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Mailing List TIPS
Listserv® is a trademarked mailing list brand from www.lsoft.com. More organizations are using mailing lists(Listserv, Yahoo, Majordomo) as an outreach and community building tool, but not always effectively. Mailing lists can be a powerful tool or contribute to email glut and create angry recipients. Here are a few basics and tips to help.
A discussion list is an online community of people who discuss a specific topic or topics using email. List members join the discussion by subscribing (for free) to the list. Every person who subscribes to the list will receive all email sent to the list. This is a great way to have community discussions or to broadcast messages and announcements. A discussion list is one way for community groups to manage their email contacts, because it allows group members to sign up and remove themselves as they like. No appointed person has to remember when to add and subtract people. Individuals members no longer must maintain their own email lists, because the mailing listdoes all the work. Discussion lists can be set up in different ways, depending on what your group needs.
Mailing lists provide a single address (email@example.com) to send messages to a larger group of list subscribers (members). A mailing list is best used when you want to: 1) send to a number of people at once; 2) have an easy method and central place to add new members/subscribers; and/or 3) provide a meeting ground for discussion.
Many organizations are now using mailing lists for distributing their electronic newsletters (ezines). Choices include making use of HTML emails or text emails that link to a web site. We prefer the latter because all computers can read text email, but some older computers can't read HTML email. In fact, many people dislike HTML email because its large "footprint" requires too much space on email servers and clients. It is smarter, we think, to simply include a URL in an email announcement that takes the recipient to a web based newsletter by choice rather than by force.
One way or two?
There are announcement (one-way) lists and discussion (two-way) lists. Discussion lists let any member of the list respond to the full list. These are best used when you want to encourage sharing of expertise and resources or problem solving. The risk of two-way lists is the sharing of opinions with which all do not agree, and the concomitant need to keep people on-topic and respectful.
If you only want to announce, it could be just as simple to keep the list as a group in your email address book. The disadvantage is that no one else can operate the list and people cannot self-subscribe.
Lists are closed or open.
Either you decide who is on it (e.g., only our members) or you make it available for anyone interested in the topic.
Effective lists have limitations.
The more clear you are about what your list is about, and for whom, the better the content and participation will be. People donít want to waste their time.
All lists must be moderated to some degree.
This applies to encouraging dialogue and to controlling members and messages. You can decide whether you will have a list which requires you to pre-approve new members. (Even if you want to control who is on the list, you can still put in an email link.) In addition, you also usually have the option of pre-approving messages before they get posted. This puts an added burden on the list manager, but ensures items are on topic and not inflammatory. Always, it is critical for the moderator to ensure that people are respectful and stay on topic.
Participation takes encouragement.
Most discussion lists go through lulls and periods of banter dominated by a few prolific emailers. You can help encourage participation by focusing a week on a specific topic, asking simple questions, seeking alternate opinions or pre-arranging lead participants.
Dont over do it.
Emailing takes your message directly to your target audience rather than waiting for them to come to your web site.
Be brief so readers can skim the articles.
How many emails do you want per day? Its better to send fewer emails that include a couple of items and/or the most important ones than to flood people to a point where they dont read your posts. Most folks dont like to read really long emails, so: 1) be clear in the subject line what your message is about; 2) put a grabber line and most critical info in the first paragraph; 3) write succinctly; and 4) use the list message as enticement and include a link to broader information you post on the web.
Lists do not stand alone.
They are only one tool and aspect of your total outreach and engagement strategy. They dont replace the need for personal and individual contact.
Where to sign up and get more info
Ask your ISP, free community network or use a free web service, such as Yahoo Groups. Let us know if you also have favorite discussion list reference links. Here are a few links for more info:
Electronic Mailing Lists on PAN
Neighborhood and community groups can set up an email discussion list for free through the city. Find the City's Electronic Conferencing and List Services Policies here.
Yahoo Groups Mailing Lists
Yahoo Groups offers free e-mail discussion list services, and free email addresses.
Yahoo groups require users to register a login with them.
Seattle Community Network (SCN)
SCN provides groups with mailing lists for discussions or announcements.