Starting a Forum Newsletter

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Pigoo, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. Pigoo

    Pigoo Enthusiast

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    Hello all. Hopefully this is the best area for this question.

    Want to start a newsletter for the website...and need to know a few things:

    1. How do you determine who to send the initial newsletter to?

    I would really rather not create a "Subscibe to Newsletter" button...and slowly wait for members to slowly subscribe (of course a newsletter subscribe area will be setup for future subscriptions). To initially start things off...what do you think would be the best way to determine who to send the initial newsletter to?

    I was thinking all active members in the last 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, etc. The question is how many forum members to send out to initially. I have 1000's and 1000's of members to choose from...so I guess deciding how many members t send out the newsletter initially would be good to know.

    Of course the newletter will contain an unsubscribe link for those members that wish not to receive future newsletters.

    2. What's the best way to compose forum newsletters...have everything be automated as much as possible...and handle all the emailing for you?

    I've heard of email services such as "MailChimp" that handle this sort of stuff for you. Some of these services have free plans...and some have pay/month plans. These plans of course come at a cost (have monthly total subscriber limits & total emails sent/month) limits.

    Was wondering if using one of these services is worth it...or if there's a way to do everything yourself (for free)...with no limits on the number of subscribers & number of total emails sent.month?

    3. What is the best sort of content to include in a forum newsletter?

    - Should it be some of the recent most active & interesting discussion threads?
    - Should it include some facts & figures relative to the forum niche?
    - Should it include possible DIY items relative to the forum niche?
    - Any other suggestions?

    Newletter will also include some website advertising partner contact info/deals as well.

    4. How often do you think a forum newsletter should be sent (one/week, one/2 weeks, one/month, etc.)?

    Thanks much.:)
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
  2. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

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    1. Who to send the newsletter to?
    The simple answer is your target audience. Assuming you've already done the necessary analysis to determine that a newsletter is needed, you should already know which member groups will benefit most from receiving it.

    2. Best way to compose...?
    That depends on how you've decided to deliver the newsletter. If it's going to be html based, then services like MailChimp have templates you can use and do a good job of sending them out on a schedule. If it's going to be pdf based, for people to be able to print and read off-line, you probably want to use a good word processing/publishing software to design your own templates. Then you can choose to email them or simply make them available for download.

    3. What to include...?
    This question is a big red flag. If you don't know what you should include in the newsletter, how can you know that anyone wants to receive it? Without a purpose that serves a defined need, your newsletter isn't likely to gain traction with your members.

    What goes into your newsletter should add extra value to what you already have in your forum. Most members probably won't welcome a replay of threads they've already read, sprinkled with forum statistics they don't care about and ads they don't want.

    4. How often to send it?
    That's something that you need to figure out. How often are you going to have enough material for the newsletter? Keep in mind, your enthusiasm and imagination will diminish over time. A good rule of thumb is to choose a publishing cycle that is longer than your content development time. So if it takes a month or so to put together the articles for the newsletter, go with a quarterly publication cycle. That way, you slowly build up a backlog of useful content for every edition.
     
  3. Ingenious

    Ingenious Fan

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    You say you don't want to have a subscribe button and wait for a list to grow... but that way ensures only people who want to get your newsletter will receive it. You can have an opt-in tick box in your registration form and push it via posts to get the word out. Offer incentives to those who sign up.

    Good practice with privacy gains trust from your community. Think about consent, privacy and GDRP (if applies in your country). Also people clicking SPAM in their email clients risks you being blacklisted by some networks. You could annoy a lot of members if you decide who gets your newsletter; being an active user is NOT the same as consenting to go on a mailing list.

    Just my opinion of course.
     
  4. Pigoo

    Pigoo Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the help & reply Nev_Dull.:)

    Unfortunately what was mentioned is really not that helpful (specifically)...really just theoretical debate/discusssion type of stuff...but nothing specific. I actually included some specific info within each of the questions (which I thought would help Admin Zone members reply).:)

    Maybe my questions were unclear or confusing...I'll try to rephrase.:)

    Question 1. This will be newsletter #1. Since I want to get the ball rolling ASAP...I wanted to send it out to a bunch of forum members...most likely based on their recent activity level (active status). What I was asking was...how many members do you guys think I should send the newsletter out to initially? As mentioned above...I have 1000's & 1000's of members to select from (actually have over 300,000 members to select from)...but wanted to draw the line somewhere. And thought that using a members "active status" as a good way to draw the line as far as who gets the initial newsletter & who doesn't. That's why I mentioned if they were active within the last last 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, etc.

    Question 2. The best way to compose question is not based so much on HOW the newsletter will be composed (template or word processing/publishing app)...it's more about managing the actual mailing of the newsletters. When you have a large volume of newsletters to send out (possibily multiple 1000's)...I'm thinking the actual mailing of each newsletter edition can be cumbersome...and possibily having a service that helps automate things could be helpful. But if doing this is a free/non-service way is easy...I'm open to those suggestions too.:)

    Question 3. I gave examples above on items I thought could be useful to include in a newsletter...not sure why you ignored them...and went the "BIg Red Flag" way of answering the question. I KNOW what my forum members are interested in...what I was asking was...of the items I mentioned (and maybe some others could suggest additional ideas)...what works the best in a newsletter.

    Question 4. This was about how often to send out a forum newsletter. Again...I'm looking for answers from experienced members regarding what they have found works best. Sure...I will learn over time what works best. But wanted an idea of what frequency to start with.

    Would really appreciate specific recommendations from Admin Zone members that have experience sending out forum newsletters...and what they found have worked best.:)

    Thanks
     
  5. Pigoo

    Pigoo Enthusiast

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    Maybe this question was confusing. There will be a newsletter subscribe button from day 1 (the day that newsletter #1 goes out)...and any member that does not automaticaly receive newsletter #1 (which I've explained above)...or any new member that joins in the future & wants to receive the newsletter...can most defintley subscribe that way.:)

    As far as newsletter #1...and the initial subscription list...I think there are two ways to approach this sort of thing...the active approach & the passive approach. If you're up to speed on the trends of the average internet user in 2019...you will find that the average person just wants to be fed information & content...and when these folks do take an active role...they want it to be as easy & simple as possible.

    Take the average internet forum for example. The vast number of internet forum members enjoy "lurking" (reading the threads & browsing the site & learning from the discussions)...and a much smaller percent of forum members are the one's that actualy ask questions or reply to member questions on a regular basis.

    In other words...if you wait for the average internet user to do something on their own...they more than likely will not do it. This is why taking the active approach to sending out newsletters (at least with newsletter issue #1)...is probably the better approach. This way you get your forums "product" in front of them (the newsletter)...then they can decide to continue receiving it...or opt-out with an unsubscribe link.

    If the passive approach to the newsletter is used (at least for issue #1)...after 6 months you may find yourself with only 10 subscribers...since most humans are naturally lazy.;)

    Thanks very much...these are some great ideas...I like them!:)

    Thanks for the help.:)
     
  6. zappaDPJ

    zappaDPJ Administrator

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    I don't know if it's already been mentioned but you should have an opt out option and statement with any unsolicited email you send. You should also be prepared to respond in an appropriate manner to (for example) the relatives of a deceased member who have received an unsolicited email. It's a rare occurrence but it does happen and it's best to be prepared :)
     
  7. Pigoo

    Pigoo Enthusiast

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    Ooh yes...totally know about this. Mentioned in post 1.:)

    Yes this does happen....and many other delicate situations. It's unfortunate when a death in a forums membership occurs. It has happened to me both on my website...and other forums I've belonged to over the years.

    Thanks
     
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  8. Threadloom

    Threadloom Sponsor

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    Hi Pigoo -

    Have you found your solution yet? If so, I hope this helps the next person coming by:

    1. How do you determine who to send the initial newsletter to?
    You should start to send to your most active users - and slowly add people in, I'd suggest not going beyond 5 years for the first 8-12 newsletter sends.
    You shouldn't send to 10k people at once. You need to ramp up the sending to prevent landing in spam folders etc.
    You can use modals to pop up to capture new email addresses, which is a great way to continue to grow your newsletter reach. I've seen a modal list actually outgrow some folks active forum newsletter list.

    2. What's the best way to compose forum newsletters...have everything be automated as much as possible...and handle all the emailing for you?
    It depends on what's easiest for you. At minimum I'd suggest having someway to generate a list to start out with. You didn't mention what platform you are on, so I can't make a recommendation there.

    3. What is the best sort of content to include in a forum newsletter?
    I always recommend sending content from the on-topic sections of the newsletter. Avoid chit chat areas. However, some classified sections are big pluses for some folks to send out.

    4. How often do you think a forum newsletter should be sent (one/week, one/2 weeks, one/month, etc.)?
    At a minimum, I recommend once per week. Folks have to be warmed up to the newsletter, and come to expect it. Believe it or not, I have some folks send an email 7x per week. When the newsletter missed etc, I got reports of folks asking where it was etc. Now the newsletter provides almost as much traffic as Google.

    Here's a case study we did on frequency


    Here's another case study we did on modal integration


    If you still have questions, I'm happy to help.
     
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