Welcome to the “What NOT to Do When Building an Online Community!” group of articles. In this article, we cover something that may seem obvious, but it's a common mistake for community leaders and instructors:
Don't email your established community members with content inviting them to join it.
You should be looking at the title of this article and saying to yourself, “Of course you don't do that – why would someone treat a person in a community as if they weren't in it?” But it happens way too often. The cause of this problem is simple. It's poor email management. When you don't sort your emails in specific groups, everyone gets every email you send.
Some people would argue that it's not a problem at all. Here's the logic behind this opinion: if you send your established community an invitation email, they might (key word there!) send it to one of their friends. And if they don't want it or don't want to read it, it's no big deal. The reader will delete it and move on with their daily tasks.
Huh? In the flood of daily emails, do you really want for your established community to have to think in detail to do something for you and help you out by forwarding your email as you sent something to them which had nothing to do with you? Even this previous sentence illustrates the point – too much detail with expectations to respond!
Besides, do you really want anyone in your community choosing to ignore your emails? That doesn't sound like a good plan, does it?
Now we've covered what not to do, let's talk about the solutions for what to do when it comes to managing your community members' email addresses.
First, create groups for the emails you receive. Basic groups you want to create right away are for your prospects and your established community. You might want to create sub-groups, based on your promotional campaigns, and also for specific groups you've created, such as your mastermind groups. If you have a good email contact management application you use, sometimes it is capable to email your contacts based on the interests and subjects they've selected.
Secondly, build email campaigns which are intentionally crafted to meet needs, attract interest and grow loyalty from your community. Plan the content with valuable information and opportunities to get involved in your community and grow their involvement. Pace your sales pitches so that not every email you send is an opportunity to buy something from you. If your online community platform is able to assist you with specific email opportunities, including emailing members of groups or spaces in the platform, use those opportunities with a planned strategy. There is nothing wrong to email your established community members with information about a new member promotion, but you should frame it with an acknowledgement that you're not trying to sell them – you're selling their friends.
Lastly, if you happen to make a mistake and send the wrong email to some or all of your community members, acknowledge the mistake. Send a correction email and explain what happened. Use the opportunity to communicate with your community and let them know you appreciate them and want to treat them well.
One disclaimer, though, which applies to this article and every article in this series: mistakes and bad decisions happen in business all of the time. The reason why we share these strategies and others is because we don't want friends like you to make them. Yes, we write about real situations and actual cases, but we don't “name names” and we certainly don't want to embarrass anyone. So if you are reading this article and you're thinking we're writing about you . . . it's highly unlikely that you're the one we're talking about. But we would be honored to help you make a turnaround and set up your email systems to be the best you can offer to your customers.
And do us a favor – like and share this article and others with your friends, especially on social media!