Listserv: How to Start an Email Discussion Group

  • Why should we use an Email Discussion Group (or Listserv)?
  • How do we start one?
  • Is it easy to manage?
  • How do we keep people active and engaged?

All those questions and more answered below and in the blog.

As always, we are here to answer your questions and help you along the way.

Why use a Listserv / Email Discussion Group?

What is it?

Listservs are known by many different names, including:

- Email Discussion Group
- Mailing List
- EML (Electronic Mailing List)

Listserv is a method of communicating with a group of people via email who share a common interest. This group could be a professional one, or it could be your large, extended family. You send one email message to the “reflector” email address, and the software sends the email to all of the group’s subscribers.

The need to share information

Sharing information is a need as old as human history. Leveraging that need is a great way to start or build your community. Find out why we like to share information in this post - Why Do People Share Information?

Push vs Pull Media

What is the difference between push social media vs. pull social media? In the simplest terms, push media comes TO you, while pull media makes you go and get it. 

Pull media forces your subscribers to remember to "go check it". Push media, like email, is easy. It comes right to you. Most people read and respond to email all day long.

For a discussion of why push media may be best, please see this post - Push vs Pull in Online Communities.

What is an Email Discussion Group?

Email discussion groups provide a private, online meeting space for like-minded people. Using email is easy and universal for practically everyone. Find out more about the benefits by reviewing The Case for Email Discussion Groups.

While we are on the topic, the term "discussion group" may be a bit misleading since each email is singular, one-way communication. For some context, please see Email Discussion Groups is a Bit of a Misnomer.

How do I Start a New Electronic Mailing List?

You've decided that an EML (Electronic Mailing List) is right for your group. Congratulations!

To help get you started, take a look at 5 Tips for Starting a New Group Mailing List. This post includes everything you need to get off to a successful start!

Are you ready to create your new EML with We offer a free 30-day trial, so feel free to take us for a test drive.

What is a "Community Manager"?

A Community Manager is also known as the List Owner or List Moderator. The Community Manager can wear many hats, depending on the type of group. Their real purpose is to keep the community growing and healthy. Some examples are:

- Moderator
- Encourager
- Ambassador
- Tech Support
- Analyst

Find out more by reading What Do Community Managers Do All Day?

            Visit our website to learn more and start a FREE trial!          

Tips for a Successful List


Most email discussion groups have found it useful to have some rules which all members abide by. To help get started with that process, please see Sample Mailing List Guidelines for Your Group.


We try to have good manners in real life. Manners are essential online, as well. See these tips that could also be shared with your community - What’s Good Mailing List Etiquette?


Encouraging kindness in your community is important, so that all members feel comfortable participating. For some suggestions to get you started, please see Making Community Kind – A How-to of Kindness.

Encouraging vs Discouraging

Sometimes, you wonder where all of your supposed members are. There is very little community interaction. What's going on? For one, make sure your members feel encouraged to participate.

Find out more here - How Your Community May Be Discouraging Participation.

To turn around a discouraging community, see this post for help - 4 Ways to Foster a Positive Community Culture.

Mailing List Replys

Trying to decide whether email replies should go to all Subscribers? Or just to the original sender? This blog post gives some helpful examples to consider - What’s the Best Way to Run an Electronic Mailing List?

In that same topic, a few more details are given here - What Happens When You Reply in a Mailing List?