As an online university, our primary method of contact with students is email. If you’re a Gmail user, you’re probably aware of Gmail Tabs. This was introduced by Google as a way to help users manage their inboxes. The change, has not been without considerable media coverage in the world of email marketing, but little has been done to help users figure out what is going on with their communications.
I’ve been reading a lot about this development, and as a Google Apps user for my personal email, I have been using Tabs for a while now, long before the mandatory switch that took place a few weeks ago. I can say, I like them, and I’m adjusting to them well, but you may not be, and that’s why I’m writing this blog post to help you find your emails. Now, while this content is being generated primarily to our students at APU, the concepts and how to move your messages once and for all are applicable to all Gmail users.
When you log into Gmail, you now see this across the top of your inbox:
These are the infamous tabs that have the email marketing world on edge right now. Users were given the Primary, Social, and Promotions tabs by default, this is a screen shot from my box, so I also have Updates and Forums activated. Right now there is little in the way of customization for your tabs — you’re kind of stuck with what Gmail is giving you right now. A word to the wise is that the tabs don’t stick, if you scroll the page up, they’ll go away, which can make moving emails around a bit of an issue.
Gmail now filters your email into these tabs, things from Twitter, Facebook and other social sites go in the social tab; marketing messages generally find their way to the promos tab and so forth. But they don’t’ have to stay there.
To move your email, just click and drag the email to the tab you want it to go in from now on, you’ll probably want to do this for any communications you get from American Military University/American Public University — this way you’ll always stay connected. You can move multiple messages, but I have found that by doing that you potentially miss the message that is most important when it comes to having this been a permanent change for all subsequent emails.
When you move a message from one tab to another, a yellow box will appear at the top of the page, telling you: “The conversation has been moved to “Primary” Do this for future messages from XYZ. YES/Undo”. It’s that simple.
Clicking yes, will send all messages from that address to the same the tab you just chose from now on. Keep in mind, that this doesn’t affect the messages currently in your inbox, only the one you just moved and the ones going forward. This also only seems to work on a per-from-email address basis. What does that mean? Many senders, APUS included, send emails from multiple addresses, for instance a communication from advising may come from firstname.lastname@example.org, while classroom outage notifications may come from email@example.com. So you’ll need to actually work through your box for a few days to make sure you catch everything and get them set up to go where you want them too.
One last thing to keep in mind is that once the tabs are activated on your Gmail account, they are active everywhere. So if you use the Gmail app on your mobile device, a similar interface is also going to show up there too. I have found that moving messages between tabs is much easier (I’ve not figured out or had the time to look into doing it on a mobile device), so best advice is to not give up your desktop or laptop just yet. Moving your messages around is actually a good time sink when you’re watching TV or stuck inside on a rainy day.
You can also turn them off. All you have to do is just click on the plus beside the tabs and un-tick all the tab selections. This will remove them, but my advice is to use them for a while before you do that, if you really can’t live with them.
There are other options too, especially if you like the way that Gmail can significantly reduce the amount of spam you receive. Google tabs is not supported by email clients, so if you have a Mac and use Apple Mail, or use Outlook on your PC, you’re in the clear, you won’t be forced to go through the Gmail Tabs growing pains. (There are other free and pay email clients out there too — Thunderbird is a great open source “Outlook” clone that I have used in the past).
While tabs is a great way to segment your inbox, and help with what I call inbox triage, they may leave you wondering why you haven’t gotten a communication that you used to look forward to in the past. You’ll just have to search a little bit, but you’re still getting email. Best advice is to sink down on the couch one afternoon and look through a few pages of your email and move the communications to the appropriate tab. You’ll thank yourself and will be much happier with your Gmail experience!
About the Author:
Kirk has been in the field of marketing for more than 15 years, building email marketing programs for web sites, virtual businesses and brick and mortar companies. He is an advocate of online education, with two undergraduate degrees and a digital design diploma, all awarded from online universities. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his dogs, watching movies, and trying to stay on track at the gym. In addition to his position at APUS, he owns a blog, browserspencer.com, where he shares email marketing tips and personal life experiences.
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