As a follow up to Thursday’s post about forums and email alerts, we offer some thoughts on the practice of sending “daily digests” that summarize content from your forum from the previous day. On the plus side, daily alerts are a way to keep users engaged (especially those lazy lurkers) and get them in the habit of thinking about the site. On the other hand, many users find daily email alerts to be overwhelming. If not right away, then eventually the daily crush just gets to be too much.
Generally speaking, we think users should have the option to select the types of alerts they prefer. Subscribing to alerts for a particular thread is just one example that shows how alerts should be sent on a case-by-case basis. In terms of sending “daily digests” there are three factors to consider:
- Volume. Is there enough activity to warrant a daily email summary or does it make more sense to simply subscribe to all threads as they are posted.
- Private or Public. Is the forum is for internal use (e.g., a company-only forum) or is it a public forum? The email alert settings for organizations can be a little more aggressive than for a public forum because the content is work-related. However, it’s still best to let users choose how they manage email notifications.
- User Behavior. Ideally, email alerts are customized on a user-by-user basis according to their interests, demographics, etc. For example, a male from Colorado might be interested in different topics than a female from Florida and email alerts should account for such differences.
In summary, as long as the content is both fresh and relevant to the user it makes sense to send summary alerts. If not on a daily basis, then 1-2 times per week seems to make the most sense. Sending a monthly newsletter is a nice touch but we do wonder if the frequency is too low to get users in the habit of returning to the forum.