Outlook Templates = Link Building Magic

As a linkbuilder I am always looking for ways to speed up the outreach process without automating and therefore dehumanizing the emails. There are many options for templates in Gmail such as Canned Responses from the Gmail labs, many of which have been covered before in other posts. However, because the company I currently work for uses exchange, Gmail is not the best option for me and I was forced to find an option for Outlook.

So here’s how you do it in a few easy steps: Create a new email. If you have a signature erase it, because when you open the template it will insert your signature, and if you don’t erase it before saving the template every email will have two signatures.

If you have multiple “send from” accounts choose the appropriate account, the template will rememember which account you’ve chosen and will always send from that account.

I use Buzzstream to keep track of my linkbuilding outreach. Every email BCC’s our Buzzstream account. If you use Buzzstream or something of the sort, put that email address in the BCC field now. It will autopopulate with the rest of the template.

Enter a subject and the body of the email.

Use colored text to indicate the parts that need to be tailored for each specific recipient. For example, here is the template I’ve been using for outreach about a backpack giveaway I’ve been promoting.


I use red and green to indicate parts of the email that I need to tailor for each recipient. I will also always try to add a sentence or two that is completely personalized to that specific site.

As an aside, if you like to track the clicks on your links as an indicator of engagement for your outreach emails, edit the hyperlink after typing it in to the email,


then insert a bit.ly link instead, without changing the text, so you can track the clicks.


Now for the magic. Select Save As,


Choose Save As Type “.oft”

A personal preference of mine is to save my templates to a Dropbox folder so that I can access them from any computer. Because I use these so much I also pin the folder to the taskbar.

That’s it, you are done! Now let the linkbuilding magic begin!



Social Media for Kars4Kids – Tools, Tips, Tricks of the Trade

How to organize and track social media for a brand

At my day job, one of my responsibilities is managing and monitoring all social media networks, responding to questions from customers, replying to brand mentions, and creating a content strategy for the channels we are involved in.

I work for a large car donation charity called Kars4Kids. Many of you will be familiar with our national radio commercial, which is adored by some, hated by many, and is stuck deep in the cranium of all who have ever heard it. Feel free to grab a listen on the Kars4Kids song page (original version), but don’t say I didn’t warn you, it’s ridiculously catchy. Maybe one day I’ll write a post about the tremendous success of our radio jingle and how brands can try to emulate it, but for now, suffice it to say that the song has turned Kars4Kids from a small local organization into a large national charity.


Thing is, people hate this song. This hate generates a tremendous amount of online chatter. Twitter is constantly voicing this hatred, see this short selection of Tweets for less than one week, Facebook utters a few primal screams of pain every day (public, probably many more privately);

and thousands of forums dedicate threads to “commercials you truly detest”. reddit has some great threads worth looking into as well;

That equals A LOT of chatter to keep on top of and manage. To top it all off, Kars4Kids has another unique challenge:

Kars or cars? With a 4? Or is it for? I’m confused…

We at Kars4Kids have a unique challenge which is the choice of our brand name. At some point in the distant past some clever marketing guy decided that spelling “cars” with a “k” was a brilliant marketing idea. He threw in the number 4 for good luck. This definitely makes monitoring sites like Twitter even harder because we have to monitor every possible brand name misspelling.

Here are some of the tools I use to keep up with it all.


For Twitter I use Tweetdeck MetroTwit. Hootsuite is another popular Twitter platform and it also works great, I just happen to prefer Tweetdeck’s Android app, especially the ease of use when switching between saved searches. I set up a separate column for every search because I’ve found that using the OR operator to combine searches is very unreliable.

I heard you love Twitter so I saved your old Tweets so you can go back and read them again…

I also love to have a searchable archive of all tweets so I can go back in time to find one if necessary.

Social Mention does the job wonderfully if you are willing to take the time to set it up properly. Social Mention has an RSS feature that allows you to set up an RSS feed for the terms you are monitoring. Enter your search term, choose “select social media sources”, choose Twitter, hit search, and then select “RSS feed” from the top right hand corner of the page. The feed URL should look something like this http://api2.socialmention.com/search?q=kars4kids&src%5B0%5D=twitter&f=rss.

Notice that I am only tracking Twitter here, I’ll get to everything else in a minute. I set up RSS feeds for every search term I follow, then I pull these RSS feeds into an obscure Outlook folder setting it to update only once a day so that my send-receives don’t take a month. Set it and forget it, and all the data is happily waiting for you in Outlook if you ever need it. I’ve never tried it, but I assume that pulling the RSS feed into something like Google Reader should work just as well, although I don’t know how long they store the data for.

I also keep a few links on hand that I commonly tweet out. For example, in response to the constant irritation expressed about our radio commercial I wrote a blog post entitled “Ten Things More Annoying Than the Kars4Kids commercial“. I have an Evernote folder with that link in bit.ly form just waiting to be tweeted at the next person who complains about our jingle. I also keep a link handy to the new remix version of our song that we recently created. And if we are in middle of running any campaigns or events, such as this Kars4Kids coat giveaway we held in Newark NJ, I’ll have applicable links readily available.

Google alerts

Google alerts have proven to be wildly unpredictable and completely unreliable. Often, I will be sitting next to someone and he will receive an alert that I won’t get for hours, even though we’ve both set up searches on the same term. However, Google alerts are still very important and truthfully I wouldn’t discover many of the brand mentions I find if it wasn’t for them.

Facebook, Forums, and Everything in-between

That said, it is imperative to supplement that data with some other alert system. Again I turn to Social Mention. Set up RSS feeds for all of your search terms, but this time choose to see alerts from every option besides for Twitter. Skip Twitter if you are monitoring it through some other means. (Yes, Social Mention really needs a “select all” option).

Here is where this gets a little tricky. I pull these feeds into outlook as well, but because of the way Social Mention crawls the web, they often discover newer content before discovering older content that they should have found first. So you’ll see that you have unread items but they’ll be buried somewhere inside this monstrous folder. Set up a search folder using this RSS folder as the source, and set the search folder to only show unread items, that way you’ll only see unread, new items.


Ah Klout. Oft maligned, taunted, made fun of, and bullied, Klout is an incredibly useful tool for social media management. A community manager or social media manager for a large brand can not respond to every brand name mention. Even a large team will probably overlook many Tweets that mention their company name or one of their services both because of simple time concerns, and because not everyone likes to be tweeted at by a company, even if it is in a friendly helpful way.

Here’s where Klout comes in, as inaccurate as Klout can be, it is very useful for providing a quick snapshot of a users influence in their sphere. We have all seen it over and over and over again, Twitter profiles with tens of thousands of followers and Klout scores in the thirties. That’s very low, and it means that those followers are most probably not real people who engage, reply, or retweet that content. Follower counts can easily be gamed, but engagement metrics are a little harder to spoof.

The reverse is also true, there are many Twitter profiles with less than two hundred followers that have Klout scores in the fifties, this is indicative of a small but highly engaged group of people who are well worth engaging.

Using Klout in tandem with follower/following counts, is a great way to separate the wheat from the chaff for Twitter.

That’s about it

That pretty much covers the tools that I use for social media management, I’d love to hear your tips tools and tricks, please drop them in the comments.

Steven out.