A Form Letter to Welcome New Online Community Members - dummies

A Form Letter to Welcome New Online Community Members

By Deborah Ng

As online community manager, you will find that form letters are a convenient way to send messages to community members because you don’t have to take the time to write a personal e-mail for each person. That convenience is also a problem. Everyone likes to feel special, and there’s nothing personal about a form letter. Many people see form letters in the inbox and automatically delete them.

Still, if your community has a lot of members, you can’t avoid using form letters. You probably don’t have enough time to write a personal letter to everyone who joins the community, and you can’t possibly know enough about every person to write a personal letter for each one.

The trick is to create a form letter that looks and feels personal but is still a prewritten note sent to everyone who joins. Here are a few form letter best practices:

  • Use first names. Avoid using first and last names together or no name at all. The salutation “Dear New Member” or “Dear John Smith” is a sure sign that a member is getting an impersonal form letter. Though your members aren’t dumb, and they know that they’re going to be receiving form letters, the trick is to make it look like you wrote each letter just for them.

    Use an e-mail program, such as Aweber or Constant Contact, that pulls the first name from each signup page so that the salutation of a new-member e-mail reads “Dear John” instead.

  • Avoid using jargon. Nothing turns people off more than smarmy sales jargon. It’s unattractive for a couple of reasons: People may not understand all the terms, and it’s apparent that you’d much rather sell than converse. Jargon is impersonal.

  • Provide directions. Your welcome e-mail should also give direction to new members. The e-mail tells them what to expect and where to find all items of interest. If handled properly, the welcome e-mail directs new members everywhere you want them to go:

    • Community discussion topics

    • Promotional pages

    • FAQs

    • Comment policy and guidelines

    • Brand policies

    • Contact information

    • Your About page

    • Sales and discounts

  • Include contact details. Your new community members appreciate knowing that you’re an accessible manager. Make sure that you include a way to get in touch so that new members can reach out with questions and concerns.

  • Use a signature. Sign your e-mails, even if you’re only going to scan your signature or use a script font. Your members know that you can’t sign an e-mail with a pen, but you can sign it with a flourish and make it seem more personal.

Remember that you’re not spamming if you have permission to send the e-mail. New members must have agreed to receive this e-mail when they registered to be part of the community, so don’t worry too much about being spammy, but do try to make your welcome e-mail more than just a bunch of links.