It’s that time of year again, where the Irish, the shamrocks and the celebrations come out for St. Patrick’s Day. Being the only 100% Irish person in the company, I thought I’d take it upon myself to do a small piece on Patrick’s Day, what it’s about and some interesting facts that come along with celebrating the day itself. So check them out, 10 things you may or may not have known about our national day:

1. St. Patrick was not Irish, he was from Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

This is an unusual fact that many people don’t realize. St. Patrick is not Irish, he is actually Welsh. He served as a missionary in Ireland, but later fled back to England.

2. The shamrock symbol is a teaching tool

St. Patrick was said to have used it to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. ☘

3. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York City in 1760s

Regardless of it being a holiday based for Irish people, the parade started out in New York for the first time. How come? Many Irish emigrated to NY back in the 1760’s and this parade featured Irish soldiers serving in the English army.

4. Traditionally, every year, the Irish leader hands a crystal bowl full of shamrocks to the US President.

This was news to me! Every year, the Irish leader makes a visit to the White House to present a crystal bowl full of shamrocks to the current president. (See evidence below 😉)
Irish leader US president bowl shamrocks St. Patrick's Day

5. Irish people take St. Patrick’s Day pretty seriously

I don’t think you needed to read this blog to find this one out! But yes, it’s true – it’s a national holiday in Ireland and Northern Ireland on 17th March and it’s certainly a marked day on all of our calendars. The green, the guinness, and the parade all contribute to a great day!

6. It used to be a dry holiday.

Hard to believe, right? Based on its religious associations it was considered an alcohol-free holiday for most of the 20th Century. In 1970, the drinking traditions started. 🍻

7. St. Patrick was originally associated with the colour blue 💙 ✖️️ 💚 ✔️️-

My initial thought when I first heard this was, “No way!” In fact, it’s true, Saint Patrick’s blue was originally associated with Ireland being under British rule. Since the Irish Rebellion in 1798, the tradition of green has stood for our nationalism.

8. 12% of Americans claim to have Irish heritage 🇮🇪 + 🇺🇸

It’s always around this time of year that Irish-Americans come out from the wood work. Around 4.5 million Irish people emigrated to the US between 1840-1930 during and just after the Famine. So there’s a lot of people claiming partial Irish identity through their ancestors!

9. Corned beef and cabbage is a St. Patrick’s Day staple

In honor of their culture, the initial Irish immigrants in the U.S. splurged on flavorful corned beef, which was accompanied by potato and the cheapest vegetable, cabbage.  It didn’t take long for corned beef and cabbage to become associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe you should give it a try this year!

10. It’s Paddy’s Day, NOT Patty’s Day 😉

From what I can see, it’s widely known as Patty’s Day around the U.S., however….in Ireland, it’s Paddy’s Day. Irish people are so strong on this point, so much so that they’ve dedicated a website to explaining it here.. http://paddynotpatty.com/

 

So there you have it, some interesting facts you might not have known before. Wanna know why I’m bothering you with these silly Irish facts? Hear about my journey to SparkPost and why I came here from Ireland.

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day & may the luck of the Irish be with you! ☘️

-Holly

Blacklists 101 - stairs leading to do not enter sign

Blacklists

It’s that time of year again. Marketers are planning for the holidays; looking at how they can drive more revenue through email. It’s very common to see people mailing a little deeper into their files than they normally do, in an effort to reengage the people who haven’t purchased or interacted in a while. It’s easy to overstep the bounds of email best practices, and get yourself into trouble. That trouble commonly comes in the form of a blacklisting.

What is a blacklist?

A blacklist is essentially a list of bad actors. Those bad actors are generally spammers, but any legitimate mailer who doesn’t adhere to best practices can be impacted. Blacklists can be domain-based, URL-based, or more commonly, IP-based. They are generally run by independent operators, or organizations whose customers are ISPs, hosting companies, or corporate mail managers.

How do you get listed?

Blacklist operators most commonly use networks of spam traps to catch spammers and marketers behaving badly. (Check out the series I wrote about spam traps earlier this year for more info.) Mailing to spam trap addresses is a signal that you have poor list hygiene practices, since those addresses don’t belong to real users. Depending on the type of trap you mail to (or hit) and the number, you may get flagged as a bad actor and end up on a blacklist. In some cases this is an automated process, in others (generally in more severe cases) it’s manual.

What happens when you get “listed” on a blacklist?

A blacklist is commonly used by mail receivers (ISPs, hosting companies, etc.) to block unwanted mail from bad actors. The amount of mail blocked depends on which blacklist listed you. Some are more impactful than others, based on which mail receivers use them. Spamhaus, for example, is the most widely known blacklist and is used by some of the major mailbox providers. So a Spamhaus listing will have a big impact on your program.

What can you do to resolve a blacklisting?

Each blacklist has it’s own removal process, which can be automated or manual. Either way, it’s important to understand what caused you to get listed in the first place. Did it happen right after you mailed to an old, inactive file? Are you working with a new affiliate? Is a suppression process broken? Once you have identified and resolved the issue that caused the listing, the next step is to reach out to the blacklist operator via their process to request removal.

What should you do to avoid blacklists in the first place?

The best way to avoid the blacklist is to mail to recently engaged users. We recommend those who have opened or clicked in the last 90 days. It’s understandable that marketers want to leverage their email programs to increase sales during the holidays, so a 90-day activity window isn’t always doable. If you do end up reaching deeper into your list, you shouldn’t be including anyone who hasn’t engaged in over a year. Past that time, you run the risk of hitting recycled spam traps (once engaged users, now long-dormant accounts). In addition to a short activity window, double opt-in (or COI) is a great way to avoid mailing repeatedly to spam trap addresses, since they won’t click the confirmation link. We also highly recommend that you use a reCAPtCHA at sign-up to mitigate malicious signups.

Things to keep in mind…

Having a way to monitor your IPs and domains for blacklistings is always a good idea. At Sparkpost, we proactively monitor listings for our Premium and Enterprise customers using the 250ok platform. Also, as I alluded to above, not all blacklists have the same impact on your program. If you see a listing through a monitoring service or in your logs, check your stats in the Sparkpost UI (blocked messages) to gauge the severity of the listing. While you might not see a big impact from some smaller blacklists, they can be a good signal to let you know something is off with your program that might turn into a bigger headache down the road if you don’t address it.

— Clea

The other day Steve Dille, our CMO, was on a webinar with Mike Gualtieri, Principal Analyst with Forrester, covering the ‘Do’s and Don’ts of Data-Driven Marketing’ (you can see the replay here). As I’m wont to do, I spent my time listening and live tweeting events (come to think of it, is there any other form of tweeting other than live?) Once in a while the fingers move faster than the brain, and are possessed of a preternatural insightfulness that gives one pause. Earlier this week I sent the following tweet:

 The holidays aren’t a single event they are a series of data driven events. #AMAMessageSystems #datainsights #marketing

It’s ok that I’m being self-referential here, right? I mean I just cited myself so I beg your pardon for the slight bit of ego but I think it’s important we think about a very basic concept: an event vs. a series of events.

holidays
The holidays aren’t a single event they are a series of data driven events.

The holiday season has become a black bag, a singularity, that’s often referred to as an event, or maybe two events: Black Friday & Cyber Monday. The title places an immense amount of importance on these two days—brands and their marketing teams work toward turning impressions into conversions knowing full well the amount of money at stake. All of this is well and good but the problem arises when you consider these as isolated events and all of your actions as driving toward this end goal. That’s just not the case.

I once heard a speaker describe the customer journey as a series of micro-decisions that lead to a desired outcome. Most times we think of an offer as being the point in the customer journey where a decision to buy is made. When you look at the customer journey as a series of decisions, to open an email, to click a link, to like a brand, follow it on Facebook, visit a brick and mortar store, check in on Yelp or Four Square, these small actions are each, in their own right, a micro decision that leads to a conversion. More importantly, each of these decisions is an endorsement of the brand’s approach.

Now, let’s think about the holidays, they are a series of micro-decisions that have to be measured, interpreted, analyzed and turned into personalized, data driven marketing campaigns. The holidays are points on a very long continuum that we call the customer Journey—don’t focus on them unless you have the tools, data and methodologies to analyze previous performance, behaviors and make a solid plan that takes you through the holidays and into the next year. It’s the only way you’ll actually start off on the right foot for 2015 while successfully closing out 2014.