Starting a Meetup Group
Starting a Meetup group may not be the first thing you think about when it comes to online social marketing. After all, Meetup.com is all about creating a group that meets offline. However, creating your own Meetup group is one of the smartest things you can do for your online business. Your Meetup group can become one of the strongest online/offline communities in your niche.
If you've never done a Meetup before or you've never even heard about it, Meetup.com is all about creating communities that have like interests. Go ahead and go to the Meetup.com site right now. What you'll find is that you can put your location and find groups of people who share similar interests.
Communities on Meetup love to get together, do activities, meet to chat, meet for seminars, and so much more. They interact both online and offline. It doesn't matter which niche you’re in or what your business or interest is, there's probably a Meetup group out there for you. There is also a huge opportunity for you to create your own Meetup group with great benefit to your business and to all the people who will join your Meetup group. It’s simply fantastic social marketing.
As a marketer, there are plenty of opportunities for you to start your own Meetup group for the benefit of the people in your area and your niche. This type of community is different in that it is specific to your area. This can be very powerful as the relationships can be much deeper.
What you can do is start a Meetup group to take advantage of the power of getting to know people in person and online – that's an extremely powerful combination. If you've never thought about this before, I encourage you to allow that thought to marinate. What benefits can you think of that can come from this?
If you're not at all familiar with this concept, it definitely cannot hurt to go to Meetup.com and find a group you're interested in enough to join. Go ahead and go and find a few groups right now before you start your own. This can help you get used to Meetup and you'll have a lot of fun at the same time.
If you join a few groups first, you can see how they’re run and what they're all about. You also might make a few connections that can help you get your own group off the ground. It's always a good thing to make connections.
You'll soon be ready to start your own group on a specific topic that you think is needed in your area. No one would begrudge you starting your own group on a related but different topic from what's already available on Meetup.com in your location.
Are there people in your area who want to do what you're doing online right now? Are there people in your area who have similar interests? Are there people in your area who share the same hobbies or who have the same profession? There are so many possibilities for starting a community that could be so beneficial to everyone involved.
Once you're comfortable with the idea, it's time to think about starting your own group. Once again, you need to have your goals firmly in your mind. You are going to use Meetup.com to start your own group and to meet people in your area. You're going to use Meetup strategically to give people a lot of value. In return, you're going to be a leader in a way that's going to boost your business and build your brand.
You're going to meet people in person, connect with potential clients and customers, build your leadership skills, and accomplish whatever it is you have in your mind as your goal.
Your goals, of course, will differ depending on what your business is and what your niche is. You should take some time now to do some brainstorming about your goals.
I want to caution you to never try to form a Meetup group just so you can try to sell things to people. Even if all you ever do with your Meetup group is help people and provide value to people, that's great. Even doing things such as posting pictures or video from your Meetups can be very powerful for your online marketing. Showcasing your expertise and helping people put a face and a voice to a name can do wonders for your credibility online and off. You're growing your brand, networking, and making connections. You can't do better than that.
Before Starting a Meetup Group
There are some things I want to suggest you do before you start a Meetup group. These are things meant to help you get started on the right foot. It's very easy to start a Meetup group, as Meetup.com makes it simple to do right on their website. Simply make sure you understand and prepare a few things and you'll be ready to go.
Meetup suggests you make sure you have two optimized photos ready to go. One photo should be of you as the group organizer. This will be your profile photo. People will join your group and they’ll want to know who has organized the group. They’ll want to connect with the person who's behind it all.
The second photo you should have ready is the Meetup group photo. This header should look professional and be related to the group topic. This photo will be shown on the group's homepage. Meetup does a great job of advertising your group for you. The photo will be used in any promotions they do for you and in any searches you show up for. That’s right—Meetup does a lot of the promotion for you.
You should also go through the Meetup topics and choose around 15 topics that are related to your group. The topics you choose will determine who will be notified, out of the people who've signed up for Meetup in your area, when Meetup announces your group to their list. These topics also help people find your group on the site when they do searches. As you can see, the topics you choose are very important.
You should also write a little description of your group ahead of time. This description should explain what your Meetup group is about, why someone should join your group, what members can expect of the group, and what you expect of the members who join.
You should also make plans for your first Meetup. It's important to list your first Meetup event right away so it can go on the calendar. This also gives people something to look forward to when they join. Go ahead and choose the date and time for your first Meetup.
Meetup recommends that you choose the date, time, and location. Your location should be well lit and in a public place. It's best to go with something easy and low-key – especially for the first time.
Consider Why You're Starting a Meetup
Of course, it's important to consider why you're starting a Meetup in the first place as part of your social marketing strategy. Of course, it's great for branding to start a Meetup group.
You want to do everything you can to brand yourself as an expert. A Meetup group can do wonders for this. You're the leader of a group. Not only that, you're going against the grain and you're going to be the leader of a group that meets in person. This is very different from what most marketers do who only ever post in communities online. You're going to be helping people in person, which can have a much bigger impact when it comes to helping people. This type of community is fantastic for certain niches in particular.
You have to consider why people will join your Meetup over others. Why will people join your Meetup over the others that are already available? Will yours stand out even if there are dozens of similar Meetups in your area? Does yours fulfill a certain need? You have to make sure that your Meetup is desperately needed and that there is a unique angle you've taken.
You also have to make sure that that online/offline connection is there. If you don't have a solid plan for why you're starting a Meetup and the benefits you expect to both deliver and receive, then you may want to take a step back and consider things a little further.
Common Types of Meetups
There are many common types of Meetups you might run. These are the in-person Meetups that you would put on the Meetup calendar. Of course, what you choose definitely depends on the topic of your group and what you'll be focused on, on a particular date.
Some Meetups are very casual. Some groups get together for coffee runs and just to chat.
Other Meetups are run like seminars and are very tutorial like in nature. These might come complete with PowerPoints, handouts, and more.
Still others are like round table discussions.
Still others get together to take part in a common interest, such as bike riding, seeing a movie, or something else altogether.
Yours will obviously be related to your business. You'll probably want to mix up what you do when you get together, though, so that you appeal to a wider audience. You don't want your Meetups to get stale. You want to attract a variety of personalities.
Consider what the people who join your Meetup will probably like best. There's no correct answer here. Just get an idea of what might work best for your Meetup and the people you’re aiming to provide value to.
Are You Ready to Start Your Meetup Group?
If you're ready to start your Meetup group, go ahead and go to Meetup.com to do so now. The website will guide you through the process.
Note that there is a small cost to you as the organizer. Many organizers choose to recoup the costs from their members in the form of dues. This may or may not be something you want to do as your community gets up and running.
Note that at a later date you can also use sponsorships to cover the cost and possibly the cost of any venues, foods, and anything else.
How to Grow Your Meetup Group
It can be really scary to start something new and to not have any members. The good news is that Meetup does a nice job of promoting your Meetup for you. Still, it can be difficult in the beginning. That's why you need to invite anyone you know who will be interested.
About three days after you create your group, Meetup will also email people in your area who have expressed interest in topics related to your group. People who get that email may go ahead and join and sign-up for your event from there. Make sure you have more than one event scheduled-- people may not be able to attend that first event and you want to give them options.
People may also join by searching through the Meetup calendar. Remember that new people join Meetup every day and search through the calendar every day. People may also join your Meetup group through the calendar. Your Meetup group will grow over time, so don't lose hope.
Focus on keeping your members happy so they spread the word. Actively ask them to spread the word to friends, family, and colleagues. You can also promote your Meetup group through Facebook and Twitter promotions. You can also promote via flyers, business cards, paid ads, and more. If you have an email lists or other communities, those are ideal places as well. Just keep in mind that only people who are local to you will be eligible for your Meetup group.
As your membership grows, you can ask people to bring friends. You can also schedule new, exciting events that will get people excited and interested. Always brainstorm new ideas so you can get new members to come and get old members coming back.
Questions That May Come Up
There are many questions that might come up for you as you start this new venture with Meetup. For one thing, you might be wondering where you're going to host your Meetups. The answer might be something as simple as a coffee shop, especially when you're just starting out and don't have as many members. But, as you grow larger, you might need to start renting out space. This can get pricey, which is why many Meetup groups request dues.
You might also be wondering if it is worth it. You definitely don't want to pitch at your Meetups unless there is a clear reason to do so, such as it being a business-to-business Meetup and there is a clear pitch session at the end, and I don't even really recommend that.
Your Meetup has to be full of value. You're designing this to make connections, network, and build relationships. You want to provide so much value that people seek you out online and off. You want to become the go-to person for whatever your business is, and whatever your niche is. It's definitely going to pay off in the end.
The Power of In-Person Events
I hope you're becoming aware of the power of this. It's not just about the Meetup itself. It's not as if you leave the Meetup room and all the benefits stay in that room and stay in your local area. It's not as if the benefits stay only with the people who attended the meeting. The word-of-mouth and word of your awesomeness certainly will spread, and it will all start from those people.
You're going to be very vocal about your Meetup groups. You're going to encourage your community to be very vocal about your Meetup groups. People are going to know about your Meetup groups even if they live very far away. For instance, when "online people" see the photo, video, etc. from the Meetup, it raises your clout and credibility. You're going to take lots of photos and videos from your Meetups.
This happens across the board. You're going to post Meetup event photos and videos to blogs and social media. This does a lot for your branding. This will help grow your Meetup group and get people really excited. It will also get more people interested in everything you're doing online. This will help you grow your list, help you sell more products, and get more people interested in you all the way around. The bottom line is that this does a lot for your branding. Mixing the online and offline connection with Meetup is pure gold.
Also-- remember to keep the online forum conversation going on Meetup, which they thankfully provide right on their site. It's so important to keep posting about what's going on offline as well.
Keep building your audience and encourage more people to join your Meetup group. You want to turn this into an elite Meetup group so people really want to join, and host event after event so you get benefits online and offline.