often the campaign is sent and who will receive it:

  • First, update the publishing schedule at the RSS Feed step.
  • Then, update the recipient group by selecting a different value (e.g. Once a week) for the email frequency field.

Finally, verify that everything still looks good. And start the campaign.

Repeat as many times as needed to cover all of your email frequency options.

Conclusion

You have now successfully created an RSS based newsletter to keep your subscribers in sync with new articles published on your Magnet Platform website.

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