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The Best Listserv Alternatives for Associations and Professional Networks

The Best Listserv Alternatives for Associations and Professional Networks

Listservs can be a good tool for starting a community, but many organizations outgrow the limited tech capabilities.

Your members are used to using SMS, apps, social media, and many other forms of communication. Relying on a listserv can limit your effectiveness and reach as you grow, so it is worth it to look at alternatives that can help you better serve your community members.

What are the main reasons to switch from a Listserv?

Using an email listserv may seem easy at first, but many associations have seen engagement soon suffer.  The simple technology makes it easy to communicate with your members, which is why it is a common starting point. The ubiquity and simplicity of email can make a listserv a useful communication tool that’s available to nearly everyone.

But as your community grows in complexity, accumulating a few dozen members or more, the limitations of a listserv become apparent. A listserv’s greatest strengths—its ubiquity and focus on email—can also be its weakness. Your members, especially early-career members, have modern expectations and they are used to multi-channel communication. Associations need solutions that reach every member where they are - email, web, and mobile to keep up with modern expectations.

For example, listserv members can have a tough time searching history or finding communication threads relevant to them. This makes it hard for new community members to catch up and for long-time members to make good use of shared knowledge. Listserv members suffer from information overload when forced to determine what discussions are for them and which can be ignored. When faced with these obstacles, member engagement declines significantly.

Purpose-built online community platforms, like Forj, are designed to provide a well-rounded, vibrant experience for members of associations and professional networks. When compared to listservs, there are several key differences, including:  

Organized, centralized, and relevant information. Members want one central location containing all information and resources that are relevant to them. Community managers and members can organize based on topic groups and access topic-specific historical discussions, as well as other non-email content, like documents, videos, links, and polls. 

Built-in analytics. In order to provide a personalized experience, it is essential to be able to target based on insights and engagement data. Built-in analytics that measure every interaction, including email responses like a listserv, allow community managers and administrators to target follow-ups according to interactions (for example, who did or did not view, click, RSVP, or vote). 

Engagement with ease. The beauty of a multi-channel platform is that it allows members to engage using their preferred method. If your members prefer email, the option remains available. They can also use SMS and the mobile interface, or they can log in from their laptops to access the platform. This flexibility gives members the flexibility to access the community when they need it the most so that they can learn in real-time, often on the job. 

Modern, reliable, and secure.  Moving to a community platform means having control of how social you want your community to be and who acts as distributed leaders. Allow members to find each other and network, start private conversations, or create their own discussion groups. You will have central access to the full mailing list, along with its history, contacts, and any historical data critical to your organization. And it's all secure, removing the risk of data loss and communication downtime that can plague listservs.

Seamlessly manage resources, events, and member directories. Customizing the data you collect is a fast way to learn more about your members, and utilizing subgroups is a great way to provide a more specific experience for your members while gathering data insights behind the scenes. Managing this in the same tool where you host resources and promote events is a clear and efficient experience for your team and your members. 

Make your brand the focal point. Your community should feel like an extension of your organization. When members engage in the community they are engaging with your brand, and building a vibrant community is an opportunity to give them a positive experience, making them more likely to renew their membership or recommend the community to others.

Make the Shift to a Modern Online Community

If your listserv is no longer meeting the needs of your growing community, it's likely time to break away from long email chains and messy online groups and move to a modern community platform that meets your members' expectations. Schedule a demo to learn how Forj can help you build a strategic approach to achieve community success.


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