The buzz around town for the past few days is the announcement that GovLoop, the “Facebook for feds,” has a new home — with GovDelivery, a Minnesota-based company that specializes in helping agencies communicate with citizens — and we spoke to them today on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. Hear our conversation here.
By joining GovLoop and GovDelivery, I will be able to continue to lead GovLoop and will have more resources to support and improve the platform so the community can continue to grow….
In just over a year, GovLoop grew from merely an idea to more than 18,000 members across all levels of government. During this growth, GovLoop was just a hobby. I had a 9 to 5 at DHS (with some amazingly supportive bosses) and GovLoop was my 5 to 9 (and weekends). People always asked how I had enough time to do both. The answer is I really didn’t.
GovLoop isn’t about me. It’s about the community. And the community has kept GovLoop going.
What we’ve learned reinforces what we’ve heard from our clients: social media is most powerful when it creates connections that either improve government, improve citizen access to government, or both. While we will continue to help our clients use the GovDelivery platform to launch content into social media, we believe that, together with GovLoop, we can help create the kind of connections between government people and organizations that lead to enduring and positive change in the governments we serve.
This will be good for our clients, the people in the government organizations we serve, and for the public.
That is what they think this means, but… what will it mean?
“It’s a fantastic move for Steve, and a shrewd move for GovDelivery. It’s a way for GovDelivery to extend the services they offer,” said Steve Lunceford, strategic communications consultant with Deloitte in McLean, Va. He predicts GovDelivery will offer additional services leveraging the GovLoop membership, including Web dialogues and access to interactive conversations on topics such as government best practices and solutions.
“GovDelivery has experience in connecting government agencies to each other, and to citizens,” said Mark Drapeau, an associate research fellow at the National Defense University’s Center for Technology and National Security Policy and a Federal Computer Week columnist. “Steve has created a community, which GovDelivery lacks.”
Government marketing guru Mark Amtower had a somewhat negative take:
I do not think this move will help GovLoop continue its growth pattern, though. One of the things that fueled the growth was the buzz about it being run by a govie. Now he’s a contractor – and consequently many of those currently in govLoop and those considering joining because it was “open” will now look at it as just another contractor tool.
With all due respect to Amtower — and GovExec’s FedBlog — I’m not sure that is the issue. This has been a long process for Ressler — and he had many different organizations vying for GovLoop. And he didn’t just partner with just another contractor.
2006 Rising Star Steve Ressler
I know both these guys — and, without sounding too patronizing to their exceedingly good and hard work, I am exceedingly proud of them. I first met Ressler through Federal Computer Week’s Rising Star awards program. In fact, I put Ressler and his step-sister on the cover of the magazine in recognition of their work creating the marvelous Young Government Leaders group. (How is it Ressler hasn’t aged?) I have then invited Ressler to speak at several events… he has gone on to be a two-time winner of FCW’s prestigious Fed 100 award. And, in fact, one of the very first posts when I launched the DorobekInsider was about Ressler and GovLoop.
I am equally in awe of GovDelivery’s Scott Burns. I had both Burns and Ressler over for dinner last week and it was Burns who reminded me that we first met at IAC’s Executive Leadership Conference several years ago. He was on a panel moderated by Harvard Prof. Steve Kelman… and I remember sitting in the audience and listening to Burns… and I was just impressed. After the panel, I introduced myself — and I told him that I was impressed. He went on to write a column for FCW in 2008, The not so invisible hand, which is still worth reading. And he went on to win a well deserved 2009 Fed 100 award.
Ressler is in his late 20s… Burns is in his early 30s. I just love that. They have great energy — Ressler has some great quotes in our Federal News Radio that are wonderfully 20-something. But they are also willing to figure it out.
This just seems to be a practically perfect union. With all due respect to Amtower, this isn’t any contractor. I have had extensive discussions with both Ressler and Burns — and I am honored they came on Federal News Radio to talk about this deal — and both of them are motivated by public service. Both are keenly aware that the reason GovLoop has been successful is because of Ressler… and I would argue that part of the reason why GovDelivery has been successful — although perhaps less visible — but that success is because of Burns. Both these guys are focused on helping the government do its job better — and they both believe they want to help government agencies do that.
A lot of this is uncharted territory — and it will be fascinating to see how this evolves — and it will be interesting if GovDelivery can make money from GovLoop. (Bo Peabody, the founder of Tripod, one of the first social networks, and currently the managing general partner of New York-based venture capital firm Village Ventures, wrote a wonderful piece in the WP headlined, Twitter.org. He argues — even questions — whether these collaboration tools can be profitable. HT: Ethan Zuckerman)
Almost as interesting will be how others compete with this union. There are others looking at this market — and looking to outdo GovLoop. One of those is, for example, is something called DisGOVer… there is the Federal Contractor Network, which has nearly 10,000 people… there is also Steve O’Keefe’s largely unnoticed MeriTalk… even FedScoop. (Editor’s transparency note: I sit on the FedScoop board of advisers.)
GovLoop — and the Federal Contractor Network — have the advantage of being platforms. They are essentially tools that get used by their members. They are guided, but… there is no “control” — and that seems powerful to me.
All of that being said, the competition is great — and will be great for the government and this market.