Recently we’ve been covering top tips, tricks and best practices in online community building here on Modern Marketing Today, and today we turn our attention to the public sector. Creating a virtual space for government employees to share common wants, needs and ideas is no easy feat. Below, Steve Ressler, founder and president of GovLoop.com, shares his advice on effective B2G community building.
Tell us a little about your role as Founder and President of GovLoop.com.
I founded GovLoop when I was a federal employee at Department of Homeland Security. In my day-to-day, I was often tasked to work on complex government problems and I always thought “I bet someone else in government is working on same problem and I wish I could talk to them.” What started as an idea and a hobby five years ago has now turned into the largest online community connecting 150,000+ federal/state/local government employees.
We’ve expanded from a one-person shop and now have a great team of 25 researchers, designers, marketers, and trainers working at GovLoop.
We have a dedicated team that works closely with marketing and sales divisions of major government vendors to help them share their stories with the GovLoop community building engagement and generating leads.
Online community is a hot topic in the B2G/B2B marketing world, but in the era of digital communications and social media, community can be hard to define. What would you say are the essential characteristics of a successful online community?
The key characteristic of a successful online community is focusing on your members. At the simplest, you need to get into the psyche of your ideal member – what are their habits, what are their wants, what are their needs. For us, we’ve found GovLoop provides our members with a sense of belonging among other public servants, new practical ideas they can execute in their job, as well as help navigating their career.
As the founder and of a highly successful online community with over 100,000 members, what advice would you give to those looking to begin crafting their own online communities?
It’s really really hard. Ninety percent plus of online communities fail because it takes a lot of work and they focus on the wrong things. My advice is to spend your time focusing on what your members truly want (not what you think they want) and make sure you devote resources to this endeavor (it’s not Field of Dreams – if you build it, it’s not likely they’ll come). I’d also encourage companies to spend their resources engaging within existing communities like GovLoop versus creating their own separate communities. It is extremely difficult to generate audience even with great content and community so you’ll have a better return taping into those already in existence.
What are you most looking forward to at this month’s Government IT Sales Summit, hosted by immixGroup?
I’m excited to be in the room learning from the best in the government market. I’m particularly excited about talking about the future of marketing in the public sector especially the topics of marketing automation, content marketing, and online communities. The way you buy a car in 2014 is very different than in 2000 – you ask for recommendations on Facebook, read a ton of reviews from both peers and experts online, and have tons of pricing data from various sources so by the time you talk to a salesperson you may know more than them. Same is happening in government and it requires a different skill set in both sales and marketing.