How to Make Friends and Influence People: Join a User Group
If you’re reading this blog, then chances are high there’s some type of software or hardware you use a lot. Maybe we’re talking about an RSS aggregator or an iPad. Or maybe something more robust like a property management system. But any way you slice it, if there’s a tool you use every day, and maybe for several hours a day, you’ve developed certain opinions about it. You know what you like and what you don’t. Maybe you’ve figured out shortcuts. Regardless, you most likely have ideas about how to improve things and questions about what others think.
So what should you do about it?
If you’ve got a slew of opinions on your tools, then imagine the ideas that other users have. And imagine what could happen if you combined your ideas in a user group.
Since this is Property Management Insider, let’s focus on property management systems. A user group built around one of those systems can share and discuss tips and tricks, workflows, and what can be accomplished with the technology.
Your first step is to see whether there’s already a user group on your topic. If there is one, join it. You can reap a lot of rewards from user groups: At a minimum, you’ll gain from the knowledge of other people like you, who use the tools in similar ways. But there’s even more to be gained.
A truly effective user group should be recognized by the company responsible for the tool. It’s great for the company because it gives it insight into how customers are using its tools, as well as the types of enhancements and alterations they (you) are clamoring for. And a user group can give direction and priority for future enhancements. That’s a huge benefit when you have a vested interest in the successful development and growth of the technology.
When a sponsoring company facilitates activities and helps manage the administration of the group, it can also give user group members access to exclusive resources, such as access to product documents, websites, and e-mail discussions.
Start With a Test Run
Ask your provider when its user group gets together. Join in a meeting (physical or virtual). Get to know the group and meet group leaders. You can also share information about the group with others that you know, encouraging them to join as well. User groups give you a unique opportunity to exchange ideas, address issues, and explore solutions. You might even learn new ways to use your current products.
For example, here are a few recent discussion topics from the RealPage User Group:
- Have you ever thought about using e-mail campaigns to blast a reminder for residents to get insurance?
- How do you set up your facilities consumption log? What about logging refrigerant usage?
- Have you considered setting up a special skip code to handle the expense of a broken lease?
What If There Isn’t a User Group?
Then look into creating your own. It might sound intimidating, but you can start with a few simple steps to get the ball rolling. We’ll cover that in a separate article soon.
Bottom Line: Use Your Power
The next time you have questions about a tool you use often, you should, by all means, contact customer support or Google an answer. But look into joining a user group, too. It can give you answers to questions you might not have even thought of yet, and can also help you start influencing the development of the tool you’re using. Use your power!