If you’re running a business, sports club, charity or educational establishment, you’ll understand how important effective communication and collaboration is.
In the modern digital world it seems like there are countless ways to collaborate online, whether it’s via WhatsApp groups, Facebook groups, Slack channels or Discord servers.
But sometimes you want something that is affordable, professional, uses established technology that everyone has access to, and has the benefit of having all messages archived for future reference.
If this sounds like what you’re looking for, you might benefit from using a Listserv.
Listserv: your group communication ally
A listserv is a type of email service that allows a group of people to communicate via email.
By sending an email to one email address, it will automatically be sent to all the people who have signed up to be part of the Listserv.
This makes it a great way for groups of people to easily share information, collaborate, and stay connected.
LISTSERV® is actually a registered trademark of L-Soft, who created one of the earliest and most popular Listserv group email communication tools. But the term ‘Listserv’ is now synonymous with any list-based group email technology.
Think about it in the same way that people refer to a sticky note as a Post-it® note, or a hot tub as a Jacuzzi®.
When we’re talking about Listserv in this article, we’re referring to the commonly used term for the technology.
What are the major benefits of a Listserv?
Easy to set up
Listservs are relatively easy to set up.
Most modern Listserv software is user-friendly and doesn’t require advanced technical skills or development teams to get things up and running.
And once it’s set up, modern Listservs are typically simple to manage and maintain.
Easy to build a community amongst your subscribers
A Listserv provides an effective way for your subscribers to share their ideas and knowledge and collaborate on projects.
This can lead to a greater sense of community among group members.
Listservs are incredibly affordable. This is one of the things that makes the technology so attractive for small businesses, sports clubs and charities.
A Listserv can also be customised to suit the specific needs of each email group.
Some groups might benefit from receiving each individual message to the email address. Others might benefit from receiving a daily or weekly digest of the messages sent to the group.
Listservs automatically archive all messages. This makes it easy to search and retrieve important information at a later date if needed.
You’re able to set up a Listserv so that members can easily subscribe or unsubscribe themselves. This can make it easier to manage your email list.
Organically grow your email list
By providing a platform for discussion and collaboration, your subscribers may choose to forward messages from the Listserv with others that they think would be interested in the content.
Your engaged community can help you attract new subscribers.
Additionally, most Listserv technology can be easily integrated with your website. This can make it easy for people to sign up to your email list and begin receiving your content.
Who can benefit from using a Listserv?
Listserv technology is suitable for any organisation that wants to reach targeted groups of people with their message and potentially prompt a group email discussion.
We’ve put together a small list of the types of organisations that might benefit from Listserv and some ways they might use it.
Businesses: Collaborating with internal teams
Listservs can be a great way for businesses to keep their teams connected and aligned on important projects.
You might set up a mailing list for each department or project team so they can share updates, discuss upcoming milestones or review current performance. This can help boost productivity and improve decision making.
Businesses: Email marketing
Listservs can also be a powerful tool for businesses to reach their customers and prospects.
By creating a mailing list of opted-in email addresses, businesses can send targeted messages, promotions and updates to a large number of people at once.
This can help increase brand awareness and drive sales.
Most modern Listserv solutions can support HTML email, so you can still send emails that look eye-catching and compelling.
Listservs can be a great low-cost solution for sports clubs to keep their members in the loop on upcoming events, practice schedules and team news. By allowing members to reply to the group and start discussions, it can really help foster a sense of community and bring the team together.
By using a Listserv, charities can keep their supporters informed about their work and upcoming events. They can also be used internally between volunteers and management to help co-ordinate events and discuss fundraising strategies.
A Listserv can provide an easy and effective way to send out announcements, assignments, and other information. They can also be used for class discussion, managing group projects, and sharing resources.
Listservs can be a great way for event planners to coordinate conferences, meetings, and workshops with their subscribed attendees.
How to create a Listserv in a few simple steps
Choose the right Listserv software
There are many different types of Listserv software available, each with their own different features and benefits.
We’d recommend making a list of the things that are important to you in your chosen software, whether that’s cost, ease of use, deliverability of emails or customer support.
By understanding what is most important to you, you’ll be able to choose the software that best meets your needs and has the features you require.
Complete a simple setup process
Once you’ve made your decision on the software you’re going to use, it’s time to set up your Listserv.
Every solution will have a slightly different set up process, but the typical steps will involve creating an account, choosing a name for your Listserv, and configuring your settings.
The settings that are most important are the level of moderation, the type of messages that are allowed, the subscription process, and what types of attachments (if any) are permitted.
With modern Listserv technology the setup process is easy and user-friendly, so don’t worry if you’re not tech-savvy.
Import your email contact list
Once your Listserv is set up and configured the way you want it, you can start adding members.
A common way to do this is by importing a CSV of your email contact list. Most Listserv software will need you to agree that the contacts have all opted-in to email communication, in line with relevant data privacy legislation.
You can also add your Listserv sign up to your website and other channels at this point, to help the organic growth of your subscriber list.
Send your content
Now that your Listserv is set up and has members, you can start creating content, sending messages, and setting up discussion threads.
It’s really that easy!
Interested in exploring the power of Listserv?
After reading this article, you’ll understand the potential applications of Listserv and you might even be excited by the ideas of how you might use Listserv within your organisation.
But the only way to truly appreciate the power of Listserv is to try it out for yourself.
At Simplelists, we offer all our customers a one-month free trial of our service.
By trying Simplelists for free, you can discover first-hand how Listserv email can benefit your organisation.
Two of the most popular reasons that our customers use Simplelists are as a listserve and for email marketing. However, these are not the only things you can use it for. We have designed Simplelists to be flexible so that you can complete a range of tasks. Here are some of the key ones.
Managing your email list
You can upload your email list members to Simplelists in bulk, directly from a file. If you have a lot of list members, this saves you time as you can export the list details to a file and upload it in seconds.
You can also download your list. We recognise that your email list is your property and we make it really easy for you to generate a copy of your email list. You can download your whole list of members into a file that can be opened in a spreadsheet.
It is very easy to set posting permissions in Simplelists. This means that you can select who can send emails to your list. You might choose to enable this for all members, select some members, or make yourself the sole person with the permission to post to the list.
You can also moderate messages that are due to be sent to your list. You have several options: no moderation required (messages are sent straight to the members of your list), hold all messages for approval, or allow specific members to post without needing your approval first.
You might want to manage replies as well - you can select whether email replies are sent to everyone on the list or only to the person who sent the original email.
Setting posting restrictions can be useful if you permit other members to send emails to your list. This would ensure they don’t send very large emails, for example. You can set a maximum email size (in kB), remove attachments, strip HTML formatting and/or truncate messages to a specified maximum number of characters.
Finally, you may or may not want to allow your list members to see who else is on the list. Again, you have options - you can allow members to view all names and emails, allow them to see names only, or remove the ability to see names or emails.
Customise your emails
With Simplelists, it is very easy to customise your emails by including a personalised footer and a subject prefix. You can include HTML in the footer so your members can see graphics or logos. Or, you can use HTML throughout the email for complete customisation. You can also personalise your emails by inserting each recipient’s name at the start.
You can archive all your emails. When you activate this feature, all emails will be stored on a custom website so that you can access them in the future. You can set a password for the archive, if you wish.
Using Simplelists - a group email manager - means you can send emails to a group of people via one email address. This is a great way to have private discussions via email in a way that ensures list members’ preferences are adhered to (e.g. how frequently they receive messages). Lots of businesses and organisations find that sharing information in this way can foster community in the workplace. This short post explains in some more detail how the service works and what benefits it offers.
How does it work?
First, members need to subscribe to the discussion list. They can do this on a website (see an earlier post on how to add a subscribe form to your website) or via email. It is then possible for any member to post to the whole list by emailing a particular, automated email address.
You can set permissions so that only certain members can post, or enable an approval process so that each post needs to be moderated by an administrator before going out to the whole list (read more here about how to set permissions). Normally, you would have one or more 'list managers’ who take charge of the list and tend to have a good level of knowledge about what the discussion is all about.
Making things personal
It is possible for list members to personalise how they interact with the list. For example, they might have an email format preference (HTML or plain text), or they might want to stipulate how often they receive emails from the list. There is also the option to receive a digest summary of the latest posts, instead of receiving them individually as and when they are posted.
You can also customise the email itself, perhaps including a company logo or a directing email recipients to a bespoke landing page within your website.
Today, most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have limits on the number of email addresses that you can send an email to. If you exceed the number, the email will not be delivered to the recipient. If recipients report your emails as spam, this can also affect whether or not the message gets through.
A lot of people still prefer receiving an email personalised to their needs rather than visiting a website to search for information. Over half of all internet users subscribe to at least one email list. For those with slow internet connections or who work offline at intervals, being able to download, read and reply to emails rather than interact in real time can be a real bonus.
Simplelists offers the function to search your email archives. This can be useful for people who join your list, helping them to familiarise themselves with the list topic. It is also very useful to have a back up of all of your communications, in case you need to refer to something or check a point of reference. We have written in a previous post about how to set up your archive and personalise it.
How to find the message you are looking for
It would not be entirely unlikely for a busy email list to accumulate hundreds or thousands of emails over a period of years. When you add a new member to a list, they can be given the option to read emails that were sent prior to the date they joined, and/or read emails about a specific topic. For the latter, the keyword search function can be used. Alternatively, it is possible to browse all messages, sorted by date or by thread.
How to access the archive
Log in to your Simplelists account. From the Members home page, under 'What would you like to do?’, select 'View list archives’. At this stage, you may be required to enter a password, if one has been set up by the list manager. If you do not know the password, you can request an access code at this point by entering your email address.
When in the email archive, emails are ordered by month and year. In the search box at the top, you can enter a keyword and any relevant emails will be shown. It is also possible to view list statistics on this page, as well as read more detailed information about the list.
These search tips will help you to find what you are looking for:
Search by specific month
This option is useful if you want to browse to a specific month and then search within it.
If you type a '?’, it will be replaced with any single character. This can help when you are not sure how to spell a word. So, if you were perhaps looking for an email related to the 'Worthbury Derby’ but you couldn’t remember whether 'Worthbury’ was spelt with an 'i’ or an 'o’, you can type 'W?rthbury’ and the generated results will include both spellings.
If you type a *, it will be replaced with any number of characters. So, for the Worthbury Derby, if you weren’t sure at all how to spell Worthbury, you could type 'W*ry’ and the results would show all emails starting with a 'W’ and ending in 'ry’.
It has been estimated that just under 80% of emails sent by email marketers to people who signed up to your list reach the inbox. This is a pretty staggering number when your recipients have subscribed legitimately. This is because spam filters are becoming increasingly sensitive to make sure that non-legitimate emails do not get delivered. To avoid your email ending up in the spam folder, there are some simple things you can do.
Have a good email list
It is important that you make sure that the people you are emailing want to hear from you. We do not recommend that you buy or rent email lists that you can’t trust the source of, and it’s crucial that your list members have opted in to receiving your correspondence.
The easiest and most common way to do this is to get them to subscribe to a mailing list, either via a website or links on social media. You can assume that, if people visit your site, they are likely to be interested in the information/product you provide. You could add a sign-up box on all of your pages to allow users to join the list.
Ask your recipients to put you on their contact list
It is pretty much guaranteed that emails are delivered to the inbox if your list members have added you to their address book/contact list. In your welcome/first email you could ask them to add you to their contact list. You could also ask them to do this in the body of other emails that you send.
Mind the subject line
It is important to take care with the subject line of your email as it can affect the likelihood of your email avoiding the spam folder. We have written another short post on how to write a good subject line – the key message is that it should not be too much longer than 35 to 50 characters. The longer the subject line, the more likely it is that the email will go to the spam folder.
Make it easy to unsubscribe
While this might sound counter-intuitive, making the unsubscribe link visible on your emails can actually help overall deliverability to your list. It is preferable that your recipients choose to unsubscribe themselves, rather than marking your email as spam.
Email providers such as Gmail, Hotmail and others keep track of spam complaints and may penalise you, affecting how many of your other emails are delivered. If you make it easy for your list members to unsubscribe, the risk of the email service provider blocking all the emails you send is minimised.
Don’t forget that it is important to understand that there are laws governing the sending of emails to a list – you can read more about email spam and the law in one of our earlier posts.
What is GDPR for?
The regulation aims primarily to give control to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.
Who is affected?
GDPR affects Simplelists customers either based in the EU and/or who have list members in the EU.
What has Simplelists done to comply with the legislation?
What do Simplelists customers need to do to comply with the legislation?
We have also added a GDPR Statement to our website, which will provide more information as to our compliance and how we can help you to comply. This statement is also available from the footer of every page on our website.
Simplelists provides email list hosting services to its customers, and as such is responsible for the secure and compliant processing of personal data related to our customers, as well as the protection of our customers’ information (which may include personal data) whilst it is being processed by one of our systems.
We believe that the new documents should assist those customers that do need to comply, but if you have any specific requirements or general questions, then please get in touch.
Simplelists keeps a record of all of the emails that have been sent to your list. This archive can be useful for new list members who might need to quickly get to grips with topics that have already been covered in a private group discussion. It is also a great tool for keeping a back up of all of your communications. If you haven’t already, you can learn how to set up, view and personalise the archive in a recent post on our blog. Below, we explain how to search your email archive, allowing you to find old emails using a keyword search.
Finding the right message in a busy list
Busy lists that have existed for a long time can accumulate thousands of emails over many years. When new members join a list, they can be granted permission to read emails that were sent before they joined, and access old emails about a specific subject. To do this, the Simplelists email archive has a keyword search function that allows you to look for old emails by keyword. You can also browse all messages by date or by thread.
Accessing the archive
You can find the archive search function from the Members Home page once you have logged in to your Simplelists account. Under 'What would you like to do?’, click on 'View list archives’. If your list manager has set up a password for accessing the archive, you will need to enter this. Otherwise, you can request an access code by entering your email address.
Once in the mail archive, messages are grouped by month and year, with the search box at the top. Type in your keyword and the relevant emails will be displayed. On this page, you can also view list statistics and read more information about your list.
We all know how to use a search box but these tips might come in useful if you’re not entirely sure of the best keyword to search for:
Wildcard ‘?’ - Type the ? symbol and it will be replaced with any single character. This is handy when you’re not sure how a word should be spelt. For example, you might be looking for an old email titled ‘Worthington Event’ but you had forgotten if ‘Worthington’ was spelled with an ‘o’ or a ‘i’ you can type ‘W?rthington’ and the results will show emails with both spellings.
Wildcard ‘*’ - Type the * symbol and it will be replaced with any number of characters. Using the previous example, if you weren’t at all sure how to spell ‘Worthington’ you could type ‘W*ton’. The search results will show all emails that start with a ‘w’ and end with the letters ‘ton’, including ‘Worthington’.
You can also search by keyword for specific months. Browse to the month of the email that you are looking for and then search while in that month. The search will geneate results only for that month.
Simplelists is designed to be quick, easy and simple to use. It also has a selection of powerful features for users who want more from their email management software. People who sign up to Simplelists do so for many reasons. They may want a way to manage group email discussions, use email for marketing purposes, or send regular updates and other information to list members. We are often asked what Simplelists can do, so this short post is a reminder of our features.
Add members to your list You can add members to your list in bulk from a spreadsheet or .csv file. You can also easily download your list members’ email addresses to a spreadsheet.
Set posting permissions You can select who can send emails to your list. This can be: all members, selected members or just yourself.
Manage replies You can decide whether replies are sent to the whole list or just to the person who sent the original email.
Moderate messages You can choose to hold messages for approval before they are sent to your list
Restrict email size You can limit the size of emails, strip attachments from emails, and more.
Control list viewing You can keep members’ names and email addresses hidden or let them be seen by other members.
Customise your emails
Add a personalised footer You can do this to personalise your email and include information about you or your company/group.
Include HTML You can include HTML in your emails, enabling you to customise your emails.
Include members’ names You can personalise your emails by automatically adding members’ names at the start of an email.
Archive emails You can archive all emails - they can be accessed from a custom website at any time.
Daily digest summaries These can be useful for busy lists. Instead of receiving emails when they are posted, members receive one email every 24 hours.
Set subscribe and unsubscribe options You can choose whether new members can join your list, and whether this requires approval.
Add a subscription form You can add a subscribe form to your website. It is fully customisable, so you can change it to match your website perfectly.
Integrate with websites
Brand your landing pages On all landing pages you can replace the Simplelists heading with your own logo or branding.
Synchronise your account with websites An API is available, which allows you to synchronise your Simplelists account with other websites.
Integrate emails with your domain A multiple list account can be integrated with your domain so that users receive emails from your domain, rather than Simplelists.
Automated list management
Notification of bounced emails When an email to one of your members bounces, you will receive a message to let you know.
Automatic processing of bounced email addresses List members with emails addresses that bounce emails repeatedly are automatically removed from your list, saving you time.
Automatic spam management If a list member marks your email as spam, they will automatically be removed from the list. This ensures that repeated emails are not marked as spam, which keeps delivery rates high.
HTML emails are formatted like a web page and can include colours, graphics, tables and links. Most emails that you receive from a shop/business that you subscribe to are likely to use this kind of email. Plain text emails are more like what you might expect to receive from a friend or in a typical work email. Before sending an HTML email to your list, it is worth considering the pros and cons of HTML and plain text emails.
HTML or plain text?
HTML emails are colourful and eye-catching. You can include your company logo and make your email look professional. HTML emails can include images and make it possible to break the email into sections that are easy to read or scan. They can also include social media buttons. HTML emails are more likely to be blocked by some spam blockers, especially if they contain a lot of HTML.
Plain text emails are small and light, which means they use less memory and open more quickly. Plain text messages look less commercial and more similar to personal emails. It has also been found that a plain text email is more likely to be opened and clicked through, which is important if you are sending emails as part of a marketing campaign.
Creating an HTML email
First, you need to create your email as a single web page. There are a few special points to note when creating HTML for email:
Use tables to create the layout. Avoid using margins and padding and give the table’s elements fixed widths. This prevents the email looking different in different email clients.
All CSS styles should be inline styles. Any CSS in the head or on external style sheets will be ignored.
Any images should have an absolute URL - they’ll need to be on the server so they can be sourced.
Once complete, view your web page in a browser. First, check that the page looks perfect. Right click and select all and then copy. Note that you should not copy the HTML code. Copy the content of the web page.
Send the email
Open your email client and compose a new message to your list. Simply paste the email and hit send. Your HTML email will be sent to your whole list. Simple.
You can watch these instructions in a short video here.
When you start to build an email list you may only have a few members. If this is the case, inputting people’s details manually via the Simplelists members area is straightforward. When your list starts to grow, you may find it helpful to add a large number of subscribers at one time, from a spreadsheet. It is also useful to have a spreadsheet copy of all your list members for your own records. In this short post, we explain how to add members to your list from a spreadsheet.
Prepare the spreadsheet
First, open your spreadsheet. Your spreadsheet only needs three columns:
If a name is missing, don’t worry as it can be left blank. You can also add notes in another column.
Remove any headers and titles from the spreadsheet (you may need to delete a row to do this). Your list is now ready to go.
Save as a .csv file
Save the file as a .csv file type using the 'Save As’ dialog box in your spreadsheet program. You may be asked if you are that you wish to save as a .csv file. Just select 'OK’ or 'Yes’ when asked. Remember where you save your file.
Upload to Simplelists
Finally, you want to upload the file to Simplelists. Log in to Simplelists and select the 'List members’ page. Click on the 'Upload file’ tab and search for the file that you saved earlier. Make sure that 'comma separated’ is chosen in the drop-down menu on the 'Upload file’ page in Simplelists. Then, click 'Next’.
On the next screen (’Select fields’), select the correct field name for each column of the file (First name, Last name, Email address, etc.). Then, click 'Next’.
The next screen will show you some 'Upload options’ which you can choose to select or not:
By default an entry’s name will be updated when the email address matches an entry already in your address book. If you would also like to update the email address if the full name matches then please check this box.
Send confirmation requests to all addresses uploaded (except those already in the address book and already confirmed).
Delete current address book entries that are not in uploaded file.
When you have selected any options you wish to activate, click 'Finish’. The new members will now be added to your list. You can check that they have been added by viewing your address book from the 'Members home’ page.
You can also watch a short video of these instructions in an earlier post on our blog.