Tips and Tricks for creating User Group communication channels with your members.

I know this is not a code related post, but I think that community in the software development industry is important.  Here are some tricks that I have been using which combine some of my experience working in eCommerce with my experience running the communication for the Austin .Net Users Group.

Here are some tips around building some communication channels to communicate with your user group members.  The important fact to deal with when building these communications channels is that people prefer different ways of communication.  As a result, when creating these channels it is better to maintain multiple channels as a user group leader rather than losing possible members from the conversation by forcing them into one method of communication!

As far as growing your group. I would recommend the following:

  • Start a mailing list that people can join from your website. Push your regular attendees to join this if they have not already done so. At your meetings ask for a raise of hands of who is on the list and get the people who are not on the list to join.  Since the people at your meeting have already shown a sign that they are interested, you should be able to build some trust, so that they know you will not misuse the Newsletter mailing list.
  • Send out a monthly newsletter / meeting announcement at least two business days before your meeting.  There are some tricks that we can learn from all of the eCommerce marketing folks. Emails work best when they are sent on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  This is a trick that all ecommerce companies have figured out.. So you should send your emails consistently on a Tuesday or Thursday morning.
  • The newsletter should include the following:
  • A Subject that says.. Meeting on “Monday” “Full Date” for the “User Group Name”.  Insert the information that is relevant to your groups meeting and groups name.
  • Title of the meetings presentation, name of the presenter, and a brief bio.
  • Links to join any networking groups.. ie linked in, facebook ect.
  • Links to any local developer events, whether they are free or cost money.  It is better to let everyone know about events in the local area, rather than being afraid to talk about events that could cost money.
  • The title and date of the next meeting.

  • Create a LinkedIn Group for your User Group, advertise your group on your website, at your meetings, and on the newsletter / meeting announcement.
    • Duplicate the meeting announcement on the LinkedIn group.
    • It is important to create these groups because, you will get exposure to new potential members.  You regular attendees will join the group and people in their network will see that they have joined the group.  Those people will than join the group, even if they have not been to a meeting.  I have found that, this is where it is better to meet members where they are rather than force one method of communication.
  • Have your next meetings speaker and topic set before the previous meeting and update the websites with that information. This is important so that your members can have this in there mind when they have conversations at their company.  If this topic becomes relevant, than they will help spread the word if there are others that they know have an interest in the next months topic.
  • If you have local recruiting companies sponsor your meetings than ask them if they could send out an announcement to the developers in the area announcing your group. I recommend creating the email that you want them to send out and give that too them.  It is better for you to create the email so that the message does not get changed when your partners send out the message.
  • Start using twitter if there are some members of your existing user group that are already using twitter.  You can use a hashtag as a way to focus conversations around your group. 
  • Start a facebook group, if you have members that are already using facebook. This follows the same pattern as LinkedIn and Twitter.

Questions or comments?  Please let me know.

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