So you want to know how to create an email discussion group? First, you’ll need three ingredients.
An admin is easy to find–you! And if you’re thinking of starting a group as an admin, you probably know some people who are interested in joining. And once you get rolling, and get some visibility on the internet, who knows who else might find you and join. (For more tips on promoting your listserve, see this post.)
Which just leaves one more thing you need to create an email group, and that’s the listserve system itself.
Since listservs or email discussion groups are basically just gigantic email chains, if you have a really small group, you could just put everybody’s email address in the Cc: or Bcc: field and send them a message to create an email discussion group. They can do the same thing for a new message, and the Reply All button handles replies automatically.
But you’ll quickly have problems when you grow and add more people. It’ll become cumbersome for everybody to keep up with all the new email addresses and changes in email addresses. Having multiple lists means things get out of sync, and somebody won’t receive all the messages. And at some point, somebody’s ISP is going to think you all are sending out spam and block your email.
Instead of starting a giant email chain, you could find a listserve host instead. Some are paid. Some are free. But all do the same thing. They have one master email address list, and members send just one message to one email address. That email is then reflected to all of the subscribers. So now you can grow your list.
Now you have a choice. Paid or free? Free sounds tempting. But free solutions are usually supported by advertising inside the emails and by collecting and selling the demographic and behavioral data of your list members. And the free solutions often don’t have anyone to help support you. So if somebody is having trouble getting on the list or isn’t receiving email messages or can’t post their message or their email isn’t being formatted correctly, you won’t have an easy way to solve those problems without access to the server logs and some technical expertise.
Commercial, paid services, on the other hand, come with technical assistance, typically have more and better features, get around the spam filters better, and allow your list members some relief from ad noise and privacy issues.
So if you want an email discussion group, where messages come into everybody’s email inbox, here are all the choices I know of, as of the fall of 2016.
If you have any additions or updates, please leave a comment below. And check out these tips for starting a group mailing list.