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The Dynamic Social Web: The Role of Email Discussion Lists

By Outi Tuomaala
Executive Vice President, L-Soft

Outi Tuomaala, Executive Vice President, L-Soft

The social Web and online collaboration are top among the newest Web trends. Email maintains its position among online applications as a driver of constituent and customer communication and engagement – the very core of the social Web. As an L-Soft customer, you have a powerful online communication platform in LISTSERV®. This article offers ideas for creating user participation and connections easily on your Web site, giving you the ability to harness the power and dynamic qualities of the social Web. If you haven't yet started with external email discussion lists, now it is time to take a look at the opportunities.

Many-to-many communication power

The social Web is by no means a brand new concept. The Internet has been a social medium as early as people started to communicate via networks. But now we have many more applications to choose from and a broader user base. Therefore, the social Web, sometimes called Web 2.0, has hit the mainstream like never before as inexpensive, easy-to-use, Internet services, online applications and broadband access are available to many.

As a result, consumer behavior is changing rapidly. The viral marketing power tool, namely, word-of-mouth, shapes much of what becomes trendy. As a result, many-to-many online interaction has now made an unprecedented impact. The social Web enables Web users to easily generate and share content, creating networks for work, socialization, entertainment, virtual life and friendship more than before. Companies and organizations alike can engage members, fans, users, customers and stakeholders in discussion, online collaboration and social networking.

If you are only running one-way email lists, such as newsletters and announcement lists, it is time to look into the opportunity for two-way communication by adding external email discussion lists to your LISTSERV platform. By including discussion lists in your communication mix, you can infuse new energy into your brand and customer relations.

The ever-versatile and perpetually popular email list

Even if many other forms of communication have emerged, for example blogs, email lists still are more versatile in use and allow the sender to reach people more quickly. Often the key differences between email lists and blogs are in the areas of membership, communication direction and response opportunities. People usually read blogs online or as an RSS feed. In comparison, the members of email lists receive an email message in their inbox as soon as a member has posted a message to the list. The LISTSERV email list management program also offers the opportunity to read and respond to the postings online using its Web interface or subscribe to the email list via an RSS feed. The direction of email lists can be set to anything and everything between one-to-many and many-to-many communication.

Email discussion lists as a jump-starter for user engagement

Websites without any customer, member, or visitor engagement are soon to be, if not already, passť. But those organizations that engage and stay in touch with visitors via email lists create connections, giving them the ability to stay dynamic and attractive thanks to user involvement. They offer customers, members, and Website visitors an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with one another and the organization. Participants generate and share content via the discussion forums available on the Website. LISTSERV email discussion lists serve as a framework for public discussions and enable many-to-many communication, offering a proven approach to jump-starting user engagement. Successful email lists can quickly spread a positive word-of-mouth wave across the Web.

Support, ideas and expertise via email discussion lists

Email lists can be product discussion forums where customers share their opinions, questions, ideas and expertise. As an example, a digital camera manufacturer could start an email discussion list where customers and users share their tips and tricks about photography and how to best use the camera they purchased or are about to purchase. This stimulates participation and engagement. As a result, positive word-of-mouth spreads from the discussion list and more people join the group, with the outcome of enhancing customer retention as well as building a solid foundation for new customer acquisition. With this type of ongoing cycle, the company or organization hosting the discussion forum often gets valuable input and ideas back from the users and community, which can then be channeled to shape product development or customer service to improve the organization's services. The email discussion list with searchable online Web archives can turn into an active community or loyalty hub for customers. This simple application of email discussion list technology can have a sweeping impact in terms of making the brand experience and customer/stakeholder connection stronger.

Getting started

If you already have one-way email lists, such as newsletters, you are familiar how unbeatable a communication tool they are to stay in touch and build relationships with Website visitors. However, here are a few questions you can use when starting to map your email discussion list opportunities:

  • Do you have external email discussion lists today?
  • What are the topics, projects, products and services that interest your constituents? How about conducting a simple survey to gain their input and communication preferences?
  • Can you start a user forum or an expertise sharing forum with your constituents?
  • Can email discussion lists help you to offer an online support forum?
  • What is the best place to add your email discussion list to your Web presence?
  • Have you tested internal discussion lists within your organization? What experiences can you apply to setting up your external forums?

LISTSERV software as the proven engine for email discussion lists

LISTSERV is the only solution of its kind with a more than 20-year proven track record of supporting all types of email discussion lists, and thus encouraging versatile interaction among email list members. An easy-to-use Web interface allows email list members to automatically subscribe, unsubscribe and change their email addresses or subscription settings. Naturally, LISTSERV automatically handles bounces or delivery errors, maintains searchable online message archives and provides security features that keep the email list free from viruses and spam. LISTSERV supports email discussion lists with or without moderation, with one or several moderators to accommodate your email discussion needs. It is a social media tool worth applying among other trendy social software offerings. Simply put, for two decades LISTSERV has been building communities through one of the most popular and enduring Internet applications – namely email. Take a look at the ways email discussion lists can build your presence on the social Web today.

Copyright 2007 L-Soft