Take Your Group to 2.0: Contact! Contact!

User Groups 2.0

This week’s tip is simple. It involves little effort, is so basic that it is almost embarrassing to mention, and yet is missed by an amazing number of groups:

Make your group easy to contact.

We could point you to a dozen Mac User Group web sites where it is difficult, if not impossible to locate and use any type of contact info. No email, no phone number, no fax number, no physical address, not even a leader’s name. Potential members have no option to learn more about the group or ask questions unless they are willing to come to a meeting (and that assumes that the meeting information is both current and complete, something that can be a *big* assumption).

Looking beyond potential members, there are other good reasons to have contact information easily located. More vendors are combining business trips with Mac User Group appearances. It would be a significant loss to your members if you lost a meeting speaker because they had no way to connect with you. The same would be true of a company offering review product: they need to arrange for shipping, gauge your interest and explain their terms. They’re not going to spend hours, or even minutes, searching your site; they’ll move on to the next one and the opportunity is gone.

Concerned about spam? While it is always best to have an address that is, “[email protected]”, there’s nothing that says you can’t use Gmail account from Google as your primary public address, or even to simply filter your email. Christopher Breen explained the process in an article about keeping spam off your iPhone, but the step-by-step instructions apply to regular mail as well. And if you’re using a blogging engine such as WordPress for your group’s web site, there are contact form plug-ins that can be easily implemented that prevent your group’s address from being harvested and spammed.

Don’t want phones ringing off the hook at all hours of the night? Sign up for a free voice mail and fax account at K7.net. Voice mails will be delivered to any email address you designate as a small audio file for you to review at your leisure.

One other item on your list of best practices for contacts: review and respond. Having an email or voice mail come in and be ignored is actually worse than not listing contact information at all, since it sets up an expectation that there will be an answer. The MUG Center was recently asked to help set up some potential appearances by a vendor at user groups in specific cities. Emails were sent out to several addresses found on the groups’ web sites…and the silence was deafening. No responses to a potential vendor presentation *at all.* Worse, there was no alternative contact information: no phone number, no fax number, not even and address to send a post card. That vendor won’t be considering those groups ever again, and it is possible that they might have left the experience with a bad taste in their mouth for MUGs in general.

Simply put, there is absolutely no excuse for not having contact information on your web site. A 2.0 User Group shouldn’t even have to think about this. Take a look at your group’s web site right now and be sure you aren’t incommunicado.

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