How to send email to groups efficiently with Google Apps

Google Groups is the most powerful way to communicate with a group of email users.

How to create a Google Group

To create a Google Group while in Gmail, click on "Groups" in the black bar menu at the top of the screen. Then, choose the "New Group" graphic near the middle of the page, to the right of "Browse All". (Note: If you use Google Apps and can't create or configure the Group settings you need, check with your system administrator.)

Google Group configuration options

Give your Group a name, email address, and brief description. Keep the email address short and easy to remember.

The default group type of "email list" is likely what you want. Other types are available for special use cases, such as a Group intended to be a web-browser accessed forum.

Give careful thought to the Basic Permission settings. These control who can View topics, Post to the group, and who can Join.

There are four options for both View and Post:

  • Managers of the group
  • All members of the group
  • All organization members
  • Anyone

There are five options for who can Join the group:

  • Anyone
  • Anyone in the organization
  • Only invited users
  • Anyone can ask
  • Anyone in the organization can ask

Let's look at three different uses of a Google Group:

  • First, an internal staff discussion list, e.g., All options except "Anyone" would be selected for both View and Post. The Join option would be set to "Anyone in the organization".
  • Second, a distribution-only email list, e.g. Typically, this would be a list where information is publicly available, but only selected people can send to the list. The View topics option would be set to "Anyone". The Post option might be set to "Managers of the group". The Join option might be set to "Anyone". So anyone could join and view topics, but only Managers could post.
  • Third, a discussion list for an organization's board members only, e.g., This group would be more restricted. View topics would be set to "All members of the group". Post option might be set to "All members of the group", which would allow any board member to be part of the discussion. Joining the group would be restricted to "only invited users".

Invite members to your group

After you create the group, you next need to invite members. Click on "Manage", which is found next to the sprocket in the upper right corner of the Groups page. Then, using the menu options along the left side of the screen you can add members. You can modify many more Google Groups setting on this page. In many cases, the defaults are fine. Learn more about Google Groups from Google's support pages.

Google Groups for Documents, Calendar, and Sites

You can share Google Documents, Calendars and Sites with a Google Group. You do this by sharing the item to the email address for the Google Group.

For example, say you create a Google Document containing the minutes of a board meeting. You'd share the document with the email address of the ""Google Group. The members of that group would have access to the document.

Moments now to save hours later

If you frequently cut-and-paste a set of email addresses, stop now. Take a few moments to create a Contact Group if you're the only one sending email to a group. If other people also need to email to the group, create a Google Group. The few minutes you spend to set up a Google Group today will make email communication easier tomorrow. That's exactly what technology should do.

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Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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