According to my forum statistics, I have a large number of users. In actuality, I have a fraction of those users that are active. I'd like to send a "We miss you, please come back" type message to users that have posted at least twice and haven't been to the forums in the last six months. All of this is discoverable within the database.

My question is, should this type of email be sent? Is it spammy? I receive these from some places and not others. Of the ones I receive, I ignore many but I do revisit some sites. It feels like a grey area to me and would like to know how other administrators have lured back once participating members.

  • 22
    Ironically, the user asking this question hasn't returned to CB.SE since this question was posted. Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 16:00
  • 1
    As far as we know, you mean, right? What with SE being publicly-accessible =)
    – Mathieu K.
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 9:15
  • No meaningful answers can actually be given unless we know: 1) How big is your forum, what's the subject? 2) How many exactly of those users left you? 3) Why did they leave you? Did they just get bored because of little activity? Did they got tired of too strict moderation? Did they move to a competitor? Did they all just get married and no longer have time for you? Did they get what they wanted from your forum and just want nothing back? (As you see, the third part is the most important) Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 9:03

8 Answers 8


Give them a reason. Just "I miss you" is boring and is ignored.

Do you know why the people left your forum? Or are there any improvements since then? Maybe you changed your design or you have new fluffy features?

If this is true, you should advertise them: of course with an invitation. Maybe you have badges and one of them is called "Reborn" or "Risen from the Dead".

Assuming, that you are a brave moderator of your forum: give them a single link to remove their accounts from your database if they are really not more interested in your topic.

Or ask them "Why did you leave?" and "What can we do better?" Make it simple.

  • 2
    I absolutely agree with "give them a reason" and "keep it simple". If I were to put myself in the user's spot, I would be tempted to delete the email unless the subject got me interesting. Then once I started reading, if I got one reason to stop reading (say too many words, bad design, too long), I would stop and delete.
    – harsimranb
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 16:20
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    And make sure the reason you give is framed from your users' point of view, not from your own. "I miss you" is your reason for wanting them to come back. Give them their reason to come back. Ideally, it should be something exciting. "The community has tripled in size in the last 6 months!" is a lot better than "We have a new logo and wallpaper!". Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 15:59
  • @DanHenderson It's even worse, as it's seen as a lie. "I miss you" may be true for a moderator/active user that stopped contributing, so you miss him specifically. An "I miss you" message to everybody with a couple of post doesn't really miss them, they are only a number for the owner.
    – Ángel
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 22:04
  • @Ángel is right. It's the same as when train companies apologies via automated tape recordinga. Emotions need an authentic locus inside an entity capable of experiencing them or else, lacking in weight, they are valueless. bjb568 's answer makes the most sense.
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 23:31

I've found that the most successful way that's least perceived as spammy and annoying (meaning I won't stab you thru the internet for it, probably) is to send an update to everybody about a new feature. This does mean you have to have a new feature, which makes sense since somebody who left before won't want to come back to the same place anyway.

  • Active users will be happy about the feature and an email notification will be appropriate
  • Inactive users who just forgot about the site would be reminded and have a reason to come back
  • Inactive users who were mildly unsatisfied may see reason to come back
  • Inactive users who absolutely hate the site at least probably won't try to DDOS you since the email isn't as spammy as "We miss you"/"Would you like to come back? <list of features the user already knew about>"/"We'll give you a badge!"

I think it is perfectly fine to do, as long as:

  • You have not said you wouldn't do this – at sign up stage, in your terms, etc.
  • You allow a way within the email that is simple and clear to unsubscribe (and it actually works)
  • It's not a huge load of nothing – it needs to be interesting, with some good reason you are emailing, rather than just "please come back"

Other tips:

  • You might not want to email all the same day. To avoid the site grinding to a halt when a lot come back at once. This depends on your hosting resources, and how many users you mean by "a large number of users", and possibly the niche (non of which you mentioned)
  • Depends on what niche your site is – some niches this won't work for at all, some it will
  • I would say email those who have: Posted more than 6 times (any less could just be passing comments, hit and run question, reply just to get signature links visible, etc) and inactive for 2 months or more. Anyone not been to a forum in 2 months is not really active, and after 6 months they are likely not to remember and thus not care as much (but with 2 months threshold you catch them anyway)
  • You could try limiting the mailing list to say 5% of your total list, and see what feedback comes. Again, I do not know how many there will be. 5% may be 10 users, which is useless, or be 5000 users.

Those who see it as spammy will just unsubscribe/ignore/email some profanities/etc.
Nothing harmed as long as you unsubscribe those who requested it and don't email them again.

Of the ones I receive, I ignore many but I do revisit some sites. It feels like a grey area to me

You are of course just seeing your own actions, and you may find a surprising number of people respond to such things, like coming back and being active.
It does really depend a lot on your niche, what message you actually email, and how many users this will go out to, etc.

Alternative idea

If you are stuck with a good reason to email them, and all attempts sound like "please come back we want more members", then perhaps think about starting a newsletter.

It doesn't have to be juicy new features, just the latest most interesting threads from a range of your topics/forums.

Then, something might really grab their interest, and if so their coming back might not be just another hit and run.

Again, because it's important, don't forget the link "Click here to unsubscribe to these messages".


Can it possibly hurt? Not really. It may be perceived as spammy by some, but it will be perceived as a reminder of fun times gone by for others. If you can incorporate a new feature announcement of some type in to it, that will probably help (such as a board upgrade or even just some competition for a prize or something.) The other nice thing about a new feature e-mail is that you don't even have to filter who you send it to as it will be informative to active users as well.

What difference does it make if someone thinks one e-mail you send one time is spammy? If they think that, they likely don't like your community and weren't coming back anyway. You can't really lose by having someone disengaged stay disengaged.


It works best if you take the time to personalize the message with something that interests them. E.g. 'hey, this question "insert question about [topic]"' needs an answer and I thought you might be able to help [user] out here.

Always make things actionable :)

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    Agreed with personalize thing. We are interacting with humans!
    – user1217
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 10:07

Another option is to draw them back into conversations that you believe they would be interested in.

This is harder, but if you can evaluate the kind of conversations they participated in previously, you can point to recent conversations that are similar.

Try this out with a handful of inactive users and see what the response is. If it works for your community style, then you might be able to automate it a little.

  • Indeed. Basically, just don't do say it. I don't want to hear it, and "come back to us! We've got [insert shiny here]" is further motivation for me to unsubscribe. However, if you give me a recent sample of your awesome content, I may go check it out.
    – Mathieu K.
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 9:11

There's something I'm surprised other answers don't address directly.

Use your content - content is king

You're essentially re-marketing your site to what in relationship marketing might be called 'warm leads', people who have some relationship with your product but are not currently interacting.

So use the product - the thing people come for in the first place. Use the interesting content, interactions and activity of your community.

Don't beg, don't talk about re-designs or non-content site features. This would be like a pizza company trying to entice ex-customers back with their new, sturdier pizza boxes. That may be a valuable improvement to the overall experience, but not it's not the thing people come for.

Use the content that people come to your community for. Use your equivalent of pizza:

  • Popular posts or discussions. Suppose you run a forum about drones. There's a popular discussion about some new drone on the market. Your ex-users probably have an opinion on it. So pick a discussion-worthy post or comment and use that as the draw. "JohnK says, 'The [whatever] is the best quad drone ever'. Do you agree?". The kind of thing people come to your community for - the equivalent of this month's top selling pizza.
  • If you have the tech, relevant posts or discussions based on an algorithm and your data on your ex-users interests. Send JohnK's discussion-worthy comment about quads to ex-users who participated in discussions on quads. The equivalent of your ex-customer's favourite pizza.
  • Save features updates for if you know that they might be the reason people might have drifted away: fixing complained-about bugs, offering much-requested services - things that might have impaired feeling able to access the content. The equivalent of "We now offer home delivery!" or "Slow no more: We now deliver in 20 minutes, or the pizza's free!" - not "We have new, branded delivery bikes!".

Some examples of major sites who use this approach:

  • Twitter send "Popular in your network" emails, with tweets that their algorithim thinks lapsed users might find enticing. They send me posts they know these people like me want to interact with, so they have every reason to think that I'll see them and be motivated to interact
  • Quora's "Quora digest" emails have as their subject line the most popular, enticing question. They know it's a question people like to click on, questions are what people come to their community for, so if anything makes me come back, it'll be a particularly tasty-looking question.

It's better to prompt action than persuade someone to make a conscious decision. People dither and procrastinate before acting on decisions. People rationalise and justify their actions with new attitudes after they act. There's lots of research in psychology that shows changes in attitude follow changes in action much more than changes in action follow changes in attitude.

If someone's response is, "No way is the [whatever] the best quad drone ever", and immediately they're posting in your community again, voicing their opinion, interacting, that's a better result than "Huh, maybe I'll give that site another try. But first I fancy a coffee".


Having this problem means that your community has room to grow, and in all honesty, all communities can benefit from this. Sending people "We miss you!" messages will get ignored unless you attach something to it.

If your site has not updated in some time, now is the time to do it! Whatever update you make will be the "reason" you will send emails out to these users. This makes sense and will be accepted by the recipients. So, if you don't have an update, update now and give those users a reason to come back.

A simple idea could be to get feedback from the users as to what changes could be made to the site. Your could word the email like this:


We've noticed that you have not been a part of the current discussions on our site and we wanted to make an invitation to you to come back. We are about to start a new discussion on possible changes to the site and we need your input! Please click on the link below to access our Feedback Forum.

Looking forward to your comments, Forum Team

Of course, tweak this as necessary.

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