In following up on yesterday’s post about viral marketing and social networks, today I’d like to talk about e-mail communication and listservs.
This is a tricky area because while listservs are composed of users associated with an organization, the behavior of users represent the organization as a whole. Many organizations avoid monitoring or sanctioning users on listservs as the goal of listservs is to get the highest number of users to be as interactive as possible.
I think this is a mistake. A listserv is like a party: it’s only as good as its participants and rowdy or miscreant guests detract from everyone.
But it’s not usually as bad as all that. Barring trolls, most listserv users have good intentions, but sloppy e-mailing can waste everyone’s time.
A well managed listserv that states its user guidelines upon registration will make everyone happy and maximize use of the service.
3 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
1. The e-mail headline does not provide enough information. Users have to click to the body of the e-mail to figure out its point. This is a waste of time.
2. The listserv is national and is dominated by regional posts by users who do not state their exact locations. For instance, the e-mails I get from Israeli organizations usually assume that everyone is in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and often fail to state the city (perhaps only mentioning a restaurant or street name). There are too many Ben-Gurion, Mesada, and Trumpledor streets for me to parse these details quickly. This is a waste of energy.
3. Posts are off-topic. Just because people on a listserv share common values, this doesn’t justify off-topic posting. I am a member of a number of listservs for community service organizations, but I limit my interest in their posts to their relevancy in my daily life. I understand that someone who is searching for an apartment or selling furniture might want to make a transaction with someone with allied values– it’s nice to share with friends– but on a listserv about Jewish volunteering, I really don’t care to receive notices about San Francisco sublets or pets for sale in Ra’anana. This is a waste of value.
The key purpose of listservs is for those with common interests to have access to broad swaths of information from like-minded users. Access should be quick and painless.
Key information on posts’ content should be included in the heading so that users can click or delete. Posts should be relevant to the interests o the community as a whole and on-topic to the listserv’s stated objectives.
Listservs are a great tool for social networking as they have the capacity to maintain and develop connections between users and among groups of people, but effective moderation mandates that these guidelines are followed.
Otherwise, the only button I’ll be clicking is “unsubscribe.”