Increase Group Participation with Meetup

In a busy world, getting people together in the same place at the same time is never easy. If you run a community organization or even a casual hobby group, you know what it’s like. Social media provides a platform to inform huge numbers of people, virtually free of charge. Yet, you might show up for your own event to discover disappointing turnout. So how can you increase group participation? Meetup, or platforms like it, might become the most powerful tool in your participation toolkit.


What is Meetup?

Meetup is an online tool built especially for organizing group events, of any size, and it’s currently in use by millions worldwide. You can use it alone, or add it to the communication tools you’re already using to increase group participation. In the company’s own words:

Meetup is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world.Meetup allows members to find and join groups unified by a common interest, such as politics, books, games, movies, health, pets, careers or hobbies.

Now if the idea of social networking puts you off, fear not. Meetup is simple to use, either from a desktop computer or smartphone. People of all generations use it comfortably.


How Can It Help Me Reach People?

Even if you already have a website or Facebook page, with your event information, it’s probably not reaching everyone you want to reach. With a website, you have to hope people find you. You have to optimize your SEO, which can challenge even the tech savvy. And even then, if people in your area aren’t actively searching for the subject matter of your group, they won’t find you.

Facebook notoriously shows its users less free content and more paid content as time goes on. As their business model has changed, your unpaid content has reached less and less of its intended target — whether you knew it or not.

Meetup will give you one more outlet in which to reach people and increase group participation. And it will reach more fresh potential group members. Millions of people are already on Meetup. These users have profiles that include their interest. So, when a new group forms that fits their interest and geographic location, Meetup alerts them.

People join your Meetup, at no charge unless you decide otherwise (we’ll get to that in a moment), and then they automatically receive updates from you. They may choose to receive them as email or through the smartphone app.


How Do I Get Started?

If you’re completely new to Meetup, simply join as a user. Don’t launch your own group yet. Just browse around, join a few groups that interest you, and watch how things work. Search your subject matter of interest, and you may even discover there are other groups similar to yours. You might get in touch and learn from each other.

When you’re ready to create your own group, or Meetup, you will have options for how many members to allow. Below a certain membership number, maintaining your group is free. After that you pay according to group size. Some organizers choose to pass on this cost to members. Some organizers charge their members an annual fee, while others simply ask for donations at each event. If people share your passion and dedication to the group, they won’t mind spending a few dollars.

If you’ve already established a brand identity for your group, keep it consistent on Meetup. You’ll have the opportunity to upload a logo, photos, web links, and a group description. Match these to the content you already use elsewhere, so that people recognize you instantly. You can also connect your social media channels, but if you do this, make sure to monitor those channels so you can respond to any inquiries.


What Are Tips for a Successful Meetup?

Schedule at least one or two meetings immediately upon setting up your group. If people discover your group but there are no events coming up, they may forget about you. So try to always have something on your calendar. Schedule your events far enough out to give people time to plan, and if possible, at regular intervals (say, the first Tuesday of every month).

Be clear about the start time. If there’s a formal presentation or activity, will it start right on time? Or will there be a half hour of mingling beforehand? You don’t want people to feel rushed or awkward about walking in a bit late. Likewise, end on time. People may have other obligations.

Keep in mind, not everyone attending a Meetup will know you or another group member personally. So include a photo of yourself or the event host on your Meetup page. And when you host your event, make sure people can find you! Don’t just say you’re meeting at So-and-So Elementary School or XYZ Bar and Grille. Tell people what room or what section. If it’s a public place, like a restaurant, make sure the door host or receptionist knows you’re there and that you’re expecting people. Use visual signals, too. Put signs on your table, or perhaps in the parking lot if you’re permitted. Some group organizers wear a T-shirt with the group name printed on it. When someone is a total stranger walking into a new environment, they will appreciate all the assistance you can provide.

Meetup also offers this list of “Meetup Growth Hacks.” Attendance may start small but you will increase group participation in time through consistency, group feedback, and positive event experiences.


Are There Other Sites Like Meetup?


Meetup is probably the most well known, so people you want to reach may already be using it. However, it may be worthwhile to experiment with other group organizing sites. Here are a few to try:

Eventbrite: Also well known and widely used, Eventbrite integrates well with social media. It may work better if you’re offering a one-off event rather than an ongoing series.

Groupspaces: This web-based tool lets you find groups within groups, for example clubs within a certain school or church.

Smacktive: This smartphone app is aimed at people interested in sports and fitness.

WeGoDo and ONE: Both of these are currently only available for iOS (iPhone) so they’re a bit limiting, but they could be worth watching for the future.


Increase Group Participation and More

Whether you use Meetup alone or in conjunction with other promotional tools, it should help you generate more awareness and greater attendance for events. Establishing an online group brings additional benefits as well. For example, it builds a sense of community and group identity. It provides a platform for people to talk with one another in between meetings. Unlike on Facebook, where people generally only “friend” someone they already know, Meetup users can communicate in comment sections or by direct message. It’s as easy as one click to say “nice to see you” after an event, and you can share photos from the event with the group. These additions help remind people of the experience and allow them to feel like part of a bigger whole.


Now that you know what Meetup is and how it works, give it a try. You have nothing to lose. It may be just the thing you need to grow your group!

IMAGE: CC0 / Public Domain

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