6 Keys to Building Online Communities of Engaged Advocates


Research continues to show that people want to hear from your company via email and the ROI on email marketing remains high. Start by using opt-in email lists to reach your audience and strive to build engaged advocates with your email marketing. Engaged subscribers are the ones who go beyond subscribe, read, and delete because they reply, click, and share. Those actions are what strengthen your email lists, increase their value, and act as the building blocks of your online communities.

Here are the keys to building online communities of engaged advocates.

Provide valuable content

Create valuable content to include in your email marketing. Email lists shouldn’t just repeat what you are already communicating; they should have value, appeal, and exclusivity.

Understand the tools available

It’s easy to find an email marketing company but not everyone knows how to use email list management tools. Some variables to consider are…

  • Do you want to purchase licensing to install the software locally or have the software hosted externally?
  • Do you want to use a professionally supported product or an open-source freeware?
  • Will you be charged within a consumption-based model or able to send unlimited messages to unlimited subscribers?
  • Will you have feature limitations or full access to all components?

These factors can affect the level of functionality and security you have in your tool. Most email list management providers offer a trial of their products, so take advantage of those opportunities. Be thorough and remember to assess the long-term value proposition of a given product.

Make it easy to join and stay

Growing an email list is about acquisition and retention.

  • Provide subscription links clearly throughout your website – explain what your email lists are about, what type of messages the subscribers will receive, and how often. Also, don’t just bury your subscription links in small print or behind layers of “Contact Us” pages.
  • Provide subscription links on social media – share these regularly and put them in your profiles. Your social media followings provide creative outlets for engagement, but no social channel matches the reach and results of email. So, use your social media accounts to drive subscribers to your email lists and use your email list tools to auto-publish content back to those social media channels.
  • Subscriber preferences and profiles – keep this information basic at initial opt-in to minimize friction, but asking for additional information later can help customize and target future communication.
  • Double opt-in – verifying subscription with a confirmation email ensures subscribers haven’t joined by mistake, actively want your emails, and that they can be confident they’re receiving emails from a professionally trusted source.

Target specific groups

It’s easy to set up multiple lists based on networks of subscribers and interests. Those lists can be refined automatically by your email list management tool (bounce handling, list updates, etc.). If your tool provides tracking analytics, you can see data from views, activity/clicks, and more to measure your message performance and improve future campaigns.

Assign competent list management personnel

Although email list software tools can be user-friendly and manage bounces, triggering events, content drop-ins, etc., you need individuals that can work within these tools to configure and automate your core features, moderate your two-way discussion groups, and more. These will be your List Maintainers, List Owners, and List Moderators. These roles can sometimes be merged and many email list companies offer training and consulting.

Use two-way discussion groups

Email newsletters and announcements alone won’t build your interactive online community. Two-way discussion groups function like other email lists, but they offer the recipients options to reply. Moderator settings can be customized and if your tool allows for searchable message archives these discussions can become long-term resources.

There are substantial email list possibilities and the more of them you implement the easier building online communities will become. Which of these ideas could you tailor to your own email communication? Are your subscribers engaged? Let us know in the comments below.

About our guest blogger:
Joshua Weber has worked in Business Development, Project Management, & Marketing for 12+ years. From door-to-door sales to consulting with Fortune 500 companies, his diversity of experience & dedication to reputation leads to fresh perspectives for modern professionals. Currently an Account Executive at L-Soft International, Joshua helps organizations build online communities to engage & connect through email. Connect with him on
LinkedIn or Twitter.

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