Building a user group – the story continues…


In my last blog entry I signed off by sharing my secret plan to create a group of guild members (“thought leaders”) to take charge of specific topics. Well after two months I can categorically say that with smaller groups there isn’t enough perceived value for the influencer to invest time to claim that position. It works for MySQL which is a much bigger ecosystem and the guild members are notorious within.

Well we have now grown to 200+ members and we are slowly claiming the top spot in mainstream social media (based on membership) amongst the groups focused on products in the same domain. Lotus Notes and/or SharePoint in general have much bigger groups, but it isn’t a fair comparison. Central Desktop, SAP Netweaver, EMC eRoom, Lotus Connections, etc. are better comparisons.

I have continued my model of taking a vertical at a time and sending a couple hundred personal invites in each case. I am seeing a 10% conversion rate with personal invites. Retention has been good. Since January we have lost less than 10 members. Currently the verticals that the group covers are: federal/law enforcement, emergency response management, legal, construction, technical experts (MVPs mostly) and industry analysts.

I have proposed webinars to some of the lead vendors, but amazingly they have not been too interested. My interest is in providing value to the members and for the vendor the value is obvious. I guess they are just booming in this economy and the prospect free focused advertisement isn’t that appealing. To me this says that most top tier vendors are yet to appreciate the power of social media engagement.

Recently I have seen some Twitter groups spring up, where brands are paying contractors to push regular info about their products. Most of what I have seen is too marketing orientated and lack substance. If you are going to setup a Twitter group then you need to be able to deliver true value a few times a week.

Overall I am still struggling with how to get people to participate. I have send feedback to LinkedIn to enable peer reviews on discussion posts. At least that way all members could voice their opinion without having to produce content. Having discussed B2B social media strategies with a number of Fortune 50 companies I have noticed that none of them have a corporate wide training program and policy on social engagement. I would guess that this is one of the reasons that especially executives are hesitant to take actively part in public forums, which in my opinion is a huge lost opportunity for the brand. According to Forrester 75% of people on the web are socially active in the cyber space.

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