It's good to contact members by e-mail. You can remind members to participate, highlight interesting activities, help foster a greater sense of community through a newsletter, and engage in tactics to increase visits to the community.
Most community managers do a terrible job at this. They fail to segment their groups, understand each group's needs and motivations, and don't use the right level of frequency.
To do this well, you need to have multiple mailing lists catering to each unique segment of your audience. We can split your audience into six segments.
Your strategies for each of these segments will vary.
0) Visitors. These are the people that visit but haven't registered. You can pretty much ignore this group for now, you have no way to contact them. At best you can measure this number for sign of community health and for understanding conversion rates. Just make sure when they visit there are interesting events and discussions they can see taking place in your community.
1) The newcomers. These are the members that have joined the community within the previous 30 days.
You need to socialize these members into the community without overwhelming them. You can use autoresponders for this. Begin with a simple message that directs newcomers to a topical discussion that's taking place (you need to update this weekly), then a few days later (if they clicked the link) send them either a small nudge for their opinion again or highlight an upcoming event/activity they can participate in.
There isn't one single best journey. You need to tweak these until you optimize the process. The more members visit and participate, the more frequently you can send them information that explains a little more about the community or highlights things they can do. Remember, that these are newcomers, your e-mails should be designed to reduce their social fear of participating and provide simple steps they can take to participate.
The general process here lasts up to 3 months and is responsive to their actions in the community. If they don't respond to the first few e-mails, send one per month for 3 months. If they are responding, you can send more.
We typically find it best to begin with 1 e-mail, wait a few days, then another, wait a week then another. But, again, this varies wildly per community and the actions each individual takes. You can set up multiple routes based upon clicks/opens/actions. If in doubt get an e-mail marketing expert to help (or hire us to set it up for you).
2) The lurkers. These are registered members that have visited, but not made a contribution, within the previous 30 days. There is little chance that a large number of these members will become regular active members.
However, you can provide regular content which highlights things they can read in the community with clear links to share it on social media channels which can bring more people to the community. Specifically, highlight the most useful advice or most entertaining stories/experiences shared in the community, This is what lurkers are most likely to share on social media platforms.
3) The registered, inactive, members. These are the members which have registered for the community but not visited in the previous 30 days. They are not lurkers. It may be possible to bring these members back into the community. In this group you need to highlight activities within the community which they can participate in.
The open and click-through rates for this group will be very low. Don't panic about that, nor the unsubscribe rate. These are essentially members you've already lost. Any return from this group is a bonus.
We usually use the biggest/most exciting activity/discussion in the community per month to bring these members back. It has to be something truly remarkable. If they click the link, then we use follow up autoresponders with other discussions scheduled a few days later that are related to the first activity.
4) Active members. These are members which have made an active contribution to the community within the previous 30 days. This is the group that get your regular newsletters, e-mails highlighting upcoming events/activities, pointers to active discussions they can participate in. We typically use one newsletter per week and one 'important discussion/event' e-mail every other week. Again, this varies. The goal is to keep this group active and engaged in the community.
5) The veterans. These are members which have joined over 2+ year ago and are still active. We like to have these on both the active member list and the veteran list. We use this group to call for ideas and input into the community, work on upcoming events/activities with them, and otherwise find ways to give them influence. One e-mail a month calling for input (i.e. response to that e-mail) seems to be enough here.
You can also have seperate lists for your insider groups/volunteers. These will be manually created (unless members have to subscribe to be a volunteer).
The challenge here is to have multiple lists (AWeber/Mailchimp work fine) and a system which also moves people to different lists based upon their level of activity. I've yet to see a platform vendor that offers anything like this (if you did, your clients' communities would increase in activity). So it remains up to us to set this up.
If you can't automate it, do it manually. Move people into different segments. Split the newcomers from the registered members and have a seperate list for the veterans. It's not as complicated as you might think and the results are terrific.