Grouply has launched!

I’m happy to report that Grouply, an extremely high-potential startup on whose Advisory Board I sit, has just launched. Grouply allows you to access all your online groups like Yahoo Groups in one place with a much better user experience.

Like Meebo, Fuser, and Orgoo, Grouply enables you to access complementary services from one place. And like Ning and Facebook, Grouply helps you build an interactive, social community. What makes Grouply unique, however, is that it works with and improves your existing online groups. Grouply effectively converts your old-style mailing lists into modern social networks.

By the nature of Nitron Circle of Experts‘ business model, we are heavy users of online groups— alumni associations, teams, professional organizations, neighborhood associations, discussion boards, mailing lists, Yahoo Groups, Google Groups, etc. But for each of our team members, keeping up with all the events, announcements, classified ads, job postings, and questions and answers piling up in our inboxes is not feasible. As a result, we (like the vast majority of Internet users) do not take full advantage of our online groups.

With Grouply, you can keep up with your existing online groups in 80% less time (according to the company’s research). You receive a “Smart Digest” email each day that summarizes what’s going on across all your groups, highlighting what’s interesting to you and hiding what’s not. You can view a single cross-group event calendar, see what’s popular among fellow group members, and quickly search or browse across all your existing groups from one place. Grouply works with Yahoo Groups currently and support for more systems is on the way.

There are several reasons why I’m so excited about Grouply:

+ Grouply is addressing a very large market of unsatisfied users. There are more than 300 million users of online group systems such as Yahoo Groups, Google Groups, and Classmates.com. Eighty-four percent of American Internet users have used the Internet to contact or get information from a group–more than have used the Internet to read news, search for health information, or to buy something. Grouply is starting with Yahoo Groups because they’re the market leader, with 108 million users in 8.7 million groups.

+ If Grouply succeeds, it will be well-positioned to generate substantial online ad revenue. By analogy, perhaps the most powerful touch point that Microsoft has on the typical office worker’s day is Outlook, since so many of us spend so much of our day in Outlook. Think of the highly-customized advertising that Grouply can sell on its platform. Grouply has the ability to target ads based not just on the content of the pages you view but also on your individual interests, including the groups you belong to, the types of messages you search for and interact with, and the geographic location of you and your groups.

+ Grouply has the potential to be extremely viral. Traditional social networks grow one “friend” at a time. But Grouply leverages the millions of existing online groups and communities. In just a few seconds, a user registers and begins to access and participate in all of her existing online groups through Grouply. She soon finds that her Grouply experience improves dramatically as more of her group members use it, and this network effect compels her to invite even more of them to try Grouply. Grouply both motivates and enables her to invite all of the members of all of her existing groups to try Grouply at once.

+ No migration required. While Ning, Facebook, and others offer compelling group platforms, they all face the same major challenge that many of the most interesting and active groups are already running on systems like Yahoo Groups. No group leader wants to deal with the hassle of trying to move all their members and years worth of messages archives from one system to another. Fortunately, Grouply handles all this automatically. Group members individually register with and begin accessing their groups through Grouply, and all message archives are brought over when the first group member signs up. Transforming your existing, old-style online group or mailing list into a modern social network is a painless automatic process, not a maintenance nightmare.

About a year ago, Mark Robins, co-founder and CEO of Grouply, asked me to join their Advisory Board. I’ve been honored to be a very, very small part of this.  Rich Reimer, another co-founder, and Mark are both business school classmates.

Bit Literacy

I’m a longtime fan of the design philosophy and work of CreativeGood. Every time I’ve written a web design spec, I’ve required the designers to look at that site.

Mark Hurst, founder of Creative Good and Good Experience, and host of the Gel conference (Good Experience Live), has just released his new book, Bit Literacy. Although I haven’t read it, based on what I’ve seen of his past writings, it should be very worthwhile.

For a sneak preview of his writing style, see his guide to managing the email deluge.

The Secret Cause of Flame Wars

“Don’t work too hard,” wrote a colleague in an e-mail today. Was she sincere or sarcastic? I think I know (sarcastic), but I’m probably wrong.

According to recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I’ve only a 50-50 chance of ascertaining the tone of any e-mail message. The study also shows that people think they’ve correctly interpreted the tone of e-mails they receive 90 percent of the time.

More at Wired News

The Effective Emailer by Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki devotes a lot more time than I seem to have handy to write thoughtful, well-organized pieces, like his list of tips for The Effective Emailer.

43 Folders: Writing sensible email messages

The reliably worth-reading Merlin Mann crafts some more useful tips on Writing sensible email messages. His points also apply well to blog posts.

Tricks of the Trade for Email Communications

From Target Marketing Magazine (7/1/05):

“Tricks of the Trade”, By Regina Brady

Are your e-mail recipients only seeing half of your subject line? Is your e-newsletter being flagged as spam? Here’s a handy guide to some of my favorite online sites and utilities that should help you in your e-mail and online marketing efforts. And, the good news is they’re all free.

Although Ms. Brady is writing for an audience of people who send thousands of emails at a time, almost all of her points are relevant to those of us who send out twenty emails in a day—if you want to make sure that your message gets through.

More…:

MBA Mailing Lists

Jeff Blum, Founder, MBA Depot, wrote in with some additional useful MBA mailing lists that I didn’t list in my recent blog entry:

INSEAD Knowledge
Babson Insight
Accenture’s Outlook

He adds, “Of course, since I religiously follow all of these sources (and more) you can always just sign up for my MBA weekly alerts feature and be sure you won’t miss any of the worthy content while skipping the useless. ” His site has many useful features and tools; I recommend visiting.

Useful business school and strategy consultancy newsletters

Following are some of the most useful business school and strategy consultancy newsletters I receive. Other suggestions welcome! These are all free.

• McKinsey (McKinseyQuarterly.com);
• Mercer (www.MercerMC.com/Perspectives/Journal);
• Booz-Allen (www.Strategy-Business.com/enews);
• Harvard Business School (HBSWorkingKnowledge.hbs.edu);
• Wharton (knowledge.Wharton.UPenn.edu); and
• Emory (knowledge.Emory.edu).

Corporate Blogging Elevator Pitch Contest: The envelope please…

The results are in for the Corporate Blogging Elevator Pitch Competion, and the winner is…

Lee LeFever of Common Craft Consulting!

Lee won a $100 Amazon gift certificate from Weblogs Inc. sponsor Spoke Software, the publication of his winning pitch on the blogs of all the judges, and, of course, “bragging rights”. 😉

This couldn’t happen to a nicer person. Lee has been a friend and colleague of mine for a couple of years now, starting on the Communities of Practice Yahoo Group, where we met when he was running the online communities at Solucient. I’ve frequently linked to and quoted him here, and he’s been a valuable contributor to our book. He also has a tremendous knack for explaining technology in plain English.

The judging panel consisted of Dave Pollard, Dina
Mehta
, Don Park, Flemming Funch,
Jim McGee, Lilia
Efimova
, Martin Dugage, Phil Wolff,
Ross Mayfield,
Ton Zijlstra, and yours truly. It was quite an interesting experience, as we collaboratively developed the scoring criteria, as well as having all the scores open for the other judges to see (the contestants were anonymous, though).

Here’s Lee’s winning pitch:

First, think about the value of the Wall Street Journal to business leaders. The value it provides is context — the Journal allows readers to see themselves in the context of the financial world each day, which enables more informed decision making.

With this in mind, think about your company as a microcosm of the financial world. Can your employees see themselves in the context of the whole company? Would more informed decisions be made if employees and leaders had access to internal news sources?

Weblogs serve this need. By making internal websites simple to update, weblogs allow individuals and teams to maintain online journals that chronicle projects inside the company. These professional journals make it easy to produce and access internal news, providing context to the company — context that can profoundly affect decision making. In this way, weblogs allow employees and leaders to make more informed decisions through increasing their awareness of internal news and events.

One of the things that became abundantly clear out of this exercise is that there are a ton of good ideas out there, but we are still trying to figure out just exactly what the compelling business case for corporate blogging is.

Lee’s pitch is excellent — it very clearly describes what blogging is, makes a case for business value, captures your interest, and does it all in a casual, story-like format.

But perfect? How can anything like this ever be perfect when you’re going after a moving target? For that matter, the perfect pitch to one executive for his company won’t be the perfect pitch to a different executive and her company. One of the things that became abundantly clear in this exercise is that there’s no one perfect.

I think there’s room for a lot more development in this area, which I hope the other judges (and Lee) will participate in. Congrats again to Lee, and I look forward to more good things from him. And a special thanks to Judith Meskill for bringing it all together.

Run Your Own Mailing List

One easy way of sharing and growing your network is to run your own e-mail list. This is even more effective than simply becoming active in a pre-existing list, since you have full control of the list and the participants, and can market yourself readily with every contribution and on the list’s website. It is free and easy for you to organize a group on Yahoo Groups, Topica, MSN, or another similar service.

There are two major categories of email lists: newsletters (only you can send material out) and online discussion groups (anyone can send an email out to the group). If you decide that you want your list to be an online discussion group, we strongly recommend creating some sort of screen. You could manually moderate the list, approving each email that is sent out. Alternatively, you could create a high barrier to membership, interviewing all applicants and making it clear that inappropriate behavior is cause for termination from the list.

Without some sort of filter like the ones mentioned, online discussion lists have a tendency to degrade in quality. Less-desirable members will send out spam, flames, and other undesirable internet traffic. As a result, your quality members will unsubscribe and your list may disintegrate.

Most lists are set up so that anyone can join without screening. The advantage of that approach: your network can grow indefinitely. As list members virally publicize your list to their friends, your list will grow with little effort on your part. You do not have to take the time to screen anyone.
However, there is a downside to keeping the list open and not screening new members. The list loses some of its relationship-building power, precisely because anyone can join. The members do not feel “special” to be in the group, and you will never have had a two-way interaction with most of them. As Groucho Marx famously said, “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.”

You may want to consider the approach of Mike Rosen, who runs an informal list of networking events in Houston. The only way to get on this list is to meet Mike in person. Meeting him becomes a more desirable event, because he can offer you access to a valuable resource.

If you would like to manage your e-mail without the advertising that Topica and Yahoo Groups use to support themselves, you may find helpful ConstantContact.com, CoolerEmail.com, SparkList, Lyris.net, or Ennectmail.com. If you are using a mailing list purely for informational purposes and only need a one-way mailing list, NotifyList.com or EZezine.com may be helpful. Certain lists on the topic of technology and business may be eligible for a free, advertising-free list from FreeLists.org.

It is equally true online as offline that you create greater credibility and reach a larger number of people as a host than as a guest.