Of all the challenges facing forum owners, this one requires the most creative approaches. There are various existing features that are geared towards keeping your members engaged. They can receive alerts, push notifications or emails when content is posted in threads or forums they watch, or you can manually email members periodically to keep them updated with the latest goings-on at your forum. These approaches aren't always effective as they either require explicit action from the user to designate the kind of content in which they are interested, or they require manual intervention from you to create some sort of newsletter.
There must be a better way, right? Well of course there is, or this would be a really short and slightly pointless post.
The "Activity summary" is an email, periodical receipt of which your members can opt into, which will give them an overview of what they have missed since their last visit to your forum.
We then have three values with which we can control the timing and frequency of when emails should be sent. The defaults are reasonable for most cases and are for the most part self explanatory. By default, we stop sending the activity summary email if the user has been inactive for 6 months, users fitting those criteria are probably a lost cause, but you can override the default and continue sending email to these users indefinitely by setting the value to 0 days.
Registered forum members may opt themselves in or out of receiving the email from their Privacy or Preferences pages:
Although the "Receive news and update emails" can be toggled independently of the new "Receive activity summary email", we only display the former on registration, but if checked then we will opt the user into the activity summary emails too.
Of course the user can unsubscribe at any time.
In fact, the activity summary isn't just a list of threads but is instead built up using content sections that you can finely configure. Out of the box, these sections are set up to fetch the latest content, but there are several additional filters to allow you to narrow down the content returned in the way you see fit.
For example, you could have a section return the most active threads based on reply count, or the most popular threads based on reaction score. This makes for a much more targeted approach than simply grabbing the latest items, and will be particularly useful for large and busy forums where it will be important to only return the best content from a sea of noise.
From here you can add additional sections, delete existing sections or change the order that sections appear.
Let's look at how you can change the behaviour of "Latest threads" to only show the latest threads from a specific forum.
What we've done now is changed the activity summary so that instead of showing the 5 most recent threads from any forum, instead it will show only 2 of the most recent threads from a specific forum.
We can see those changes reflected in the email, but you can also add additional sections, even if you have previously used that type before. So we can click "Add activity summary section" and add yet another "Latest threads" section.
This time we'll configure it to pull from the HYS forum. And then we can even add another which can pull from the "General" forum.