Monthly Archives: February 2013

Email Tips: 5 Ways to Work With Spam Filters

Spam filters have a pretty thankless job.  You’re totally unaware of them when they’re excelling, but the second they slip up and prevent an legitimate message from reaching your intended audience, it’s a pretty big deal.

We hear from group managers occasionally when an important email ends up in a member’s spam folder, or worse yet, gets filtered out altogether.  Fortunately, this a rare occurrence as spam filters are usually pretty good at their job, but here are five precautions you can take to work with spam filters towards the betterment of your mailing lists and inboxes everywhere.

Don’t talk like a spammer.  You know, the sort of language that would have you clicking the DELETE button in your own inbox without opening the email.  Act Now!, Earn $$$, and Limited Time – that sort of stuff.  Here’s a comprehensive list of such trigger words – just bear in mind that you shouldn’t agonize over avoiding every single one of these words.  Keep them in the back of your mind, but a mention of a free some-or-other every once and awhile won’t cause a communication disaster.

Don’t format like a spammer.  Would you send an email to your friend in a red font, using all caps, or with invisible (white) text?  Of course you wouldn’t, so don’t do it to a mailing list either!  Not only will these attention-grabbing techniques annoy your readers, they very well might get you filtered.

Don’t include attachments. Many spam blockers see attachments as a potential virus threat, so it’s better to avoid them altogether.  Don’t worry, we have a pretty good workaround that makes it just as easy to share files with your mailing lists without any spam trigger risks.

Ask members to whitelist you.  If you have one member who just isn’t receiving your messages no matter what, ask them to add your list’s email address to their address book or approved sender’s list.  Every email service provider is different, and some are just more suspicious than others and being added to the address book effectively let’s the ESP know that you’re someone they actually want to hear from.  In fact, it you might want to include a request that all members add your address to their address book in your registration form’s confirmation message.

Send messages from a reputable server.  This is actually the single most important precaution, and if you’re using GroupSpaces, then you’re already set!  You’d be surprised how many of the aforementioned no-nos you can get away with if your server has a healthy reputation, which is why we take this responsibility very seriously.  We maintain a good server rep by having internal checks to prevent actual spammers abusing our mailing list feature, including unsubscribe links in  newsletter and email discussions sent by every group in our system, and – to get a bit technical – using DomainKeys DKIM, and SPF.

Remember, spam filters are our friends and they to do a standup job keeping inboxes sane and safe overall, but nobody is perfect,  so help them out by keeping the five tips above in mind when messaging your group.

5 Tips for Getting Email Discussions Rolling

Whether you’re launching a new email discussion list, or trying to liven up the chat on a existing list, here are a few tips to get your virtual conversations flowing.

Establish clear guidelines.  Take some time to draft a document covering what sort of contribution is welcome and what is not – self promotion or off-topic comments, for example.  Share these guidelines with new members and perhaps include a link in your footer.  Have a plan of action in mind if these guidelines are not followed, such as a policy to issue three private warnings followed by removal from the list.

Pay attention to subject lines.  Most people’s inboxes are inundated with emails they never read.  Informative subject lines help members identify the messages that really interest them, making it less likely that they’ll overlook them.

Ask questions.  Whether you’re sharing an opinion, article, or piece of work, always try to end with a question.  You’d be surprised how far a simple “Do you agree?” or “What do you think?” will go.

Offer feedback.  Especially in the early days of a list, it’s a good idea to message members privately to thank them for their contributions and encourage them to continue.

Enlist help.  If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to members who are already participating, let them know how valuable their contributions have been thus far, and ask if they’d be interested in helping to facilitate discussions in a more official capacity.  Offer them a moderator title and give them clear responsibilities – such as starting one discussion per week – so they know what is expected of them.  Many people will be happy to take on a small responsibility in exchange for the acknowledgement, and even those who decline will be flattered by the offer.

How do you facilitate email discussions amongst your members?