Spam-Proof Your Email Subject Line

We’ve talked about the importance of email subject lines before. Basically, these tiny nuggets have big importance. They determine who opens your email and who dumps it in the trash. A good subject line has a few basic characteristics: it’s related to the email you are sending. It’s personalized enough so that the viewer understands that its meant for them. It’s well written, and dare we say even clever.

But here’s another big thing to consider when writing your email subject line: Spam trigger words. Even if you are following all of the rules — such as sending your email  only to those who have granted you permission — your email can still get stuck in spam. That’s because the subject line might contain words that can inadvertently block your email from getting through.

Avoid getting trapped in a spam filter by avoiding these 10 words and phrases, just a small sample brought to you by Mannix Marketing, Inc.

  1. Insurance
  2. investment decision
  3. legal
  4. never
  5. offer
  6. solution
  7. success
  8.  winner
  9. amazing
  10. affordable

Are your messages spam-proof? Read more words to avoid here.

Embed Your Tweets!

It keeps on getting easier for your tweets to resonate with more people. That’s because Twitter developers have rolled out a new way to embed tweets.  Posts can now be easily embedded in other pages. Even better, your tweet looks good and automatically sets up “web intents” — options to easily retweet, reply and choose as a favorite, without the visitor leaving the page.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Visit the details page for the Tweet you want to embed.
  2. Click “embed this Tweet”
  3. Copy and paste the embeddable markup into the page you wish to embed the Tweet into; choose HTML, a shortcode, or a link.
  4. If it makes sense for your purposes, instead of copying and pasting, you can render a Tweet dynamically, using oEmbed, a standard format where you send a URL and the host site then sends back the necessary embed code. Visit Twitter’s developer’s site to learn more.
  5. Once your Tweet is embedded, it now offers options for taking action: replying, retweeting, and choosing as a Favorite.


We want to know:Do you embed Tweets? Have you found it beneficial?

Political Campaigning Enters Age of Technology

Political Campaigning Enters Age of Technology

Lawmakers and Campaigns Are Looking For a More Active Web Presence

Rep. Joe Wilson used Google AdWords to direct controversy-spurred Internet searches to their official websites.

With more and more constituents looking for information about their Members of Congress online, offices and campaigns are spending more time and energy focused on online advertising. While traditional banner ads and video advertisements that play before or during online videos continue to be used, some offices and candidates are reaching out to constituents.

A favorite for attracting traffic to Congressional campaign websites is Google AdWords. With AdWords, the search engine giant allows advertisers to bid against one another to see who can place their text-based advertisements on a search result page. Advertisements are targeted to appear alongside specified search terms and within specified locations. The winning bidder gets an ad displayed alongside the organic search results until another advertiser places a higher bid.

According to Wesley Donehue, CEO of political Internet firm Donehue Direct, Google AdWords is the place to start when people are looking to find out more about a candidate or current Member. Donehue’s firm has worked with Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who became the target of much Google searching after he yelled, “You lie!” at Obama during a 2009 speech.

“When a hot news story breaks and people want to learn more about it, [Google] is the place to go,” said Donehue, who helped Wilson direct traffic to his campaign website after the incident.

Herman Cain’s presidential campaign used Google AdWords earlier this year. For a while, searching terms related to the sexual harassment claims being levied against him — including the name of one accuser, “Sharon Bialek,” or “Herman Cain Scandal” — would bring up sponsored results linking to his campaign material.

Targeting Constituents
The advertising technique that is gaining in popularity for Senate campaigns and House offices and campaigns is Facebook ads, which can now be narrowed down to target certain ZIP codes.

According to a blog post by Facebook that was last updated about four months ago, targeting by ZIP code was introduced to give advertisers better access to users in more specific locations.

“Intentionally or not, ZIP codes have become particularly useful for detailing definable community populace attributes. Most influential research on demographics, including the U.S. Census, use ZIP codes as their most fine grained level of segmentation,” the blog post says, explaining that the targeting “opens up another avenue for advertisers to market to their desired audience.”

According to franking rules, House offices can advertise online, as long as the advertisements are directed only to constituents and do not include pictures of the Members.

Facebook’s ZIP code targeting is mostly accurate in directing Congressional ads to that Member’s constituents, said Andrew Foxwell, manager of new media and marketing at iConstituent, a digital communications firm that has worked with more than 300 Congressional offices and has done ads for 90 of them.

Foxwell estimates that about 150 Congressmen are using Facebook advertising. According to a case study done about the company, offices that placed Facebook ads with the help of iConstituent for one week received three times as much constituent interaction on the Member’s official Facebook page. The case study summarized the results as being a “10X return on investment as compared to a traditional, glossy paper mailer for one-tenth of the price.”

For Donehue, Facebook is the way to go if you want to target specific groups in a geographically small district.

“Facebook is the best way to go if you’re trying to reach a really niche audience,” he said, citing Facebook’s ability to target based on user-supplied, specific information. “You can’t get that level of targeting through Google.”

Donehue added that this could change if Google’s social media platform, Google Plus, gains steam. Google then would have access to similar information about its users, giving it a better ability to target advertisements.

Two-Way Traffic
Foxwell views Facebook ads as a way not just to advertise to constituents but to engage with them.

“Facebook and Twitter are essential tools for a 21st-century democracy,” he said. “If we can collectively re-engage our citizens using technology and social media by breaking down barriers for meaningful dialogue, then we are doing something right by ensuring these mediums are used by Members’ official offices.”

Of course, the marketplace of ideas is a rough-and-tumble place. But that doesn’t bother Foxwell.

“Even if you get people speaking negatively, at least their voice is being heard,” he said.

Others have reservations when it comes to Facebook ads, despite the low price. Jacobs said Facebook users are often on the website for social, not political, reasons. “When you’re on Facebook, you’re not looking for that information like you are when you’re searching on Google,” he said.

Jacobs also said that getting the attention of Facebook users, such as getting people to “Like” a page or status update, is not necessarily the same as getting voters. “You’re getting them into your Facebook group, you’re not getting their email address,” he said, adding, “I’d rather get 10,000 email addresses than 100,000 Facebook fans.”

On the engaging aspect of Facebook: Well-known politicians don’t need to advertise to get feedback, and lesser-known politicians can look like they just want attention. “You want to at least show the flag. But Facebook users have already become savvy enough that they see through gimmicks designed to get them to click on an ad,” Jacobs said.

While Jacobs would suggest covering one’s bases by purchasing Facebook ads, he urges clients to also devote resources to other methods. “We had far more success with video and paid search, both in terms of the percentage of the clicks that turned into sign-ups and the cost per acquisition,” he said, referring to the 2010 campaign of then-Rep. Tom Perriello, although the Virginia Democrat lost.

Bid on a Tweet
The next big thing on the horizon for Congressional offices and campaigns? Promoted content on Twitter.

According to Twitter Director of Communications Matt Graves, promoted tweets, which appear within a user’s Twitter feed even if they are not following the advertiser’s account, were introduced in April of last year, and promoted accounts, which appear as the first suggestion of “Who to follow” along the right side of a user’s home page, were introduced in October 2010.

Both of those features operate on a bidding system, where advertisers bid to have their tweets or account names appear on users’ Twitter home pages. Promoted trends, which appear slightly farther down the right side of a user’s home page, were introduced in June of last year and can be purchased for $120,000 per country per day, Graves said.

According to Graves, targeting on Twitter is done by a few factors, including which accounts — and national campaigns — a user already follows, any lists the user is on and the self-reported content of a user’s profile, such as describing oneself as a “political junkie.”

Graves said that a benefit of the promoted content on Twitter is its placement within the site.

“These are just normal tweets,” he said of the material that appears either within a user’s Twitter feed or directly alongside it. “They’re appearing where people expect them to appear.”

Although it’s not accessible to Congressional offices and campaigns just yet, people are already looking forward to the prospect of opening promoted content on Twitter to more than just a few national campaigns.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Jacobs said, explaining that, in his experience, Twitter’s setup encourages users to leave the site to consume outside content more than Facebook’s does. “People are much more accustomed to click links on Twitter that take them off Twitter,” he said.

Jacobs also pointed to the placement of advertising on Twitter. “Ad placement is much more advantageous than Facebook,” he said, citing studies that show how users read websites. Typically, he said, users read more of the top of a website and less as they scroll down. “Twitter advertising is much more mobile-friendly than Facebook advertising,” he added.

But whether you’re in office or running for one, using Google AdWords or Facebook, or waiting patiently to hop on the Twitter bandwagon, strategists often stress the importance of tailoring online advertising strategies to the race.

“Every race, every candidate, every district is different,” Donehue said.

Op-Ed from our CEO: What a difference a decade can make

What a Difference a Decade Can Make

From the desk of our CEO, Zain Khan:

Ten years ago, I was sitting in meeting after meeting, trying to convince Members of Congress that an email newsletter was going to be the future.  Some laughed it off, but most loved the idea and embraced what is now a crucial piece of constituent correspondence. These early adopters understood that a tidal wave was coming, and that they needed to either grab a paddle or get swept away.

A few years later, my business partner Stuart Shapiro and I introduced the idea of a telephone town hall meeting to the Hill.  It was another revolutionary moment where we were on the leading edge of technology for Members and their constituents.  I remember after one of the earliest telephone town halls, a Member emailed me and said he’d “never had a more satisfying connection with my constituents.”  No one could have imagined back then that we would be keeping in touch with thousands of constituents per day through our CRMs, eNewsletters and social media outlets.

We started iConstituent in a garage with an idea. Then we moved into a “formal” office, otherwise known as Starbucks. Today, we are 70 people strong, with offices on both coasts and 400  members using our technology solutions.

We are at the next phase of our evolution.  

On November 15th, we officially acquired GovTrends, LLC.  They have been creating premium websites for many years on the Hill as well.  Over the years, we at iConstituent have been impressed by the quality of their work, innovation, and dedication to customer service.   There is a complementary fit between GovTrends’ existing product offerings and the Constituent Gateway eCommunications product suite. That’s because together, we understand the priorities of an office, where innovation needs to happen and a wholehearted dedication to revolutionizing what we do with our communicative democracy. For clients, this means the ultimate in communications tools that result in a closer relationship with your constituents.

Our mission is serving our clients. I believe that the GovTrends acquisition is just another step in meeting this mission. So much has happened when it comes to technology on the Hill. Who knows what will happen ten years from now?

Add a Subscribe Button and They Will Come

Want to expand your subscribers and increase traffic for your office? Try a Facebook Subscribe button. Last week, the company announced the Subscribe button for websites, describing it as “a social plugin any site can add to give visitors the option to subscribe to contributors in one click.”

The Subscribe button, which looks just like any other Facebook button,  is just one more way of getting your office to be seen. When the user clicks the button, they will begin seeing your public updates in their News Feed, and others will be able to subscribe directly via the News Feed stories, too.

The lastest plugin seems to be working. According to Facebook,  135 million people have subscribed to at least one other person.

To learn how to add the button, visit here.

We want to know: What’s holding you back from adding a Subscribe button to your site?

Trends in Tweeting: Don't Talk About the Weather

Twitter's secret algorithm sorts through 250 million tweets a day. Among these tweets, a tiny number of them end up on “trending” spot on the Twitter homepage. Ending up here means big exposure. Some intrepid organizations have started hiring consultants to figure out how to get there. “They usually only appear for around 40 minutes at a time, but the trending list is such a prime spot for marketers that a promoted space at the top runs $120,000 per day, according to Twitter's director of revenue,” reports NPR’s Sara Carothers.

Interestingly, 31 percent of trending topics come from retweets; 72 percent of those originate from 20 major news sources mostly based in the U.S., UK and Brazil, according to a recent report from HP Labs.

Short of hiring a consultant, exactly how do you get to this coveted spot? Based on Carothers’ reporting, here are some useful tips:

1. Don’t talk about the weather.  “Twitter's trending algorithm finds topics that many people suddenly tweet about at once, like new album releases, TV shows on air, celebrity deaths or political gaffes,” writes Carothers. Other trends appear when many people Tweet about the same thing, like an earthquake. “But if a lot of people talk about rain, it probably won't make the list since it's a more common occurrence,” she says.

2. Retweet, and retweet some more. Carothers says that when outlets like CNN or the BBC tweet about a breaking story, it often gets heavily retweeted. Over time, it appears in the trending list where other people continue to talk about it.

3. Use hashtags. Hashtags frequently trend if they haven't been through the algorithm before. “Topics can start trending, fall off the list and later reappear when a different set of users discovers the topic later on,” she says.

We want to know: Does your office focus on trending?

The Political Pulse

Social Media and politics are inextricably linked. It makes sense — especially in election season. Social media offers the ability to quickly disseminate information, organize individuals and groups, and ultimately shape elections and perceptions.

What do social media users think about politics these days? The folks at Lab42 decided to find out. They polled 500 Americans, and found some interesting results. For example, 51% of respondents had posted something political on their Facebook page, while 59% said they would support an Independent or third party candidate for president. Some more food for thought:

Social media users who follow politics:

  • Local 18%
  • National 33%
  • Both 49%



Have changed opinion of a friend based on a political comment they posted on Facebook or Twitter

  • Yes 36%
  • No 64%

Top political issues

  • Healthcare 18%
  • Federal Budget 14%
  • Taxes 12%

We want to know: What’s the political pulse of your social-media using friends and colleagues these days?