How Email Is Helping StumbleUpon Drive Engagement

Chris CrumSocial Media

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Despite the fact that it continues to be a major source of traffic for many websites, StumbleUpon continues to fly somewhat under the radar for a lot of marketers. The company has recently adopted a more email-heavy approach to user engagement, and we reached out to Director of Marketing Anne Gherini to learn more about its strategy.

Are you a StumbleUpon user? Do the emails lead you to engage with its content? Let us know in the comments.

StumbleUpon users have been getting "Best of the Week" emails for quite some time. These show a handful of pages SU doesn't want the user to miss, and includes content from the categories the user follows.

As you may or may not know, I'm a bit of a horror movie nut. A recent "Best of the Week" email I got from the service came with the subject line "The 5 Creepiest Short Films I've Ever Seen". If you know much about email subject lines, you'll know that such interest-based personalization is a pretty solid approach. StumbleUpon is in a somewhat unique position to capitalize on this.

More recently, StumbleUpon has been sending out personalized emails to users showing them how content they've submitted (not necessarily their own site's content) is doing. These come with subject lines like "Breaking News: You've Got Views!" They tell you if content you've recently added is trending and point you to pages added by people you follow.

It's easy to see how either style of email could point users not only to StumbleUpon itself, but to content from websites that have content indexed.

StumbleUpon also points users to interesting content from its social media channels, though this doesn't cater to users on a personalized level in the way that its emails do.

A Shift in Marketing Focus

"In recent months StumbleUpon has shifted some of its marketing focus to improving the CRM channels," Gherini tells WebProNews. "Both email marketing and social media are important pieces to the marketing mix that can significantly increase DAU."

"We are running several tests to gauge what content our users want to see," she adds. "In many regards, email at StumbleUpon has been 100% dynamic content generated out of our personalization algorithm. Today, we are seeing that in addition to personalized content users engage and enjoy hand curated content. StumbeUpon is in essence an entertainment company. What we are finding is that entertainment is judged by emotion and that emotion can sometimes be better determined by a human over just an algorithm."

"Our approach to CRM is simple," she continues. "It is a privilege to be able to be in a user's inbox or to pop up on their newsfeed. We don't take this privilege lightly, so we are dedicated to delivering the right mix of content to the right users at the right time. Finding this balance involves in-depth testing and proper data-mining. Segmentation, personalization and a fantastic CRM team are making this happen at SU. We are already seeing the results and there are many more changes and improvements in the pipeline."

On the content selections that appear in StumbleUpon's regular "Best of the Week" emails, she says, "We are testing several methods to improve the content in these sections. From improving our personalization algorithm, to blending with editorial curated content."

"The weekly recommendation emails have had the highest engagement and our continuous optimization of these emails has enabled us to keep increasing our KPIs."

More Email To Come

It would appear that StumbleUpon is really just getting started with its email marketing efforts. Gherini tells us that there are several new types of emails on the company roadmap.

"We are looking at all the various types of users and building out email programs for their usage patterns," she says. "The new activity email lets power users that index content into StumbleUpon's ecosystem (1.8MM pages added each month by users alone) know when other users rate or interact with their additions. Other emails will help guide new Stumblers through on-boarding, connect Stumblers to other like-minded users, alert them of the best content of the week and much more. The goal is to continuously improve the StumbleUpon experience for all our users and so far the results have been great."

Mobile has obviously been a major part of StumbleUpon's strategy in recent years, as it has been for many other services. The mobile apps enable users to flip through content as quickly as they like, even utilizing quick previews that let you see what you're getting before the content even loads.

Mobile is no doubt helping StumbleUpon's email efforts as well. As studies have shown, mobile is driving higher email open rates, and I can't tell you how many emails from StumbleUpon I've opened on my smartphone over the past year or so.

More Referrals?

Last summer, Shareaholic released its Q2 Social Media Traffic Report. It showed that StumbleUpon referrals to websites were up 13% from the same period the previous year. Things weren't looking so good in the Q3 report released October, which showed a year-over-year decrease of 26.49% (though things didn't look much better for Twitter, reddit, YouTube, or LinkedIn either).

In September, StumbleUpon started employing a feature that could increase views on sites' content. When a user submits a page to StumbleUpon, it now prompts users to stumble through more content from that site:

In November, StumbleUpon announced a content program for bloggers enabling them to submit their best posts to be added to official lists, which the company described as "a curated Stumble journey". Such lists are to be featured by StumbleUpon in its apps, email newsletters, and by its social channels.

With new offerings like these and an increased focus on email marketing, StumbleUpon may just start sending those referral numbers up.

What do you think of StumbleUpon's approach to email? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.