Run Your Own Mailing List

One easy way of sharing and growing your network is to run your own e-mail list. This is even more effective than simply becoming active in a pre-existing list, since you have full control of the list and the participants, and can market yourself readily with every contribution and on the list’s website. It is free and easy for you to organize a group on Yahoo Groups, Topica, MSN, or another similar service.

There are two major categories of email lists: newsletters (only you can send material out) and online discussion groups (anyone can send an email out to the group). If you decide that you want your list to be an online discussion group, we strongly recommend creating some sort of screen. You could manually moderate the list, approving each email that is sent out. Alternatively, you could create a high barrier to membership, interviewing all applicants and making it clear that inappropriate behavior is cause for termination from the list.

Without some sort of filter like the ones mentioned, online discussion lists have a tendency to degrade in quality. Less-desirable members will send out spam, flames, and other undesirable internet traffic. As a result, your quality members will unsubscribe and your list may disintegrate.

Most lists are set up so that anyone can join without screening. The advantage of that approach: your network can grow indefinitely. As list members virally publicize your list to their friends, your list will grow with little effort on your part. You do not have to take the time to screen anyone.
However, there is a downside to keeping the list open and not screening new members. The list loses some of its relationship-building power, precisely because anyone can join. The members do not feel “special” to be in the group, and you will never have had a two-way interaction with most of them. As Groucho Marx famously said, “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.”

You may want to consider the approach of Mike Rosen, who runs an informal list of networking events in Houston. The only way to get on this list is to meet Mike in person. Meeting him becomes a more desirable event, because he can offer you access to a valuable resource.

If you would like to manage your e-mail without the advertising that Topica and Yahoo Groups use to support themselves, you may find helpful ConstantContact.com, CoolerEmail.com, SparkList, Lyris.net, or Ennectmail.com. If you are using a mailing list purely for informational purposes and only need a one-way mailing list, NotifyList.com or EZezine.com may be helpful. Certain lists on the topic of technology and business may be eligible for a free, advertising-free list from FreeLists.org.

It is equally true online as offline that you create greater credibility and reach a larger number of people as a host than as a guest.