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Salsa Blog

50 Things About Salsa Part 4

By Jason Zanon, Salsa
(With a little help from Amanda Foster and Beth Johnson)

We’re continuing with our list of 50 things you don’t know about Salsa. If you need to catch up, you can go back to the beginning. Or, read about some cool email features below.


Salsa's servers dispatch over six million emails on slow days and several times that on important mailing occasions like year-end fundraising. Odds are good that email blasts are among your core operations. This might be the area of Salsa where you would most want to make sure of getting maximum value from the platform.

13. Add an ad hoc + to your email address for testing

So you've got your own personal email like name@domain.com and it's already on your list ... but you need to test how a page will interact with a new user and don't want to go to the hassle of creating a new email account. Many mail domains will recognize name+something@domain.com as the same inbox as name@domain.com, whereas Salsa itself will understand these as two different emails. In certain situations, this might be just the thing you need for testing! Go ahead and try out your page with something like name+signuppagetest@gmail.com . . . you'll get a new supporter record in Salsa, and the auto-responses appropriate for your new signup in your existing name@gmail.com inbox. This isn't actually a Salsa feature per se, but a feature of your email client. Be aware that not all mail clients will deliver your variant name this way. (We know Gmail does.)

14. A/B testing

Available to most Salsa accounts, the A/B split-testing package allows you to experiment with different versions of your email blast sent to different subsets of your target pool. For instance, if you want to try two different e-mail newsletter titles to see which generates better open rates, you could use A/B testing to fire two different versions each to 5-10% of the newsletter recipients, then send the better-performing version to the remaining 80-90% of your list. Net result: all supporters receive only one copy of the newsletter, and the overwhelming majority sees the one with the most enticing subject.

Percentage of emails to get sent A/B testing in Salsa

A/B testing subject lines in Salsa

Another variant: send your fundraising appeal to a 50/50 split of the list, using a different "Donate Now!" button on each. If you see a clear difference in performance, you might have a reason to start using a new donation graphic in all your email templates.

15. Send a text-only test message

Testing text-only emails in Salsa

With more and more mobile devices out there, it's more important than ever to take care of the text-only doppleganger of your HTML email content. Your Salsa email blast's Validation tab has a checkbox allowing you to send separate HTML and plain text versions of your email blast as test messages.

16. Merge fields

Email blasts can contain dynamic content blocks that merge user-specific information into the text of each individual email. Simple text merge fields are extremely easy to use. Use the "Add Dynamic Content" drop-down menu in your email blast content sections (both HTML and text emails can employ them), or simply type them in with the syntax . For instance, your email might begin

Dear ,

But what Sally Supporter sees is

Dear Sally,

Merge fields also work on email triggers, provided that the page activating the email trigger also collects or generates that field. Here are some common merge fields if you want to experiment.

17. Dynamic Content

Merge fields (above) are just one of several types of personalized, dynamic content that can be incorporated into a Salsa email blast.

Using dynamic content in Salsa

Beyond merge fields that fill a particular text string straight from a supporter field (like supporter name), Salsa's dynamic content can provide generated merge data, such as the name and phone number of a supporter's legislator or a personalized gift suggestion appropriate to a specific person's donation history.

18. View this email as a webpage

Want to let your email recipients click through to view a web page version of your email blasts? This is a great option for dealing with finicky email clients and it provides an extra option to subscribers who only receive text-only emails. This can be achieved with little to no additional effort, including placing a single "set it and forget it" link in your email template that will automatically generate the correct unique link to a web display for each different email blast you send. Read all about it here.

19. We do a lot of the delivery work for you

Sending bulk email and having it actually reach an inbox isn't always as simple as clicking "Send". There are always going to be bounces, spam reports, and innocent phrases that excite the suspicions of mail-server algorithms.

Even when everyone does everything right, it's a full-time job to keep your delivery environment awesome. Luckily, we’ve got our very own delivery specialist, Brett, keeping an eye on all those things, every day. Brett has some suggestions about how to keep your Salsa emails in a happy place with best practices for managing your email list and optimizing your content.

20. Conditional Email Triggers

“Email Triggers” or “Autoresponses” (the two phrases are synonymous in Salsa) do the relationship-building work of email blasts automatically, day-by-day and page-by-page. Hopefully you're making liberal use of them. If you care to do so, however, you can also make email triggers "smart" enough to send only to particular types of supporters. Navigate to your “Email Blasts” tab, then the “Autoresponses/Triggers” link, and click into “Details” for an individual trigger. In that trigger's third tab, "Autoresponse Options and Send Conditions", you can define a condition under which the trigger will launch.

Say you're running a state-level campaign and want to send different replies to people depending on whether they sign up in state or out-of-state. Your in-state email trigger might have a condition like:


Then, build a second email trigger with an out-of-state greeting and use the condition:


Associate both triggers with your sign up page. (Note that the page should require the “State” field in order to be sure the triggers receive the necessary variable.)

This syntax is admittedly a bit on the obscure side. Our documentation describes it in greater detail along with some examples, but don't hesitate to hit up our support team for more help constructing your conditional email trigger.

21. Delayed Email Triggers

Staying within the very same tab, you'll find the option to delay the release of your email trigger by any number of hours. (Decimals are acceptable here as well: enter 0.1 for a delay of one-tenth of an hour, or six minutes.) This is a handy way to build an automated welcome sequence: have one follow-up welcome message triggered after a 24-hour delay, another to follow three or four days later, and still others weeks or even months afterwards.

Note that you'll want to classify any such trigger (in the first tab) as a “Timed Trigger”, not a “Reply Email”.

Sending timed triggered emails in Salsa

22. Tracking trigger opens/clicks with Streaming Emails

Regular triggers don't produce statistics like email blasts -- things like open rates or click-through rates. So how do you know how your triggers are performing? Converting a trigger to a Streaming Email allows you to do just that.

If streaming emails are available on your account, then any time you edit an email trigger, you'll see a large button above it enabling you to convert that trigger to a streaming email. Streaming emails live on our email blast table and generate email blast-like data, so over time you'll accumulate metrics on how frequently those blasts are opened or clicked. But they still triggers, and respond to all their trigger settings (including conditionals and delay).

23. Smart Group-generated triggers

Another bonus to using “Streaming Emails” is that a “Streaming Email” trigger (q.v.) can be affiliated with your “Greedy Smart Group” (also q.v.). To have your Greedy Smart Groups -- and this only works with the greedy kind; regular smart groups and non-smart groups don't have trigger capacity -- launch a streaming email trigger to every person who gets piped into the group, just select the relevant trigger in the group's “Options” tab.

24. Lifetime email stats table

The volume of data generated by email makes it prohibitive to query supporters on aggregated email performance -- things like "everyone who opened at least five emails." That's just too much to crunch. In lieu of that, Salsa increments a data table called supporter_email_statistics that keeps a running count of "lifetime" opens and click-throughs, the individual's "lifetime" click and open percentages, and the most recent date that supporter opened or clicked on any email. (For Salsa old-timers, "lifetime" here means since the beginning of 2011.)

By selecting “Email Statistics” from the query builder, you can search via this easier-to-handle proxy table for a variable like "everyone who's opened an email more recently than (date)" or "everyone who has ever opened at least five emails."

Email Statistics >> Emails Opened >> Greater Than >> 4.5

Setting send conditions in Salsa off email statistics

Phew. Okay. We learned a lot about email today. Take a deep breath. Digest it. Go play in Salsa!

Read Part 5.

Topics: Salsa Marketing