Building a user group

During the first week of January 2009 I started an experiment into social networking. I have a personal interest in a product called Microsoft Office Groove, which is one of the best kept secrets in the Microsoft arsenal. MS Groove is a solution for secure distributed collaboration… if you did not know. Together with Lotus Notes it is the only collaboration solution to my knowledge that is FIPS 140-2 certified.
There was an existing group that is called This group has been around for a while and was the defacto group for Groove enthusiasts with its own web site and sub groups in Facebook and LinkedIn. LinkedIn being the bigger with 33 members. In Facebook there was also another group called Get In the Groove! with 51 members.
I chose LinkedIn as my platform, not for the great group features, but for the simple fact that its cleaner and more professional. I have sent my top ten wish list to LinkedIn, but honestly I do not have high hopes… dissapointed in their product vision in general. I made the decision that I would not invite any vendors until the group reached critical mass. Its not easy to build a group as a score of groups with 1-5 members have seen. I started by sending personal invites to all Groove related contacts I could find in Jigsaw. "Personal" being the operative word. I then pinged my way through my competitor groups. Facebook allows for about 5 pings, until it warns about spamming. Tomorrow you can do another five. In LinkedIn once you are a member you can contact other members to your hearts content. My pings were short, to the point and personal.
Every new member was welcomed with a second email, in which I offered to help within the group in what ever capacity I could. Many responded back that I was treating them like royalty and there was a direct correlation with how active they became in the group after joining.
I also invited some Microsoft staff and got one to unofficially help answer member questions. You would imagine that brand owners would like to take a proactive approach in communicating with a captive audience of users, but not all of us have it in us.
With this model we grew 2-4 members per day on average becomming the largest user group in the mainstream social media (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Yahoo Groops and Google Groups) within a period of three weeks.
My next challenge will be to generate discussion. I am now sharing my top secret plan with you. I intend to recruit subject matter experts forming a Groove MVP Guild within the group. They will get recognition and take an active role.
Next summer at WPC look for neon green pins on peoples shirts that say: "Microsoft Groove Global User Group Rules!"
Technorati Tags: ,,, WPC, MS Groove, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google

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