Community members don’t need to be reminded that it’s their birthday

by Martin Reed on 3 August 2011 in Snippets

Home Brew Talk is a great online community for those who enjoy brewing their own beer. Unfortunately they’re wasting time when they wish their members a happy birthday. Here’s the email they send:


We at Home Brew Forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today!

There’s nothing unique or personal there – all they’re doing is reminding the recipient that it’s their birthday. This email won’t make a member feel special. In fact, it’ll probably been seen as more of an annoyance than anything else.

When your community is small, you should be sending personalized birthday messages. As it grows, this can become more difficult, but not impossible. Remember, you don’t need to do all the work yourself.

Here’s a better email:


I just wanted to wish you all the best on your 43rd birthday! I hope you managed to find the time to brew that Whiskey Barrel Porter that’s been on your ‘to do’ list for so long! It would be great if you could post a review when it’s finally ready to drink!

Thanks for being a member of Home Brew Talk!

[Your Name]
Community Manager

Oh, and make sure the email comes from a real email address.

Want to go even further? To make a member feel extra special, send something in the mail (keep it simple; a card or a hand scrawled note is perfect).

If this all sounds like too much effort, here’s a simple action you can take. Stop sending automated birthday messages. You’re not fooling anyone. You’re just wasting time (and opportunity).

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Scott Moore August 4, 2011 at 4:56 am

Adding on to ideas:
- Allow your community members to choose if they want to publicly state their birth day (not year). That gives a form of tacit permission to publicly wish them a happy birthday and can kick off having other community members wish them well (which probably counts a lot more). Facebook does this well by informing people privately of your connections’ birthdays.

- In one community, we used to send a note on the anniversary of their registration asking them a quick survey about their participation. Yes, it was automated and it was targeting the 90% of the people who read, but didn’t necessarily participate. We could have done a lot more with that, especially separating out people who had posted to the site and writing to them more personally (especially if we were looking at people who had been participating regularly for several years.

Martin Reed - Community Manager August 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

A good suggestion, Scott – thank you for sharing. I like the idea of a participation survey, too.

Becky August 4, 2011 at 8:58 am

I find that our members quite enjoy this message. We send a ‘happy birthday’ message to our members, and I am always pleased at how many of them reply to say ‘thanks’. At this juncture I always send a personal response saying we hope they enjoyed their day.
We have over 100,000 members, sending unique, personal messages would be impractical.

Martin Reed - Community Manager August 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Impractical if you’re trying to send all those messages yourself, yes! Birthday wishes from strangers don’t really mean anything – we’ve become disillusioned with companies trying to buddy up to us and work our birthdays into their marketing. It’s impossible to send standardized birthday messages without coming across as one of the same.

CLM2134 August 4, 2011 at 11:37 am

Disagreed – from digital marketing perspective, birthday campaigns and highly successful. When sent 1 to 2 times/month, they achieve open rates of 64.4%.

Martin Reed - Community Manager August 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Why are you sending someone a birthday message once or twice a month? In any case, the study found an open rate of 64.4% but how did those messages strengthen the community or make the member feel special? A third of all recipients didn’t even open an email wishing them a happy birthday!

AshaLatha R K Prasad August 6, 2011 at 12:42 am

I send personalized messages with a small ‘photoshop’ ed birthday & anniversary templates!!!! And that would include their name in style! To receive something that was sent specially for them, is a gr8 feeling…. All must try it than sending lifeless automated messages…. Why invest time & energy on something that is worthless? We are all humans & not robots….. So LIVE & LET LIVE!!!!

Ash.. :)

kerstpakketten August 10, 2011 at 3:03 am

Hyves, a Dutch Social Network site, is also sending automatic messages all over the place. It makes me crazy…

But the key is: adding value. If your message, automatic or not, is not adding value to its viewers, it will be an annoyance rather than nice. So… if you’re sending a message (doesn’t matter how or who), ask yourself: how am I adding value?

Tommy T May 8, 2012 at 10:41 pm

When I receive a generic, automated “happy birthday” e-mail I don’t even open it. My first thought when I see the e-mail address & subject is….. SPAM.

Remember folks, your members don’t appreciate you spamming their e-mail boxes.

I used to send my staff a birthday/Christmas card each year via snail mail.

Members who considered me their friend, I would post an e-card to them with a personalized message.

Other members, well they know it’s their birthday, they don’t want to be reminded it’s their birthday by strangers. More often than not, other members usually post a “Happy Birthday, User1011101″ thread in forums anyway. All you have to do is simply reply to the thread that already exists and add your wish there, which will be greeted with a “thanks everyone :)” rather than a “ARGHHHH STUPID AUTOMATED E-MAIL SPAM! *RAGEFACE*” response.

Tommy T June 14, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Another good idea is (delayed I know, it only just came to me) is to include a ‘surprise’ birthday message in your weekly/monthly newsletter. Even if that particular user hasn’t signed up to the newsletter, they’re almost guaranteed to know somebody who is and will mention it to them.

Dear Members,

Newsletter stuff here blah blah blah what’s new in the community etc etc etc

There’s some interesting comments in such and such forum post by mr user, female, 26 from Holland who believes in this and that

Miss Member of a confused gender 83 from planet zog disagrees and believes in such and such

What do you think? Feel free to visit insert URL here and let us know we’d love to hear more opinions on this most deadly serious real life matter

Oh, and a little birdy tells me it’s User!11!one!1′s birthday in 3 days time, I hope you have a fantastic time and don’t forget to login to let us know what present’s you’ve got – you still owe me that pint you offered the other day by the way User!11!one!1 haha.

Anyway upcoming features to the community etc etc etc etc etc etc.

It’d be a nice surprise for them, totally unexpected in contrast to an automated spammy e-mail.