Over the last year or so GovLoop, a social network initiated by a DHS employee, Steve Ressler, has morphed into one of the most important electronic “agoras” where federal and non-federal employees,a s well as people from all over the world interested in Government 2.0 can exchange ideas. Yesterday GovLoop announced that it is being acquired by GovDelivery, a supplier of government-to-citizen email and wireless communication systems (mostly for mass notification) to state and local but also to some federal agencies. As a consequence, Steve will leave the DHS and become a full time employee of GovDelivery and lead GovLoop as an operational division.
There are questions about whether this will change anything in the path of GovLoop toward being one of the most relevant social networks for government employees. My take is that people will keep using whichever platforms is most appropriate for what they want to accomplish.
Looking at some of the numbers from GovLoop, in spite of its 18,000 plus members, discussion groups are still relatively small and – with a few exceptions – not terribly active. Now that mainstream social media such as Facebook have received the federal blessing through Apps.gov, I wonder whether GovLoop will keep its edge or whether it will be slowly – or perhaps not too slowly – subsumed by something else. Some users or groups may not feel entirely comfortable about the directions it takes, and could easily spin off groups using Ning or Facebook or other consumer platforms.
If GovLoop wants to remain relevant, it needs to provide some value that is unique to it. Reality shows that communities migrate across platforms as soon as they see value: in the consumer world the largest example has been the migration from MySpace to Facebook, but there are plenty of smaller examples.
The real question is: what will GovLoop offer that makes me and thousands of other users stick to it? What is its compelling value proposition? This is a question Steve and his new colleagues need to answer sooner rather than later.