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Serial mail dispatch with SoSci Survey

Sending serial mails with SoSci Survey If you want to send serial mails, you can either create them directly with SoSci Survey or with an external program. This tutorial is about how to create serial mails with SoSci Survey. General further steps and hints can be found in the superordinate chapter Sending serial mails.

Sending an invitation email using SoSci Survey is done in three steps under Send invitations:

  1. Import of e-mail addresses (if necessary with name for a personalized salutation)
  2. Creating the serial e-mail (contents of the e-mail and, if necessary, defining the questionnaire)
  3. Schedule shipping for a later date or do it immediately

Important: If you send serial mails via SoSci Survey, then set Serial mail (not to be confused with Serial number!) as access restriction in the questionnaire. This way, access is only possible once (if not set differently in the serial mail) and only with the personalized links from the invitation mail.

Important: Use the placeholder %link% for the questionnaire link in the serial mail and do not enter the link to the questionnaire directly. In this way, you ensure that personalized participation links are sent.

Important: If you want to send serial e-mails via SoSci Survey, you must first conclude an order processing contract (AVV see Personal data). To do this, you must enter the data of your responsible office or yourself and click on the line marked yellow in the contract after it has been created. Only then is the GCP confirmed and you can start creating the serial emails.

Important: The function for sending e-mails is not automatically enabled on www.soscisurvey.en (except for user accounts registered with certain university e-mail addresses). An individual activation should prevent bad people from misusing SoSci Survey as a spam slinger. If shipping is not yet unlocked for your user account, SoSci Survey will show a corresponding request form instead of the shipping option.

Tip: Before sending, go through the serial mail checklist to avoid mistakes when sending.

Tip: If serial mails do not arrive, read Serial mails do not arrive.

Tip: If you want to create valid personalized links without sending an email, you can use the API Access for Personalized Participation Links feature or Send Invitations → Participation Links (see below).

Import e-mail addresses In order for SoSci Survey to send emails, you must first import the recipients' addresses. There are three ways to do this under Send invitations → Address list → Import addresses:

  1. Import a list of e-mail addresses. If you want to import only e-mail addresses (without names), then it works very simply. You copy all e-mail addresses to the clipboard and paste them into the large text field under Direct Import. It doesn't matter if the email addresses are separated by commas, are on separate lines, or if there is other text in between - SoSci Survey will pick out anything that looks like an email address.
  2. Read in a table with contact data. If you want to address the recipients personally by name, you need at least the name of the person. If the contact data is available in tabular form, you can import a CSV file under Import e-mail addresses → Import via CSV file. OpenOffice Calc or Excel can save tables as CSV files (e.g. “CSV UTF-8” in Excel). The assignment of the table columns is done during the import.
  3. Manual input of individual addresses. This option is only useful for a small number of addresses. It can be found under Add addresses individually.

The e-mail distribution list created in this way can also be downloaded as a CSV file (Download e-mail distribution list).

Important: When importing, explicitly select the correct data protection mode that you need for your survey project.

Prepare serial mail

Composing the e-mail is hardly any different than in the e-mail program: Under Send invitations → Mail merge click on New mail merge and then enter the subject and text in the Content setting item.

Further settings can be made under the additional setting items Reminder/Follow-up mail, Questionnaire link, Salutation, Imprint and Images/Appendices (see below).

However, there are also some peculiarities when composing the mails.

Placeholder and personalization

The serial mail differs from a normal mail in one important point: Each addressee should receive a personalized link to the questionnaire (in order to track participation) and possibly the salutation should also be personalized. For this purpose, placeholders such as %salut% (for the salutation) or %link% (for the link to the questionnaire) are used in the e-mail text. To try it out, SoSci Survey shows a preview after saving.

How SoSci Survey formulates the salutation can be adjusted in the Salutation tab, if necessary.

An overview of the available placeholders is provided in the chapter Placeholders in Mail Merge.

HTML mails

SoSci Survey supports the possibility to send HTML mails with formatting. Usually the good old text mails are sufficient (everybody can read them and they are not classified as advertising/spam so fast), but HTML mails support formatting of the text (use sparingly!) and can actually prepare the link to the questionnaire as a hyperlink. This saves problems with non/incomplete clickable links.

If you want to send your email as a combined text/HTML email, first prepare the content as text. Then click the Create HTML from Text Version button, and then modify the HTML content as needed.

Questionnaire link

Under Questionnaire Link you can set …

  • Which questionnaire should be called, if there are several questionnaires in the survey project
  • how long the access key used in the personalized link should be
  • whether the personalized link should allow multiple completion of the questionnaire (useful possibly in diary studies)
  • which text appears in the HTML mail for the link to the questionnaire

Send e-mail

When editing the serial mail as well as in the overview of serial mails you will find a button Sending serial mail. If you select this button, you can set the options for sending the serial mail. A serial mail will only be sent after you have checked and confirmed all options.

With this function you can either send the serial mail directly or schedule the dispatch for a later time (if necessary also randomized). You can set whether the serial mail should only be sent to certain addressees (specified by e-mail address) or to certain subgroups. In addition, you can specify which recipients of the original invitation receive the follow-up mails (reminder mails, etc.).

After selecting the target group, you have to decide whether the serial mail should be sent immediately or whether the server should send it automatically at a defined time. The latter allows convenient preparation of sending and reminder mails - at the actual time of sending you don't have to worry about anything.

Important: In the case of reminder emails, only those addressees who also received the original email to which the reminder email refers will receive an email as a matter of principle. Depending on what further restrictions you set, it is only a subset of these addressees.

Important: If you do the shipping immediately, you may not see anything on the screen at first. Please be patient for up to 2 minutes.

Continuing interviews

If the serial mail function or links with individual serial numbers are used, SoSci Survey “recognizes” the participant. If a participant starts the interview, then closes the questionnaire in between and later clicks on the personalized link again, he can continue the interview at the same point.

In practice, however, there is a problem with this function: Some participants would like to view the questionnaire first (e.g. click through without giving answers) and only fill it out later. If SoSci Survey would always continue the survey, these participants would only see the last page “Thank you for participating” the second time.

Therefore, SoSci Survey checks at the beginning if the participant answered any questions at all last time. If the participant left more than 50% of the asked (not all!) questions unanswered, the questionnaire starts on the first page. If he has answered at least half of the asked questions, the survey continues directly.

You can adjust the threshold value for resuming incomplete interviews in the questionnaire settings (Compile questionnaire → Settings tab). Specifying 0% completely deactivates the restart. However, please note that participants may then no longer be able to complete the questionnaire if they initially just wanted to take a look at it.

Individual shipping times

Sometimes a serial mail should not be sent to all address data at the same time. For the individual control of the serial mail dispatch you can fall back on the following functions in SoSci Survey:

  • The PHP function mailSchedule() allows to prepare a serial mail dispatch directly in the running interview.
  • This allows a person to be invited to a second questionnaire, for example, one week after completing the first questionnaire, see Multi-Wave Surveys in Self-Recruitment.
  • Likewise, this method is well suited to schedule a larger number of serial emails for a diary study. The PHP function strtotime() allows a very flexible design of the sending time, e.g. strtotime('next monday +1 day 13:30:00')
  • For the Experince Sampling Method (ESM) or Mobile Experince Sampling Method (MESM), a period can be specified when sending serial mails (which can be SMS, but the SMS dispatch is subject to a charge), within which the dispatch should take place at a random time. The option can be found in the regular sending of a serial mail when selecting the time.
  • Predefined shipping schedules can be imported as a table in CSV format: Import shipping schedules

Manage distribution list

In the Send invitations → Address list (panel) menu item, you can see not only the imported e-mail addresses in the Panel overview tab, but also the participation status of the respective addressees. The participation status is saved individually for each serial mail - to display it, select Show at participation status for the corresponding serial mail.

If you click on the edit icon (Edit) for an entry, you can edit the entry and you will see a list of all serial emails sent to the participant (incl. participation status) below. It is not shown when the participant has called up the questionnaire, because this would allow a clear assignment to a data record and thus endanger anonymity.

To clean up the distribution list (e.g. delete a subgroup, duplicate addresses, etc.) you will find some useful functions in the Manage Addresses tab.

Incorrect e-mail addresses

If an e-mail address is not (or no longer) valid, SoSci Survey receives a corresponding error message when it is sent - usually within 15 minutes, but in individual cases up to 2 days can pass before the error message is received. The program checks to which address the message refers and marks the corresponding entry as incorrect: A red/orange flashing symbol appears as participation status and the entry is marked red in the list.

Addresses with errors will not receive serial mails in future mailings - unless you reset the error status. To do this, edit the entry (Edit) and click the corresponding button.

If you know the correct address of the participant, you can either enter it directly (Edit) or use the Update addresses tab. After the change, the error status is automatically reset.

If you now want to send the serial mail again to the corrected addressee(s), simply start sending the original serial mail again. The serial mail will automatically be sent only to those addressees who have not yet received the e-mail (see below).

Add addresses later

You can also add addresses to the distribution list later. A serial mail is basically delivered to each addressee only once: This means that you can simply resend the serial mail - only the new addressees will receive it.

Reminder mails

Sending reminder emails (or even from a second survey wave, to which only participants from the first wave should be invited) works as follows:

  1. Create a new serial mail (Send invitations → Serial mails → New serial mail).
  2. In the “Reminder/follow-up mail” tab, select the original invitation for “Reminder/follow-up mail for”. Important: Always select the original invitation, even if you send multiple reminder emails. If a participant clicks on the questionnaire in a reminder mail, the participation status will also be entered in the original mail.
  3. For Type of follow-up mail, select “Reminder or continuation”.
  4. Customize the content of the serial mail in the Content tab as needed. The text must contain (as in the original serial mail) a placeholder %link% for the personalized participation link.
  5. At the bottom of the mail merge or after saving the new mail merge (Close), you can prepare a new mailing by sending the mail merge and specify who should receive the reminder mail under Participation status.

You can create a reminder email in advance and schedule it to be sent at a later time. The participation status, which decides whether the reminder is sent or not, is determined immediately before the reminder is sent.

Basically, a reminder email is only sent to those participants who also received the original invitation. Depending on the settings for the participation status, only some of these addressees will receive the reminder.

Important: Each serial mail is delivered to each addressee only once. So you cannot send the same reminder to the same addressee more than once. If you want to send multiple reminders, create a new serial mail per reminder round.

Keywords: reminder email, follow up, reminder, reminder, follow up, participation status, secondwave survey, thank you email, thank you email

File attachments

A serial mail can also contain images or file attachments. For example, a logo can be displayed directly in the (HTML) mail.

First upload the files under Images and Media Files. Select the *protected file storage* if you do not want the files to be viewable over the Internet.

Then open the serial mail for editing and select the *Images/Appendices* tab there. In the drop-down selection under *Add images or documents*, select the first file you want to attach. More drop-down boxes will appear, allowing you to select additional files as needed. After saving the serial mail (Save serial mail), the attachments are listed in a table.

Images and documents are treated differently. Documents are included as regular file attachments, images are included in the e-mail but are not displayed as attachments by default. Instead, an <img> tag appears in the table, with which the image can be used directly in the HTML part of the serial mail as an image.

To delete file attachments, place a check mark in the column with the trash can icon and then save the serial mail.

Multi-wave surveys

During import, each e-mail address is assigned an individual identifier (person identifier), which later appears in the data set as SERIAL (but only if the data protection mode for the addresses is not “anonymous” or “anonymize”). This identifier remains until the e-mail address is deleted from the project.

Multi-wave surveys can therefore be implemented quite easily: For each survey wave, a serial e-mail is created and sent. If the e-mail addresses are imported without a personal identifier, the participants remain pseudonymous and the data records can still be assigned on the basis of the personal identifier (variable SERIAL).

If in a later survey wave only those addressees are to be contacted who also participated in the previous wave, the follow-up mail function can be used. For this purpose, when creating the serial mail, you specify in the Reminder/follow-up mail for field which previous serial mail the new invitation refers to. In the function Sending serial mail you can specify that only those addressees should receive the e-mail who followed the other invitation.

en/survey/mailing/sosci.txt · Last modified: 15.02.2023 10:28 by sportpsychotestraum
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