I’ve been an active meetup group member and organizer for about ten years.
My first meetup group was LNMG — the Limestone New Media Group — out in Kingston, Ontario. We were a handful of locals interested in the emergence of social media, podcasting, vlogging, et al.
We gathered at local coffee shops (s/o to Coffeeco) to trade notes, share our work, and generally catch up with neighbours who cared about the same things as us.
In 2010, after moving to Toronto, I looked for similar meetup groups to join. WPToronto was one of the first, and as I detailed in my Four years at GoDaddy post, that group became my “home” for a long while.
But that wasn’t the only group I belonged to. I joined other groups for tech startups, digital marketers, web developers, artists, gamers, and civic engagement.
As I hopped from group to group, I noted what they did to get people in the door. Here’s my shortlist.
12 ways to promote your meetup
Start here by launching your group on Meetup.com.
Meetup.com does a solid job of connecting potential members with your group. It shows users meetups in their area that match their declared interests.
Your members are notified when you publish a new event, and you can support that by “announcing” it (triggering an email blast). You can send more ad hoc mass emails to your group, or send a private message to individual members.
My routine: Publish an event, announce it to the group. If registrations are slow, send follow-up emails. First weekly, then two days before and one day before.
2. Joint meetups/cross-posting
Your meetup’s topic or activity may be interesting to another group in your area. Reach out and ask if they’d like to do a joint meetup. Then both of you post the event on your Meetup.com group.
Where Meetup.com focuses on community groups, Eventbrite focuses on — surprise! — events.
For a meetup group, their biggest value (IMO) is giving you another promotion channel.
Publish your event on Meetup.com first, then publish on Eventbrite. In the event description, link back to the Meetup.com group.
If you’re concerned about too many people showing up, ask that everyone checks in when they arrive. Ask if they RSVP’d via Meetup.com or Evenbrite and check them off the corresponding registration lists.
Universe is like a smaller Eventbrite. Similar approach to the above. ^^^
Meetup, Eventbrite, and Universe are good for getting in front of people who are looking for events. Facebook is good for getting in front of people who may not be proactively looking to attend an event.
Create a page for your meetup group. Publish events and point the “get tickets” link to your Eventbrite post. Why Eventbrite? Because there’s less friction and commitment.
For a person to join your meetup group, they first need a Meetup.com account, then they need to join your group, then they need to RSVP. That’s a lot of steps.
Eventbrite doesn’t force them to jump through those hoops. They don’t even need an Eventbrite account. And they’re more likely to have used Eventbrite, not Meetup.com, in the past.
So publish that event on Facebook and share it out. Then follow up with people who’ve registered already and encourage them to do the same.
6. Online community calendars
Look for community events calendars on local websites. For example, BlogTO has an events calendar that anyone can submit an event to.
A quick web search for “community events calendar [location]” should turn up some promising results.
7. Community bulletin boards & flyers
Does this feel a bit old-school? Absolutely. But awareness is awareness.
You’ll probably find these at your local coffee shops and libraries. Put up a flyer that promotes your meetup group, not a single event. That way the flyer won’t become irrelevant after the date passes.
8. Social media presence for the group
I touched on this already with the Facebook page, but if you’re serious about growing your meetup group, you should spin up separate, dedicated profiles for the group itself.
How it promotes the group: People discover the group’s content > learn about the group > join the group > attend an event.
For fueling the group’s profile and reach: Share content from the events > amplify through your personal accounts > encourage members to do the same.
Share takeaways and links through Twitter; photos and videos through Instagram. If you have the people-power, get someone to manage the account during meetups and push the content out.
9. Group website
This goes hand-in-hand with the social media presence. As great as Meetup.com is, it’s still not under our total control. Meetup.com can change how they operate at any time (and they have a long history of doing so).
A dedicated website gives your group a home on the web that you control from top to bottom. A dedicated website also means you can start publishing content to boost your discoverability via SEO.
My go-to approach: Publish a recap of every group event. Was there a presentation? Share takeaways. Was it a social event? Share photos.
The next level: Curate resources related to your group. Publish a monthly or weekly digest of news and links that are useful to your members.
Share and amplify this content on social media. Although the target audience is your existing members, potential members (or presenters, or sponsors!) may also find it helpful.
10. Group newsletter
The email capabilities in Meetup.com (and Eventbrite) are rudimentary. They’re good for certain tasks — like contacting people who RSVP’d for a particular event — but they’re not great for regular communication with all your members.
You’ll want to use a proper email marketing service, something that gives you more control over who you’re contacting and more insight into how your emails perform.
My take: Start a newsletter. Pull the content from your group website (see my point above about recaps + a weekly/monthly digest), and use the newsletter to promote your upcoming meetups.
Add the signup form to your group website and encourage members to join. That way, people who may be interested in your group can take a small step towards joining.
Outreach = cold calls/emails. Contact local organizations, like other community groups, and get straight to the point:
- Hi, I’m [X] from [group].
- We’re a local community group about [topic].
- We’re hosting an event on [date] about [subject].
- We think your members would be interested in attending because [reasons].
- They can find all the details & RSVP here: [link]
- Would you be willing to let your members know?
- Thank you!
…or some variation of that.
We’re not leading with some fake compliment, I’m not applying any pressure. We’re politely asking for a favour while making it clear that it’s in their interest.
12. Your members
There’s nothing as powerful as a word-of-mouth referral. Ask your members to share your event with their own networks, or to invite a specific colleague/friend. Make this a standard thing.
Bonus: Lead with a presentation, follow with a social
New members will often come out because they’re interested in a specific topic. The community aspect — meeting other people, making new connections — comes after.
By leading with a presentation or a notable speaker, you’ll draw people in with the content, i.e. “[expert] will show us how to [achieve something]”. Follow that with a social activity, like going to a local pub.
People who aren’t interested in socializing — the ones who just came for the content — can take off. And because you led with the presentation, people who stick around for the socializing will already have something in common.
Meetup promotion = reach x frequency
Reach x Frequency is an old-school media buying formula for advertising, and it’s applicable to promoting your meetup group:
- You get in front of new people in different ways
- A subset of that group will think about joining you
- From that “maybe” group, a smaller group shows up
…and you just keep at it.
It’ll be slow at first, it always is, but you’ll pick up momentum over time. If you’re consistent with your promoting, and consistent with your meetups being good and interesting and worth attending, your group will grow.