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Growth/Personalized first day/Engagement emails

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This page describes the Growth team's work on the "engagement emails" project, which is a specific project under the larger "Personalized first day" initiative. This page contains major assets, designs, and decisions. Most incremental updates on progress will be posted on the general Growth team updates page, with some large or detailed updates posted here.

We know that there are many important considerations around sending emails to users, particularly dealing with privacy and security. Our team is working with the Legal and Security teams at the Wikimedia Foundation to make sure we handle data in the appropriate way. We also want continuous thoughts from community members to make sure we build this feature in a "Wikimedian" way -- we want to implement the good and helpful parts of emails, but not the annoying and invasive parts.

While we originally planned to send our first emails by the end of March 2019, the Growth team has decided to de-prioritize this project in the coming months. We now think that we should focus on the two major projects that are already in flight: help panel and newcomer homepage. The team is going to hang on to the work we've done so far around emails, and may revisit this project in the future.

Current status[edit]

  • - community discussion on ideas for personalizing a newcomer's first day
  • - team decision on pursuing "engagement emails" and "newcomer homepage".
  • - team decided to de-prioritize this project in favor of newcomer homepage and help panel.
  • - In collaboration with the Marketing Team and the Fundraising Team, the Growth team started working on Engagement emails. [1]
  • - Welcome emails experiment analysis published


We know from research that newcomers arrive at the wiki with something that they are trying to accomplish.  If they can’t accomplish it, they frequently leave and don’t come back. In the welcome survey, we asked users what they’re trying to accomplish so that we can help them get the help they need to accomplish it.  Emails are a way to get them that help.

We also want to encourage people who provide their emails to the Wikimedia Foundation to edit. It is the case of donors, who give provide their email to get a donation receipt: they might be interested to an invite to edit the wikis when they are thanked for their domation.

We want to:

  • Send email to new users that they will want to open and click through on.
  • Give people useful and engaging calls to action.
  • Connect the content in the emails to content on wiki via the newcomer homepage.
  • Increase activation and retention

We do not want to:

  • Spam people with too many emails.
  • Keep users from learning how to communicate on wiki.
  • Personalize so much that the emails are invasive.
  • Demotivate users by telling them that their impact has been low.
  • Bring users to a confusing landing place on wiki.
  • Interfere with other interventions from Growth team or other teams

Emailability: in order for us to send these emails to users, they need to have a verified email address and have opted-in to receiving these emails. In addition to adding the opt-in ability, we are also considering ways to make it easier to add and verify an email address. While we do not want to pressure any users into adding their email address, we do see many opportunities to make it clearer what the benefits are of having an email address, and making it clearer how to verify it.

The sections below may be changed significantly in the coming weeks, are too technical or less relevant for the understanding of the project. We have decided not to have them translated.

Why this idea is prioritized[edit]

Once a newcomer leaves the wiki after their first day — whether they do or do not accomplish their goals — it is likely that they are never encouraged to contribute again.  This is because all existing communication channels are on wiki, even though the newcomer is no longer on the wiki. We can use email as a proactive communication vector to reconnect with new users off-wiki to help them to make their first edits or to continue making edits.

  • Community members were positive in their feedback on the idea.
  • Reach users no longer on wiki: emails enable communication with users who may likely no longer be active on wiki (and would therefore not see activity on Talk pages and Notifications).
  • Communicate with new users unfamiliar with Talk pages: automated communications exist in the wikis in the form of bots that post on new user talk pages.  While in some cases, those postings generate emails, email is not being fully utilized to get the attention of newcomers, who are usually not accustomed to how Talk pages work. Wikipedians who have experience mentoring newcomers have had success using email to communicate, since it is a medium they understand.
  • Email campaigns are a proven means of engaging users of software: email is used by virtually all other community contribution platforms (e.g. TripAdvisor, Google Maps/Locals, Wikia) to engage users.
  • Newcomers care about impact: many interviews with Wikipedians have surfaced that new editors first become enthusiastic about Wikipedia when they realize that others are reading their contributions.  Email can be a way to make users aware of their impact. There have been example of success in showing Impact data in other Wiki projects such as the Outreach dashboard (see comment here).

Comparative review[edit]

To learn how best to design engagement emails, our team's designer reviewed the way that other platforms (e.g. TripAdvisor, Wikia, Google) send emails to newcomers. While the experience we want to give newcomers is definitely different than other platforms (we want to give newcomers an optional, lightweight, non-invasive experience), we also recognize that there are best practices we can learn from other software. The comparisons are recorded in detail on this Phabricator task.

  • Takeaways from looking at emails
    • Show impact via celebration of milestones/achievements of a recipient’s contribution statistics or social impact (x people read your review) to motivate continued/re-engagement
    • Appeal to prosocial behavior (your contribution helps others)
    • Appeal to social proof encourages emulation (testimonials or examples of others participating)
    • Provide personalized recommendations that target specific interests of individuals reduces effort for someone to find out how to participate according to their interests
    • Personalized messaging in general is important (e.g., subject lines, copy, when the email is sent)
    • Provide onboarding help anticipates issues faced by newer recipients on how to get started, as well as remind them of the value of the sender’s product/service
    • Time messages to a relevant or meaningful event or timeframe (for example, an ‘impact’ email for the year sent at the end of the year)
    • Subject lines are direct, succinctly encapsulating the email’s intended purpose/message
    • Short, text-lean messages
    • Personalized, informal language is generally used
    • Usually contain a single, main call to action that is specific and prominent
    • Requests for specific follow up and feedback are sometimes shown towards end of messages
    • Optimize for mobile - commonly by using simple, single column layouts with centered text
    • Branding is prominent shown at the top of the email
    • Scorecards and ranking illustrations (leaderboards, badges, etc) are often used in impact emails
    • Minimal use of graphics, predominantly visual clean messages on white
    • Use of photography depicting people used in appeals to social proof and prosocial behavior
  • Takeaways from looking at industry metrics and benchmarks
    • Welcome emails are generally the best performing in terms of being the most opened (82.57%) and clicked (22.76%) type of email type.
    • Triggered emails such as an email when a user expresses interest in being contacted for mentorship perform second-best to Welcome emails, and have a much lower unsubscribe rate.
    • Autoresponder emails like a weekly or monthly “Impact” email have lower open and click rates, but also have a much lower unsubscribe rate.


Example mockup of an "Impact" email

In order for emails to help users accomplish their goals, they need to be tailored to the things that we know about them from the welcome survey and from their editing history.  Preliminary designs have been made for six email campaigns, but we will start with three, which are in bold:

  • Welcome: a generic orientation email that links to their newcomer homepage.
  • Impact: tell newcomers how many pageviews the pages they've edited have had.
  • Mentorship: send newcomers an automated message from a mentor they can contact for help.
  • Task recommendations: send newcomers a set of tasks related to their topics of interest or past edits.
  • Neighborhood activity: send newcomers a list of editing activity that has happened on articles related to their topics of interest or past edits.
  • New article: send newcomers who said they intend to create a new article a couple of pointers and link to tutorial.
  • Quiz: send newcomers a quiz with a series of questions to determine "what kind of editor are you?" Here is an example from Codeacademy.

General requirements[edit]

  • Should be possible to include rich content.
  • Be sent based on rules that incorporate welcome survey responses, edit history, and time.
  • Allow people to unsubscribe.
  • Allow us to know how often the emails are replied to.
  • Have a noreply@ from address or allow users to reply somewhere that their message will be seen.


In order to send engagement emails to newcomers, they need to have verified email addresses associated with their accounts and they need to opt-in to receiving this content. The analysis our team did in this Phabricator task shows that a remarkably low number of users end up with verified email addresses. See the table below.

Stage Czech Korean
Have email address (of all newcomers) 70% 55%
Verified email address (of emails) 35% 25%
Newcomers with verified emails 25% 14%

Only 25% of Czech and 14% of Korean newcomers have verified emails. When we wondered why these numbers are so low, we realized that there are many moments during account creation where we could increase a user's understanding of what's going on, making it more likely they'll add an email if they want to. Here are some ideas we're working on:

  • Adding language to Special:CreateAccount that explains that email addresses are required for account recovery. T216087.
  • Adding a notification to Special:CreateAccount letting people know to look for a verification email. T216087.
  • Re-designing the verification email itself so that it is clearer what to do with it, and is less confusing. T215665.
  • When users try to create their account without an email, ask if they are sure. T215633.


As with everything the Growth team does, it is important for us to be able to measure how users do and do not engage with the feature -- that's the only way to stick to strategies that are working and abandon the ones that aren't. We want to be able to measure how often users open and click on the emails we send them, but we know that instrumenting emails is new territory. We'll need to careful to safeguard privacy and security, and we will work with other Foundation teams to do so. We may need to come up with detailed solutions to learn what we need to learn without recording too much data, like the approach our team took with the "Understanding first day" project in which we obfuscated the names of articles viewed by newcomers.