How to Make a Successful ARCHICAD User Group (Part 3: Spreading the Word)
How to start and grow an ARCHICAD User Group
If you are just joining us, here are links to the other posts in this series. If you haven’t read the previous posts, you might want to start there. What follows assumes you’ve read them. If you haven’t, that’s okay. But certain key points, like the role of the group organizer, might not be completely clear.
- How to Make a Successful ARCHICAD User Group (Part 0: Introduction)
- How to Make a Successful ARCHICAD User Group (Part 1: Organization)
- How to Make a Successful ARCHICAD User Group (Part 2: The Meeting)
- How to Make a Successful ARCHICAD User Group (Part 3: Spreading the Word)
Letting people know about a user group meeting requires more effort than just sending out an e-mail. When my user group back in Minnesota first started, the local reseller would call and personally invite individual users. Without that effort our group would never have gotten off the ground. I’ve already covered the importance of an e-mail list in Part 1. It’s pretty freaking important. So important that I listed it as the very first thing in this entire series of user group advice. But an e-mail list is not fundamentally about growth. It’s about organization, consolidation, and community. To grow your user group, you need to spread the word. Here’s how.
How to Make a Successful ARCHICAD User Group (Part 3: Spreading the Word)
- GRAPHISOFT is here to help. Talk to GRAPHISOFT They want to help. They want to see lots of healthy, happy user groups. Don’t be shy about reaching out to them. When I started the user group in Minnesota, the local reseller was a big help. I might have said “let’s start a user group”, but it was that reseller’s willingness to spread the word for our first meeting that got us going. You want your event listed by GRAPHISOFT, supported by GRAPHISOFT and you want whoever is selling ARCHICAD in your area to be able to say “oh by the way, do you know about the user group meeting coming up…” to everyone they talk to.
- Should your local user group have a dedicated LinkedIn group? No. The user base is too small to produce the critical mass needed for a healthy LinkedIn Group (or Facebook group). It’s a drain on your resources. Any discussions in an online group would typically be better served by being in one of the bigger ARCHICAD LinkedIn groups. ARCHICAD and ARCHICAD Residential Designers are the two biggest English language groups and personally the only ones most people regularly check. In both those groups (or others that have 1,000s not 10s of members) you’ll get a larger breadth of advice and also catch users in your locality who might not know about the local group. In the past when I’ve seen small ARCHICAD groups try to form Linkedin groups, they’ve struggled because either it’s just a few people or outsiders start getting in, diluting the “for our little community only” vibe (whether that community is location based or interest based). When I scan the view-able members of specialty ARCHICAD Linkedin groups, I so often see too many users outside the small group that it’s trying to encourage. It begs the question: should a regional group be only for that area’s users? Should outsiders be removed? Should it exist at all? My view is no. If you have major location based announcements (meetings, job postings, other excitement), share them to the larger community on LinkedIn. Others will be interested, and maybe inspired to imitate. There are better ways to organize local users—such as a good mailing list.
- Should your local user group have a blog? Sure a blog would be good, but that’s a lot of work. Remember, groups don’t have blogs, people do. Or I should really say a person does. I started a blog to support my local group, however I actually did the user group for about a year before the blog. A blog needs an audience and I quickly found an ARCHICAD blog is a worldwide endeavor, not a local one. So like a dedicated LinkedIn Group, a local user group blog isn’t really sustainable. But please do start a blog! I love ARCHICAD blogs and want to see more of those too. But that topic is for another day. The reason for a user group (or the person who runs the user group) to have a blog is for visibility.
- The organizer of the group needs to be as visible as possible. Who ever runs the group needs to connect with every ARCHICAD user in their area, via LinkedIn and any other method they prefer. This will help make the user group a personal experience for all involved. The group organizer needs to promote his or herself as someone passionate about ARCHICAD. There are many ways to do that, and the reason goes back to being the connector of the local community. If the leader of the group is visible, known, and trusted, it increases the perceived value of the meetings. ARCHICAD users aren’t just attending because they have friends going or because they want to learn, they are also going because they know the person running the show cares. One great way to do that is to guest post for an ARCHICAD blog or to get highlighted on the GRAPHISOFT North America blog. Trust me, we are always looking to showcase users. Just reach out.
- You need a Megaphone. I started my blog back in 2010 because I understood point four. I knew that to be taken seriously in the ARCHICAD space I needed to be someone more than just a random person e-mailing or calling another user. If you have the patience and drive to follow a similar path, I can definitely help you. But this is 2015 and there are easier ways. GRAPHISOFT North America and I can be your megaphone. If you create an announcement, I can post it on Shoegnome and spread the word via my social media outlets. And we can work together to get GSNA and GRAPHISOFT to spread the word on Facebook and Twitter and elsewhere as well. You can also just directly post to their accounts @bimodel1 and @archicad or mine @shoegnome. You should also post about your events to the big LinkedIn groups: ARCHICAD and ARCHICAD Residential Designers. In conjunction with all that, make sure you are working with GRAPHISOFT, or at least tell them when your events are (connect with your local rep). GRAPHISOFT maintains an events board, which lists things like training sessions, webinars, convention appearances, and—most importantly for our purposes—user groups.
To bring this all back to the beginning, running a user group is a great experience. And it is a wonderful launching pad for what comes next. If you can run a user group, then you can run a meeting. If you can organize a user group, then you can manage a committee. If you can promote a regular gathering, then you will understand how to market a design firm. Maybe your passion is really something else. That’s fine. Growing a user group, being it’s voice, and engaging with GRAPHISOFT is just the beginning. Let’s talk.
Oh and one more thing. If you like using ARCHICAD, a vibrant user group is one of the best things you can be a part of to ensure that there are a growing number of jobs for people with your skill set (or the skill set you are looking to hire). This is just my anecdotal view, but healthy firms that feel like they are part of a larger ARCHICAD using community are more likely to expand than those firms who worry that they are all alone. So if nothing else, look at a strong user group culture as a powerful resource for getting to keep using ARCHICAD, even if you decide it’s time to switch jobs. And from the employers point of view, user groups create a virtuous cycle of an expanding pool of talented future employees, freelancers, and collaborators.