In yesterday’s lesson, we saw why email courses are great for building an audience.
But what if you want your audience to keep learning without you creating all of the content?
Communities are great because you are no longer the bottleneck in educating people. But starting and growing a community isn’t easy. And that’s where email courses come in handy.
In today’s lesson, we look at three reasons why email courses are great for communities — and stretch the definition of "email course" a bit more:
- Email is personal
- Email is a ritual
- Email is curatable
You might have guessed it… let’s look at each:
Email is personal
Yes, this is the third time I mention that emails are personal. But what does that have to do with communities?
Community is all about connections. When you have an audience, there’s a one-to-many connection (you = one, your audience = many). When your audience interacts with you and each other, you have many-to-many connections. You are no longer the bottleneck!
But before you are no longer the one teaching everything, there’s a lot of personal work to do.
Everything starts with that one-on-one connection you establish with your reader. As you ask questions and they respond, you discover their challenges and aspirations. Before you know it, you spot patterns and see who are on similar journeys.
I use Ghost as my email marketing tool for a reason. Not only do I see basic stats, but I can also keep some notes about each audience member and assign them a label:
Once I have about a dozen people with similar interests, I email them to check if they’re open to meeting like-minded people at an online event.
Why use a video call, not a forum or comments section, to kickstart a community? I’ve found that for small groups, online events often create much more energy and keep people engaged (and connected) for much longer.
But even for online events, email is indispensable:
Email is a ritual
Great communities have shared rituals, from posting “GM” (good morning, popular in crypto communities) in a Discord server to creating a video and sharing it with others in a video call. As long as it’s something that’s done regularly as a group, you can call it a ritual.
But what do email courses have to do with community rituals?
As we’ve discussed in other lessons this week, reading email is already a habit for many people (for some, it’s more like a ritual). We can piggyback off people’s email habit to help them adopt new habits.
Once you have people’s attention through an email course or challenge, you can direct them elsewhere. For example, to a public forum or comments section by asking them to answer a prompt. (Hmm… doesn’t that sound much like what I’m doing here?)
But you don’t have to create an entire email course or challenge. Just a few emails before and after a live session can make these video calls much more helpful.
Before a session, you can send emails with information and prompts to think about. This helps prime attendees so you can get to the point more quickly. Plus, a few well-written emails beforehand can help people to show up for the event.
Email also has a place after live sessions. Whatever comes up during a video call can be captured, transcribed, and shared via email. With AI tools, this is almost trivial to do.
For example, one of my favorite cohort-based courses, Write of Passage, uses emails both before and after sessions to help students get the most out of them:
This gets us to the third way email can help you cultivate a community:
Email is curatable
Cura-what? Simply said, you can curate the content of your emails.
That means you don’t have to be an expert to start creating educational emails!
When I got into Stoicism, I barely knew anything about philosophy in general. So, I started a weekly newsletter in which I shared other people's content. The more content I curated, the deeper my understanding of Stoic philosophy grew.
Similarly, when I got into personal knowledge management, I started a newsletter about what was happening in that corner of Twitter. All I did was link to useful tweets, articles, and videos from people in my network, but people loved it as my emails saved them time figuring out complex tools.
Both these topics are super niche and only appeal to a few thousand people in the same way they appeal to me. But most of them were on my email list, and we were learning from each other. In no time, every newsletter netted a handful content recommendations and tools to check out. I kept learning because I was learning in public.
Long story short: you don’t need to be an expert to create an email course. And you don’t even have to publish daily. As long as what you share is useful, people will want to learn with you.
Recap and what’s next
This is a good point to take a break.
Tomorrow, we’ll tie everything up and put a nice bow on top. We’ll do so by combining the lessons from this week to help us go from beginner to expert in any field.
But first, let’s recap what we’ve discussed today:
- Email is personal. When you get to know your audience, you start to see who has similar goals and challenges. Connect these people, and you’ve sparked a community.
- Email is a ritual. Most internet users check their email every day. This makes email the perfect tool to prepare people for events, share key lessons, and get them to your community in the first place.
- Email can be curated. You don’t have to be an expert to create email courses. Curate other people’s content and put your own spin on how you use their advice. People will appreciate you sharing their work, and others will contact you with more stuff to share.
Your turn, let’s learn from each other
As always, let’s learn through reflection — and from each other! Here’s today’s writing prompt:
What’s your favorite community that uses email to share lessons and promote events?
Please take a moment to think about what communities you know that use email well, and what you can steal (like an artist) from them. The more inspiration you gather, the easier it becomes to create your own place on the web.
Feel free to drop the link to this community in the comments, even if you’re plugging your own community. If it’s a community where people go to learn, and the community facilitator uses email, then it’s worth learning from it.
I hope to read from you!