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?

Group Manager of the Month: Jackie Jobes of the Bright Futures Society

The Bright Futures Society was started over 35 years ago to prepare students for life after school and university.  With committees operating all over the UK, the non-profit educates UK students on employment opportunities and arms them with the skills necessary to hit the ground running after graduation.

JackieJobesWith over 50 university committees spread throughout the England, Scotland, and Wales, Society Manager Jackie Jobes has her hands full ensuring each society remains supported and successful.  Having first joined Bright Futures as a student, Jackie found the experience so enriching she joined the team after graduating, quickly progressing from South England’s Regional Manager to her current position, overseeing the entirety of Bright Future’s societies, while planning and hosting National Conferences and managing the organization’s online presence.  When GroupSpaces was first recommended to her at a networking event, she thought it was precisely the simple management solution the societies needed.

Jackie and the Bright Futures team created individual group websites for each university committee in their organization and then handed the group management over to local leaders. She remains a manger of every group to keep an eye on things and assist when needed. The goal of each committee is to build local membership and organize events and activities to boost the overall employability of the student community, and an online presence is necessary to promote growth and keep members informed.  “Our groups enable each of our societies to have their own fully functional website and database management system,” Jackie explains.  “It is also great for them to promote and manage their events and communications to their members.”

Jackie admits that implementing big changes like the move to GroupSpaces can seem daunting.  “It is always a challenge taking on a completely new software,” she relates, “never mind encouraging over 50 students groups to understand and use it effectively too!”  But never one to shirk from a challenge, Jackie got Bright Futures through any “teething pains” with the help of GroupSpace’s support team, and the non-profit is the better for it.  “We love the fact that we have a fully integrated system where all our members from all our separate groups come into one,” she reports. “It is much easier to manage this way and saves a hell of a lot of time!”

To see examples of what local Bright Futures Societies get up to, check out the groups Jackie created for Birmingham, Manchester, or Bristol.

Does your manager keep your group running like clockwork?  Drop us a line to nominate them for a  feature in a future post!

Email Tips: Think before you attach!

We’re not crazy about email attachments here at GroupSpaces HQ.  So much so that we limit the size of attachments in emails sent through GroupSpaces to 128MB.  An attachment may get the job done when you’re checking in with Mom, but it has the potential to cause problems when  emailing a large number of people on, say, a listserv.  The most troubling side effect being that your message may never reach your recipients.

Attachments 1) increase the size of your message, sometimes dramatically so, and 2) can freak virus scanners out, particularly when sent to a large group of people.  Either can result in your email being blocked or filtered out.  Fortunately, we have an easy workaround.

Screen shot 2013-01-22 at 16.20.17Instead of adding a file as an attachment, we recommend including a download link in your message.  Upload the file to the File section of your GroupSpaces account.  Ctrl+click(or right-click) on the download link that appears below the filename to copy the link.  Once copied, you can paste the download link directly into your email message and recipients will be able to click on the link to download the file.

Screen shot 2013-01-22 at 16.30.04

Just remember to check that you’ve configured the visibility settings for that particular file so members of your list you’re messaging will be able to access it!  We recommend making the file totally public if possible, so the download is immediate and no login is required.

New Feature: Catch up with Email Digests

You may have noticed our blog was down this past week, but we’re back with a special treat to make it up to you. Fresh out of the oven, the Email Digests you ordered are ready to be put to use!

There are some people that want up to the minute notifications when a lively email discussion is underway, and there are others who may view a constant stream of messages as a disruption. We’ve added an Email Digest option for the latter group, members who want to stay in loop without cluttering up their inbox. Digests collect all the messages sent to a list and present them within a single email—delivered on either a daily or weekly basis—making it easier for members to catch up on your group’s activities whenever it’s most convenient for them.

Member Email Preferences

Digests can be enabled in your account with a single clicking in your email settings, and members can opt in to digests by editing their member settings. The setup specifics can be found in our help pages.

Featured Group Friday: Le Petit Chien … the small dog!

For this month’s Featured Group Friday, we’re talking to Susan of ‘Le Petit Chien … the small dog!‘

Susan has been an active member of our community as a manager, beta tester and regular contributor of feature requests and bug reports through our helpdesk. We spoke to her about running her group and what she enjoys about using GroupSpaces to do it.

Hi Susan, can we start with you telling us where you and your group are based? 
Le Petit Chien … the small dog! is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) and has been serving the Greater Philadelphia area since 2007. We also welcome virtual members, many whom are located throughout the United States and Canada.

What is the purpose of your group and why did you first start it?

Le Petit Chien is a not for profit organization that has been providing education and support since 2007 for the Greater Philadelphia dog community. We also offer adoption assistance, educational seminars, dog training classes and socialization opportunities for small and toy breed dogs. Our meetings feature off-leash play along with discussions led by veterinary professionals. We also hold several fundraisers a year for local rescue groups and area shelters.

In 2007, my husband and I added two Chihuahuas to our family. When looking for socialization opportunities for our puppies, we were unable to find a suitable organization that provided a safe and friendly environment for our tiny dogs. Dog parks were not a viable option, so we organized Le Petit Chien … the small dog!

What is the best part of running Le Petit Chein?
Meeting and socializing with other like minded pet guardians. Over the years we have formed many wonderful friendships while supporting our local dog community and area shelters.

What is your top group management tip for other group managers who may be reading this?
Have a clear vision of what you wish to accomplish with your organization. Differentiate your organization from any other that may be located in your geographic area and finally, listen to member feedback.

Why did you choose GroupSpaces as your management tool?

Le Petit Chien … the small dog! was originally located on another online social networking portal. Over the years, Meetup’s vision changed, their platform became too restrictive and their customer service severely deteriorated. During January 2010 we began beta testing alternative platforms and discovered GroupSpaces. We found GroupSpaces to be highly customizable while offering many of the tools that we required to manage our organization. GroupSpaces’ management was also open to developing new subscriber requested features and their platform was virtually bug free.

What has been your favourite part about using GroupSpaces to manage your group?
Interacting with GroupSpaces’ courteous customer service department. The customer service representatives have been very prompt in helping me to resolve any problem that has arisen. Their courteous and friendly assistance is a refreshing change from the poor customer service that we experienced at our former platform provider.

Any final thoughts?
Moving Le Petit Chien … the small dog! to GroupSpaces has been one of the best decisions I have made for our organization.
Take a look at Susan’s Group here. 

Featured Group Friday: Sketchy Doodle

Every month, Featured Group Friday will showcase a group that we feel is doing a great job whilst getting the most out of the group management tools GroupSpaces provides. In the first ever Featured Group Friday, we speak to Annie the manager of Sketchy Doodle Drawing Group!

Hi Annie, can we start with you telling us where you and your group are based?

We are located in Tempe Arizona, USA. Our group members are from all around the Phoenix area.

What is the purpose of your group and why did you first start it?
Our purpose is to get together for group drawing sessions. These are not art classes, just people who like to draw or paint as part of a group. I started the group because this is kind of a niche activity and it can be difficult to find people who have the same interest.

What is the best part of running Sketchy Doodle?
As the organizer I get to meet pretty much everyone, even those people who aren’t very active in the group. I’ve been able to get to know a lot of really great people this way.

What is your top group management tip for other group managers who may be reading this?

It really helps to have a clear vision of what you want before you start the group. It’s important to listen to feedback, but you can’t please everyone, so knowing what you want to accomplish really helps to maintain focus when making decisions about the group.

Why did you choose GroupSpaces as your management tool?

We were part of the big migration from Meetup. I choose GroupSpaces because the site is highly customizable but still easy to use. We can present whatever information we want on our pages to show the unique characteristics of our group.

What has been your favourite part about using GroupSpaces to manage your group?
The friendly and helpful people who run GroupSpaces! I’ve received an answer every time that I’ve asked for help. That kind of personal attention is hard to find.

You’re too kind! Thanks Annie!

Make sure you check out Annie’s group at http://groupspaces.com/sketchydoodle

Do you think your group is worthy of being featured in our Featured Group Friday? We are always accepting nominations, so feel free to email me on sam(@)groupspaces.com

A Free Alternative to Grouply

*Updates on 27th April 2012 to reflect GroupSpaces’ new pricing plans.
In light of the recent shut down of Grouply, we realize that many group managers have been left looking for a suitable alternative! If you were a Grouply user looking for a replacement, we think we have the perfect solution.

In response to all your enquiries, we’d like to say hello, welcome and tell you more about how GroupSpaces can be used for running your group with a quick guide to using our site; we truly believe GroupSpaces is the best alternative to Grouply and will solve all your problems!

We’re Free
Firstly, GroupSpaces is entirely free for groups with fewer than 50 members, and there’s no obligation to pay at any time unless you add more than 50 members, or would like to use some of our premium features. Even then, pricing starts at just $3.99 a month should you be willing to pay in advance up front!

Easy-to-use Group Management Tools

GroupSpaces helps you take all your group-management tasks online into one easy-to-use set of tools.

You can use GroupSpaces to:
• run your own free customizable website or integrate features with an existing website
• run a professional group mailing list with targeted lists and easy handling of subscriptions and bounces
• manage a membership database online, keeping everything together and updated
• organize and promote events – sending invites, collecting RSVPs and selling tickets
• take payments for different types of membership fees and set up an online shop
The best place to get started would be to create a group and play around with our different features to see what works best for you. We also have a tour of our features  and a support section to answer more specific questions.

Especially for Group Managers
While many other sites focus primarily on the users, GroupSpaces was built with the managers and organizers of groups in mind to provide a set of easy to use, comprehensive tools to manage your members, events and site all from one place. This is our speciality. If it sounds like something for you, then I hope you’ll check us out. If you already have your membership database exported and want to migrate from Grouply to GroupSpaces, it is extremely easy to get started right away and import your database to GroupSpaces.

Get in touch!
Thank you to everyone for the interest and messages we have received, please feel free to get in touch with us at helpdesk@groupspaces.com if you need any other help, information or to give us feedback.

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Community Manager, GroupSpaces

A Free Alternative To The New Meetup

In light of the recent updates to Meetup.com, we realise that many organizers have been left with a site that no longer satisfies their needs. In response to all your inquiries, we’d like to say hello, welcome and tell you more about how GroupSpaces can be used for running meetups with a quick guide to using our site.

Firstly, it’s FREE to create a group on GroupSpaces: http://groupspaces.com/a/group/. Please create a group, play around and try out all our various functionality. We’re free for all groups with under 250 members & pricing starts at $8 / £5 a month for up to 500 members.

Similar to Meetup, we offer:
• A website/home for your site that is customizable. You choose the colors of everything from tabs, to background, to text. Our layout feature lets you pick from ‘recent forum posts’, ‘featured events’, ‘members’, ‘event calendar’, photos, videos and other content to display on your home page. You can also remove the adverts and use your own custom domain.
• Easy event management: e-mail invitations where members can RSVP straight from their e-mail as well as online, RSVP tracking, sending reminders/info to members who have RSVP’s ‘Yes’ / ‘No’, comment on events, sell tickets through paypal, limit event registrations
• Forum: Create multiple categories, opt-in to e-mail notifications of replies to your post or limit access to the forum to the organizers or a sub-set (list) of your members
• Mailing List: full control whether members can reply-all
• Member Profiles: members can message each other and link to twitter, linkedin and other pages
• Collect membership dues: integrated with the rest of the site, with easy tracking of who has/hasn’t paid
• Photo gallery – upload, comment on and view photo galleries. Additionally you can add photos and images to pages, newsletters, events and the homepage.

Extra features we provide which Meetup does not have, include:

• Facebook event integration: import or export events to Facebook easily for maximum event promotion
• Member database: store details & separate your members into sub-groups using lists
• Customizable newsletters: easy templates for a professional, consistent look
• Wiki: great resource for member driven knowledge base

Features Meetup has which we’re planning to add in the future:

• waiting lists: we have full RSVP tracking, ability to limit who can RSVP to events as well limited event ticket functionality, but no specific waiting list feature – UPDATE: coming very soon!
We’re working hard to make our site the best we can and we actively prioritise new development of our product in response to feature requests. So if there’s something you feel is missing, let us know and if enough people want it, we will try hard to make it happen.

HOW TO: Move your Meetup group to GroupSpaces:
1. Create and customize your group
2. Copy over your meetup information to pages in your group and your group profile
3. Invite your members to join by sending them the link to http://www.groupspaces.com/yourgroupname/join
4. Create your next event and add an event box to your group homepage
Members can quickly create an account by ‘Connecting with Facebook’ or by creating a full GroupSpaces account.
While many other sites focus primarily on the users, GroupSpaces was built with the managers and organizers of groups in mind to provide a set of easy to use, comprehensive tools to manage your members, events and site all from one place. This is our speciality. If it sounds like something for you, then I hope you’ll check us out.

Thank you to everyone for the interest and messages we have received, please feel free to get in touch with us at helpdesk@groupspaces.com if you need any other help, information or to give us feedback.

All the best,
Irina, Community Manager, GroupSpaces

P.S. We have a Meetup FAQ here in response to questions we’ve received & have noticed that there are discussions of new meetup and alternatives happening here: http://groupspaces.com/FormerMeetupOrganizers