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An autoresponder is a system that maintains an email list and sends messages to the people who subscribe to it.
There are two kinds of messages:
Follow-ups are sent to each person on a predefined schedule. For example, the first follow up message is generally sent as soon as someone subscribes. Then next is sent the next day or a few days later, etc.
Broadcasts are sent to everyone on the list at the same time. Broadcasts can be limited to subsets of a list by filtering based on how far into your follow-up sequence each person is, or other data stored with each email address.
When starting out, you may not think you have much use for an autoresponder, but take my word for it -- one day you'll realize that you do, and on that day, if you don't have an autoresponder collecting email addresses already, you'll wish you'd set one up when you first got started. Why? Because it takes time to build a bit list of subscribers. So start now.
I recommend using AWeber.
I don't recommend using self-hosted scripts (even though they're less expensive initially), because in the long run, the time and frustration you'll save by turning over the work of maximizing deliverability of your emails, keeping your server's IP address from getting blacklisted, etc., is worth the additional cost.
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