Got a party, webinar, or a VIP-only sale coming up? We often get asked about the best way to share calendar events via email, so subscribers can book them in and create alerts in desktop and web calendars like iCal, Outlook or Google Calendar. But with the variety of apps out there comes confusion as to what’s the best way to go about sharing an event – do you link to a file? A .vcs? How about Google Calendar?
Back in my agency days, we’d share calendar events on a regular basis – both via email and on our in-house event registration pages. We found that there is no one ‘silver bullet’ method that played nicely with all the calendar apps – some people preferred adding events to their desktop apps, others web. So we settled on providing subscribers with two methods: either download and add the event as an .ics, or add it to your Google Calendar. In most cases, our invitees were happy.
Sharing an .ics file is not always as easy as you think
First up, it’s easy to mix up vCalendar’s .vcs with iCalendar’s .ics files. The skinny is that the iCalendar file format has largely superseded vCalendar and is supported across pretty much all the major calendar apps. So this is what we recommend you use. It’s also pretty easy to export events from calendar apps like iCal (pictured) and Outlook.
With that out of the way, the issue lies with hosting your .ics file on a server. Only servers that support the WebDAV protocol play nicely with the sharing of calendar files – if in doubt, ask your tech team. If your server doesn’t support WebDAV, all you will see is the raw text innards of the .ics file when you try to load it. Even when hosted on a server without WebDAV support, you can use the URL in your campaign and prompt your subscribers to ‘Download linked file…’ or ‘Save As…’ to grab the .ics from their email client, but this seems a little messy.
After reading about these file format and server config peculiarities, you’re probably getting an idea as to why Google Calendar is so popular.
Google Calendar for the win… But not for everyone
The downside, of course, is that not everyone has a Google Calendar account. That’s why also serving an .ics is a bit of a necessary evil. It’s also why web-based scheduling and event apps are a dime a dozen.
The bottom line when it comes to sharing and adding individual calendar events via email is that you need to provide at least two options – in our case, both an .ics hosted on server that supports WebDAV and a Google Calendar event. I’d love to hear how you get your subscribers to add your events to their calendars, so feel free to suggest alternative approaches in the comments below.