Best practices for mailing lists and notifications

iOS/Android app push notifications are sent via the Messages module. Schools may consider different strategies for mailing lists depending on how they send most of their community emails.

Communicating via specific lists

The goal in communicating via different channels (email, app, SMS) is to increase the likelihood that members of your community read the information you are sending. People are more likely to read personalized, relevant content that arrives in their preferred mode of communication.

Let’s consider the following example.

A school creates a mailing list called "All Parents," which a number of school administrators have access to. All the parents in the school are added to this mailing list, and it is also enabled for mobile notifications (which allows app users to subscribe for push notifications to this channel). The school starts using this list and sending content that spans all reaches of the school:

  • Weekly newsletter
  • Athletics updates
  • School musical announcement
  • School closing due to inclement weather
  • Important registration or re-enrollment deadline

Parents may be interested in some, but not all of this information. Some information the parent may prefer to receive via an email, and some may be better via an app push notification (or SMS). If the parent feels as though they receive “too many” emails or push notifications they are not interested in, they may unsubscribe. This means they will receive NO information.

By creating mailing lists that are focused on the type of information the user wants to receive, you may see greater engagement with that content. Allowing users to opt for mobile or email notifications may again increase engagement, as you are respecting the users’ preferred mode of communication. Examples of more focused lists include:

  • Weekly Newsletter
  • Athletics News
  • Arts/Music Dept. News
  • School Closings & Delays
  • Important Announcements

School district lists by school

School districts may want to create lists per school. Instead of “Farmington High School Announcements,” it may be more effective to create multiple, specific lists for schools.

Note: In the future, we plan to add folders and locations to Messages, as this will help with organization, permissions, and decluttering the view for admins in the Messages module. They can also be used in the app to filter on locations. 

Push notification details

Push notifications (and SMS) may be more effective at capturing the attention of users, but are much shorter than an email, so there is a limit to how much detail can be added. However, push notifications can be set to open the Message details in the app, so the user can benefit from the quick notice, e.g. “School closing early today,” with detail provided when the user taps the notification: “Due to a gas leak, students were evacuated from the building, and will be sent home beginning at 10:30AM on their normal bus.”

Push notification privacy

Schools can choose to require logins to the app. Users logging into the app will use the same login credentials as they do to access the school’s Finalsite portals. If users are logging into the app, schools can choose to make mailing lists private, meaning that anonymous users who download your school’s app cannot see or subscribe for push notifications for this type of content. Your school may have a mix of public and private mailing lists, which is perfectly fine. Privacy can be set per role or group (e.g., "Lower School Announcements" can be set to allow only lower school parents and faculty to subscribe).

Keep in mind, however, that logins are a barrier to accessing information. It’s one extra step that users, particularly parents, may be less likely to complete. Consider whether the information your school is sending is truly private, or if you’re simply attempting to target the right users.

Operational emails

Operational emails are messages that are sent to roles or groups of users that are independent of a list - as such, app users cannot currently subscribe to receive operational push notifications. The main advantage to sending operational emails is that an unsubscribe link is not included, and any users included in the role or group who have globally unsubscribed will still receive the notification. According to the GDPR, this should be reserved for communication that is “required for fulfillment of a contract,” e.g., reminding parents of a re-enrollment deadline; however, regular mailing lists can be used instead, as they may be more effective.

Using Messages for email and push notifications

Schools using Messages for email AND app push notifications (and soon SMS) will benefit from creating a message (both a detailed and mobile-friendly version) in one location and using a single send to reach multiple channels. Additionally, messages can contain dynamic content from site modules (Calendar Manager, Athletics Manager, and Posts), which may save time when building newsletters or reminders that include this type of information. Admins can choose what happens when the user taps the push notification: open in the list of push notifications, or open the related message detail in the app.

Using Messages for push notifications only

Schools that are using a separate solution for emails may want to consider switching to Messages, as it may help save time and streamline communication efforts; however, this is not required. Schools using Messages for Push Notifications only can still consider creating topic-based lists that can be public or private. A basic Messages template should be created to contain the “Message details,” as this will still be helpful to users in the app, even if there are no email subscribers on the list.

Unsubscribing from push notifications

When an anonymous user subscribes for push notifications in the app, Finalsite stores the “deviceID” in the mailing list (in the same way that we store an email address with a mailing list). This allows us to send the notification to the correct device. If a user gets a new device, he or she would need to resubscribe via the new device, so that the proper deviceID can be stored with the mailing list. As we don’t know “who” is associated with the deviceID, admins are unable to remove an individual from a mailing list once they have subscribed; the user must unsubscribe themselves.

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