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Mixing Up Some Awesome Sauce – GovLoop’s Sale to GovDelivery

By now you’ve most likely read the news stories and early blogs about GovDelivery’s acquisition of GovLoop, the government social networking site that has rapidly grown from zero to nearly 20,000 members in just over a year. GovLoop founder Steve Ressler broke the news on GovLoop via a blog post, and GovDelivery CEO Scott Burns also blogged about the acquisition at his site.


Steve and Scott sat down with me last week to chat a bit about the move and what it means to both of them. You can read more in the news stories linked below but the basic gist is this:

For GovDelivery, which helps government agencies deliver critical messages to key audiences (over 1 billion to-date), GovLoop provides an entre into the fast-growing Gov 2.0 community and a way to help drive additional collaboration amongst its client agencies through the existing forum and new (yet to be determined) services.

For GovLoop, GovDelivery provides resources and reach. This means Ressler can now manage the site full-time and bring on some additional staff. GovLoop will also be able to tap into GovDelivery’s core business to help federal, state and local govies learn and find out about the networking site to rapidly grow membership. As Steve said to me, “GovLoop is all about the ability to connect and share information. There are 20 million government employees nationwide [see Census data] and GovLoop is only reaching 20,000 right now. I’d love to see that number grow to 100,000 or more.”

With 15-30% of the tens of millions of emails sent by GovDelivery landing in .gov email boxes (as government employees opt-in to receive information from other agencies), growing GovLoop from 20,000 to 100,000 seems an aggressive, but attainable goal.


Some Analysis & Advice

I provided some high-level analysis and feedback on the acquisition yesterday to Federal Computer Week (as did Dr. Mark Drapeau). But let me take a moment to share what I think are the top five areas Steve and Scott need to focus on as GovLoop moves from Ressler’s “five to nine” job to his “nine to five” job:

1) Cleanup on Aisle 10: I tease Steve about messy content on the site, but for good reason – GovLoop can be an overgrown jungle of information that’s hard for newbies to hack their way through. As full-time resource is applied to the site, I’m hoping that content structure and presentation can be improved in a way that helps facilitate richer conversation.

2) Kill some children: [Figuratively people, figuratively] At my count today, 225 of the 550 GovLoop groups had just five members or less, partly contributing to point number one above. Give groups a chance to grow, but if they aren’t attracting a robust audience, don’t be afraid to shut them down.

3) Draw us a map: Changes are sure to come as Steve integrates GovLoop into GovDelivery, and the two figure out how to work together to make this acquisition a success. You don’t have to be open kimono, but share directionally the types of new services and such *before* implementing to give the community a voice and chance to weigh in.

4) Just say no: That whole thing about giving the community a chance to weigh in? I think it’s sound advice. Rolling out on each and every idea the community presents? Umm, not so much. Cherish the advice you get from your users, continue to work toward making the site more useful, but keep in mind that you’ll never please everyone all of the time. Trust your gut and shape/grow the site as you believe it needs to grow.

5) Someone’s knocking at the door; do me a favor open the door and let ’em in: This is pure strategy decision, but it’s time to open up GovLoop’s content to those that aren’t members. Currently you must first register before you can read any blogs, posts, wikis or information on the site. When links are shared in blogs, Twitter, Facebook or by email, I’m certain many recipients simply abandon their interest once they hit GovLoop and see they must first register as a member. Perhaps you have public groups and private groups. Perhaps there are features available only to registered users, but the information needs to be set free. Now’s the perfect time to unlock the content and expose more people to everything the members are talking about and sharing via GovLoop. Remember the 90-9-1 theory can be powerful and sharing doesn’t necessarily have to be two-way to be valuable.

90-90-1 pyramid

Click on the GovDelivery/GovLoop banner above for a list of most media coverage regarding the sale of GovLoop. Some of the more interesting stuff I’ve seen online:

BREAKING: Steve Ressler and Scott Burns will join Adriel Hampton and myself tomorrow night (Wednesday, 9/30 at 9 p.m. ET) on Gov 2.0 Radio to talk live about the sale. Join in and ask questions; and to make it even more fun, take a shot every time you hear Ressler say the word “awesome.” 😉

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Maxine Teller

Great shrine to the GovLoop-GovDelivery marriage. I have so much to say about this and add. Maybe I’ll hop on the show tonight and weigh in.
As for your suggestions for GovLoop:
Clean Up on Aisle 10: raises and interesting point — what does community management mean when your community is 20k? There are probably some great lessons to be learned from Intelink and others on this one. What if you crowd-sourced problems & suggestions much like TSA’s IdeaFactory? Great oppt to utilize some of the transparency, participation, collaboration concepts.
Kill Some Children: Some community management assistance could make a big difference here. But don’t forget, size does not equal quality. Be careful here. Different groups have different lifecyles, purposes, timelines.
Draw us a Map: I’m going to take a more literal stab at this one. Use data visualization! GovLoop has the potential to be an amazing playground for testing out new tools, technologies,& concepts that community members could bring back to their gov’t audiences..
Just Say No: back to the crowdsourcing idea — use technology to filter ideas. Best ideas will rise to the top.
Someone’s Knocking at the Door: I have another way to slice this one. How can you use GovLoop to link w/other communities: AFCEA, AFEI, Facebook, etc. There is so much redundancy. GovLoop is rising to the top as a robust community platform. How to enable so many related government groups, associations, …?

Jeffrey Levy

My main comment is that I hope GovDelivery keeps GovLoop as its own brand. Sure, use GovDel to promote GovLoop, but not the other way around. I have no problem with GovLoop being owned by a company, and I think Steve’s being able to focus full-time can only be a good thing. But the instant anyone thinks GovDel is using GovLoop to sell services, acquire people to pitch to, etc., GovLoop is hurt, badly. People joined GovLoop to join a larger, non-biased, non-commercial community. So Steve and Scott, I wish you the best of luck with this new partnership. As long as you respect what exists now and why, you’ll do great things.

Laura Kapelle Bradbard

Maxine Teller’s comments above are dead on. Don’t kill the small children, size is not the measurement of usefulness. How many times do we have to say it???