I almost always spend at least a few seconds (practically a lifetime, in the context of email marketing!) looking at the emails LinkedIn sends my way. The “LinkedIn Network Updates” are particularly interesting. I’m curious – I like to know what folks are up to. Previously, these emails have been pretty much html text with links on my connections’ names. Last night, LinkedIn sent the first email I’ve seen from them that really takes advantage of one of the powerful assets they have – user photos.

This isn’t an entirely new concept – MailChimp has had some social features for a while, although they had to rework them recently. One of the changes was the loss of the Faces feature. And Twitter’s “”new follower” email has incorporated the user icon and basic info for a while now. But this LinkedIn email takes it further.

Screenshot of personalized email from LinkedIn.

"Surj, 48 of your connections changed jobs in 2010 - and here are pictures of every last one of 'em!"

“Email personalization” still means “insert FNAME in the body somewhere” to a lot of email marketers. LinkedIn sent me an email with pictures of 48 people I know. You’re damn right I clicked on every one of them. Ok, maybe it was just most of them, but this is a very compelling way to drive visits to LinkedIn – here come the ad impressions!

Is this a test to see how users respond to photographs, before including photos in the network update emails? I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing photos in the regular updates emails soon.

What can we learn from this? The vast majority of email marketers don’t get to send their subscribers pictures of their friends and colleagues. We personalize based on purchase history, previous activity, and (hopefully) intelligent guesses. So how can we get creative and take our email personalization to the next level? Yes, I said “take it to the next level” – sorry. How about “raise the bar” instead?

Another question – why is Facebook still sending plaintext email notifications, instead of taking advantage of the vast wealth of stuff they have at their disposal? Is it concerns about privacy and privacy settings, or is just that most Facebook users are simply on the site so much more than LinkedIn, and don’t need as much enticement to be sucked back in?

Last week, I noticed that I’d been blessed with The Gift of The New Twitter. Since I go to my Twitter page about as often as I go to church, I may have had it for a while and just not noticed. For shame!

Anyway, the first thing I noticed was that my carefully crafted, super-rockin’ Twitter background was compromised. My background was designed to work in the left 190 pixels or so, but now, even with my browser window at full screen, it’s barely getting full exposure. My primary machine is a 15″ MacBook Pro with a resolution of 1440×900 – not exactly a narrow screen – so I’ll need to rework it.

There’s a more comprehensive writeup over (with PSD files!) over at Mashable, but basically new Twitter starts at a minimum width of 920 pixels and maxes out at 1040 pixels, compared to old Twitter’s static width of 763 pixels. The timeline is 540 pixels wide, with the right area (your tweets, followers/following, who to follow, etc) expanding from 380 to 500 pixels depending on available browser window width.

I think the new Twitter page layout is a real improvement, in particular the bigger emphasis on “who to follow.” For many casual users, it’ll give them a bit more functionality and perhaps keep them using the Twitter website instead of an app – something I’m sure the Twitter folks are eager to encourage. But in the end, I just don’t care all that much. I use Tweetie and Tweetdeck on my laptops and Twitter for iPhone on my phone, so it won’t change how I use the service. However, Twitter is taking is taking ownership of their own pages a bit more. The vast expanse of wide open space for branding your with a Twitter background image will be less visible now – we’ll all have to be a bit more thoughtful how we use the available space.

© 2013 Surj's House of Awesome

Surj's House of Awesome

Surj Gish – eCommerce & Online Marketing Expert / Gearhead / Musician