What are guidelines for creating notifications and communications from my social networking website? That’s the question my client Erica posed to me last week. We sat down and created guidelines for website communications. Perhaps they’ll also help you as you design your social networking website and plan its operations.
- List all notifications set up by default in website. Look for them in the areas of registration, profile modifications, subscriptions, and email options.
- Identify notification options when forms are submitted. Learn how forms are created in your site, and determine if there are options for popups and/or email confirmations of submissions.
- Decide what notifications are needed, what their copy should be, and who on your staff should receive them.
- Be sure notifications serve a real purpose. Would a popup confirmation of the action be sufficient? Might the user want to save its information, such as their login and password?
- List generic business emails and decide which will be used for what purpose. Standard categories might be: accounting, advertise, feedback, info, unsubscribe, webmaster, and names of key staff members.
- Decide who will receive each generic email, and who will be copied. For example, advertise@ might be used for all communications concerning the business directory, but not sponsorships.
- Subject Line. The subject line should identify briefly and clearly the purpose of the message. If the email’s purpose it to notify someone that their account has been activated, then the subject line might be “Account Activated.” You may or may not wish to repeat your business name in the subject line, as “MyCompany Notification: Account Activated.”
- Spam Triggers. Be careful when writing subject lines to avoid spam triggers. Obvious ones are words in all caps, use of exclamation points, and common spam words. So don’t use MYCOMPANY ACCOUNT ACTIVATION!
- “Reply to” Email. The “from” email may be a no-reply email or an email connected to a real person. I recommend a real email, to maximize communications with members and potential website users.
- Salutation. Decide on a standard greeting for all routine notifications. Maybe it’s just the user’s name. Or if your site is more informal, it might be “Hi” and a first name, “Hi Peg.”
- Action Step. Think through the action you want the user to take when they receive the email. Then make that VERY clear visually. You can do this with bullets, numbered steps, indentation, or bold text. If they don’t need to take any action, say that.
- Superfluous Information. Minimize information unrelated to the action step. If someone has been nominated for an award, the email should not mention three other ways you can use the website. But of course you can still give the URL of your website at the bottom of the communications, to encourage a click back.
- Type Styles. Decide what type font and size you and all of your employees and freelancers will use to communicate with members. You may or may not want this type style to match your website.
- Closing and Signature Line. Choose the tone and language of your closing. It goes without saying that the signature line should be closely related to the “from” email. The copy might be a friendly message, such as “If you need help with this, please contact us.” You might want “Thank you, MyCompany.” For some notifications, you may decide to omit the salutation and closing altogether.
- User Customization. Always give users a link at the bottom of the message to modify their email notification frequency or the types they receive, or to opt out altogether if they wish.
- Response Facilitation. Your site may allow you to pre-populate a reply email. When they click a reply link, an email to the correct person opens with a subject line and email text, such as “Yes, Send me that map.” Or the text might repeat the information needed from them, such as “name:_____ phone:______.” This saves the user time and gets you the information you need to serve them.
- Type Styles. The choice of type styles, above, is part of visual branding.
- Logo. You should use your logo or a standard graphic in all emails and notifications, to reinforce your website’s visual identity. For example, in the graphic of an email notification above, YouTube brands the email with a small version of their logo.
That’s all Erica and I could think of. What guidelines might you add? What’s working for you? Relates post – Social Network Engagement