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High Profile Government Social Network Gets Acquired: What Is GovLoop’s Future?

by Andrea Di Maio  |  September 29, 2009  |  4 Comments

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, 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.

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Category: social-networks-in-government  

Tags: appsgov  government-20  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

Thoughts on High Profile Government Social Network Gets Acquired: What Is GovLoop’s Future?

  1. Good post Andrea and you are dead on. Social networks are only as good as its value proposition and my first focus is on how to make the site more useful to the members.

    I see the future of GovLoop as a “knowledge network” for government – a place where government people can go to get their questions answered to do their job better. That can be asking a question on their government career, on a niche topic like how to implement a wiki, or a broad scope like talking about the future of cloud in government.

    One example of the value-added conversations I hope to stage is the New School/New Gov Dialogue where we are having students tell gov’t HR officials what they look for in a gov’t career (a big HR question). And current govies are telling MPA/MPP students their advice on getting and succeeding in their gov’t career.

    More to come and always love reading this blog.


  2. I would bet on Steve. The comparison to Facebook and is not particularly relevant to the future of govloop- one advertising subsidized platform versus another. The fact of government endorsement misses the point of govloop which largely disintermediates government sponsorship in a friendly, non-threatening way.

    Everyone gets that networks have to deliver value. Usually, though not always, the value that networks generate have little to do with the particular technology platform. I think that what Steve has managed to do is to create a fair amount of valued exchange. Govloop also has a high degree of currency – that develops and builds social attention. But equally compelling are the offline activities that support the online network.

    The key is that all of the above lead to connections and exchange across a wide range of government professionals, and those generally concerned about government whether at a state, local or federal level and bridging into private industry.

    The key is to look at govloop as a franchise rather than as a place to go and hopefully over time, it offers additional network experience online and offline. Imagine connecting governmental professionals across global geographies and educational systems.

    I would bet on Steve over Mark Z on this one. .

  3. @kpk – Thanks for your comments.I do like Steve personally and have great respect for what he accomplished. My observation is that as government professionals are allowed to use mainstream social media that they also use for personal purposes, they are likley to be enticed to use te same also for professional purposes.
    The whole point of web 2.0 in government is that it blurs all sorts of boundaries. We are already seeing this in cases where government professionals leverage their personal connections while performing their jobs (plenty of examples in procurement, social services, unemployment). So while the franchise is strong today, the value of a relatively fenced community may soon decrease, as intertwined groups on mainstream social media start supporting the same conversation with more flexible boundaries.
    This being said, I wish Steve great success. I’d just caution him not to sit on his laurels but relentelessly ask himself tough questions about how to remain relevant.

  4. […] in a post I said that the acquisition may cast some shadows on GovLoop’s future, in the few months after […]

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