HP's largest user group is using social networking technologies to keep in touch with its members and keep them connected to each other.
The HP independent user group Connect boasts 50,000 members worldwide, including customers of HP's server, storage, operating system and switch products.
Connect President Nina Buik says the volume and diversity of members inspired Connect to find a way to enable members to reach out to peers via social networking technologies.
"Our purpose at Connect is to provide education on HP and its technologies, offer networking opportunities and create a voice that will be heard by a company as large as HP," says Buik, who also serves as senior vice president at eLearning and IT training company MindIQ.
Connect, formed from user groups Encompass, HP Interex EMEA and ITUG earlier this year, created an online environment in which members can find people in a way similar to online dating sites. The group officially launched at HP's Technology Forum & Expo conference in Las Vegas this week.
"Our membership told us that the number one thing they wanted to bring to our community was social networking. As an industry a majority of people are using those tools," Buik says.
Using Leverage Software, Connect created a portal at which members can use a people-finder tool that would help, say, a BladeSystem user find other customers of the technology in a particular area.
Members fill out a profile that details which HP hardware and software they use, where they are located as well as some personal items that would provide insight into hobbies and interests outside of using HP tools. The site will match members based on the criteria and further help Connect members to networks at the HP conferences and beyond.
"This online community will help our members create special interest groups and keep the discussions of HP technology going even when not at a large event," Buik says.
On another note, Buik expressed Connect's interest in also working with HP's other major user group Vivit, which focuses on HP software and services associated with the software.
The group was renamed from the OpenView Forum International when HP's acquired technologies broadened its software from strictly OpenView to also Mercury Interactive and Opsware. Buik says the more customers user groups represent, the more likely the message can be heard by HP Chairman and CEO Mark Hurd.
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