Posted by Kelly Stewart

Using Pinterest to Promote Your Meetup or online group

Pinterest Logo

Pinterest, the visual social bookmarking site, seems to be everywhere in the blogs and industry articles. TechCrunch just reported that Pinterest has become the fastest independent site in the U.S. to hit 10 million unique visitors in one month.

But I’ve seen plenty of comments from my friends on Facebook such as “I don’t understand Pinterest. What’s the big deal?” I have to admit, I was scratching my head for several weeks after joining the beta, thinking it just a pretty scrapbook for girls.

Until…my friend Hippie Dave posted a message on Nashville Hiking Meetup’s discussion board saying “I think you should make a ‘best of NHM’ photo album so that people can stop by the site and see the most beautiful photos from time to time.” His point was, he loves looking at our event photos but doesn’t want to sit through an album of 250 photos taken at just one event (We average 5 events per week. Do the math.).

It’s a great idea, though, since I’ve said for years that our event photos and videos have likely been the second best promoter of Nashville Hiking Meetup behind word of mouth.

Yes, this could be accomplished on the Meetup site itself. Create a new photo album, call it “Best Of,” scour the thousands of photos that members have uploaded over the years, copy the image URLs or download the image file, and re-upload the images to my Best Of. Then monitor the uploads on a regular basis and repeat the process for each future event.

There are many issues with this model:

  • Duplicate files on the meetup site. Server space is cheap but not free. Somebody’s paying for it even if it’s not me directly.
  • How would visitors actually find this photo album? There’s no way to feature a specific photo album on the main page.
  • If I want to “own” the Best Of album, how do I keep members from accidentally adding photos?
  • How does an “internal” photo album promote the meetup to the outside world?
  • We have a lot of great videos. How can we feature those, too?
  • Yet another thing for me to manage? How much time is this going to take per week?

Enter Pinterest

In a matter of seconds, I created a Hiking Tennessee pinboard, and began adding content to it.

Pinterest board that indirectly promotes Nashville Hiking Meetup

Seconds after that, a few of my followers on Pinterest had re-pinned, or essentially shared (or liked), images and videos from my new board. This could catch on.

One of the most valuable features of pinning content is that the pins point back to your original post or source page. So if someone wants to click through, they are taken to our meetup page or to our YouTube page or Flickr page; wherever the original media is posted. Marketers love this feature because it ideally leads the visitor to a conversion page: make a purchase, become a member, sign up for an email newsletter, “like” my Facebook page, etc.

Pinterest is also so stripped down of features that it’s easy to get started. I love the “Pin it” button that you can drag to your browser’s tool bar to pin anything while you’re browsing the web. (Note, I’ve had some compatibility issues between the “Pin it” button and Chrome. It won’t find compatible media on some pages so I just switch over to Firefox temporarily.)

Instant “Best of” album

I’ll be very interested to see, in Google Analytics, how many referral visitors Pinterest ends up sending to Nashville Hiking Meetup. Just a handful so far, but stay tuned.

Create your own greatest hits pinboard and post a link to it in the comments section.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Tagged , , ,

Five ways to Recycle Content to Promote your Group on Social Networks

I love the connections that I’ve created between my main meetup site and outside networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr (and I don’t necessarily mean technology connections). I used to lament that if I wasn’t able to post on the social tubes about a new event on my meetup, then I didn’t have anything to “talk” about.

That all changed when it dawned on me that I have tons of content that can be recycled or reused. Over the years members have uploaded thousands of photos to Nashville Hiking Meetup. Why not post some of the favorites from the past to Facebook or Twitter? I’ve posted almost 60 videos to our YouTube channel. They may not be new to me but with us adding 2.4 members per day on average to Nashville Hiking Meetup, those older videos are new to many people.

Here are five ways to reuse or recycle content:

  1. Post a photo of the day on your Facebook page. Simply grab a photo’s URL from Meetup.com or Flickr or wherever and post it on the social networks. As an extra added bonus, be sure to credit the photographer.
  2. Post video clips from YouTube from your previous events. If you’re not already shooting and uploading short videos (under two minutes is my recommendation) then definitely start shooting or ask one of your members to help you out.
  3. Post links to newsworthy items on your Twitter or Facebook. I set up Google Alerts to email me when certain keywords are found in news articles, press releases, etc. If I think the story would be relevant to my members, I’ll post the URL on our social pages along with my comment on the article.
  4. Automate postings using a tool such as RSS Graffiti, which continuously monitors any RSS or Atom feed and will post anything new to your walls.
  5. Create a publishing schedule and “pre-post” items out in the future using a product such as RavenTools. I love Raven because I can schedule posts days or weeks ahead and I know even if I’m away from my computer the social networks still get fed.

What are some of your ideas for recycling content in order to feed the social networks? Let me know in the comments.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Tagged , , , ,

What’s in a name?

The name of your event matters…a lot.

Quite often the NAME field is the only information that gets passed along to batch emails, site scrapers, and especially your own calendar of events. It’s the first thing potential members see and make a decision about. Treat the event name as if it were a subject line of an email.

So, a hiking event named “Radnor Lake” says nothing about the trek other than the location. People will make quick decisions solely based on the event name. Put as much information into the event name as possible without being obnoxious.

Instead of “Radnor Lake,” an event name such as “Radnor Lake – 5 mile moderate hike near Nashville” speaks volumes and will get you more participants.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Fluctuating member numbers in your meetup

One of the metrics I track with Nashville Hiking Meetup is member growth rate. Every so often I go into my Google spreadsheet I’ve set up and enter my current number of members and a calculation shows me my member growth rate per day. I also estimate when I’ll hit a certain member milestone; for example, I can say by 11/30/2011 I’ll have 4,000 members.

At one point in the past, our growth rate was about 5 members per day. Right now it’s hovering at about 2.5 new members added per day.

But recently that number has dropped.

Why? Meetup has reinstated a policy where inactive and lost members get automatically removed. The email I receive from Meetup says something like:

Gern Blansten has not visited Meetup and all of their emails have been returned as “undeliverable” for at least 6 consecutive months.

And I like it. Although larger member numbers are typically a good thing, inactives put a drain on the “system.” You want your ratio of active members to inactive members to be higher and higher. Often I get the question, “Well, you have 3,800 members but how many actually show up for events?” Pruning off the dead weight helps the active numbers increase.

Plus, from Meetup’s standpoint, the fewer dead emails they send to, the lower their costs. Email service providers charge by the emails sent, and even if the company is using an internal system to send mail, dead email addresses sap precious IT bandwidth.

At one point in the past, Meetup was automatically removing these ghost members but turned off that feature globally. I’m happy it’s back.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Tagged , ,

Advice on running social events

Recently the management team at Chattanooga Hiking Meetup announced their first social event after hiking together for over a year. This is a great milestone as it shows that members of a hiking meetup want to get together socially.

I emailed the team a few tips on prepping and running a social event:

  • Get people talking about the event ahead of time by posting friendly notes on the event page such as: “Hey, great to meet you on the hike. See you at Big River!”
  • Cross-post on the Chattanooga Hiking Facebook page as well as inviting your friends who aren’t yet members of CHM. Send emails and Facebook notes to your friends who aren’t members saying “this is the best event to meet other members before getting out on the trails with us.”
  • If you send new members welcome messages when they join, include a note like “We’re having monthly socials to get to know each other informally. Our next social is 9/13 and details are here: http://www.chattanoogahiking.com/events/31475952
  • Try to set a consistent place to meet at the restaurant or bar so you can tell your members “we’ll be by the big stuffed grizzly bear.”
  • Work with the venue ahead of time to get drink specials or free appetizers (this gets easier as you have more events and know your typical attendance numbers).
  • Leaders can wear something noticeableand consistent like red shirts and let folks know ahead of time “our trip leaders will be wearing red shirts.” We’ve had fun with this at picnics where all the leaders wear sombreros, for example:

    Nashville Hiking Meetup trip leaders wearing sombreros at recent picnic

    Nashville Hiking Meetup trip leaders wearing sombreros at recent picnic

  • The most difficult thing for new members is meeting the first couple of people. Keep a watch out for folks with that lost look and offer to introduce them around at the event.
  • Speaking of which, don’t be afraid to delegate ambassadorship to another member. You guys are the bosses, so if you feel comfortable, don’t hesitate to introduce a new member to one of your friends and ask them to introduce the new member around.
  • Keep having the social at the same venue until people get tired of it, which they will. Start shaking things up by going to different places and maybe creating monthly themes. We’ve done events at bars, restaurants, a MINI car dealership, outdoor gear retailers, park picnic shelters; we’ve had food bank collections, fundraisers, and used book collections, etc.

Do you have any tips on running social events for your meetup or group? Let me know in the comments.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Tagged , ,

How to get sponsors for your group

I just received an email from member Pete asking how Nashville Hiking Meetup got its sponsors. This is one of the questions I hear most often.

To me, it’s a very simple set of answers:

  • Your audience (membership) has to be an audience the sponsor wants as customers.
  • You must have demographic data on your members.
  • You must track the value of the sponsorship.
  • You have to present a clear “ask” to a potential sponsor.

Those are the quick start answers for those of you don’t have time to read an entire blog post.

Let’s break it down…

Is your membership the audience a sponsor wants?

I feel there must be a like-mindedness between a meetup and its sponsors. What values does your meetup support? Is a member likely to shop at a sponsor’s store or eat at their restaurant?

Since my meetup has certain defined values at its core (protecting the environment, expanding shared green space, building trails, healthy lifestyle), I seek out sponsors with similar values.

First define your group’s values and then brainstorm with a small subset of your membership (a management team of sorts) to make a list of sponsors you’d love to land.

Collect demographic data on your membership

Furthermore, your membership should “look like” a desired customer for a potential sponsor, and this typically means demographics. The most basic list of demographics you should have are:

  • home zip code
  • gender
  • age range

The next level would be:

  • annual income
  • marital status
  • highest level of education

From there you can really blow it out with expanded data on your members such as:

  • children living at home
  • how often member shops at certain kind of store
  • how much annually member spends on certain types of products
  • how likely is member to purchase from a sponsor

Now, Meetup.com does not make it easy to collect any of this information. In fact,  a meetup organizer cannot see any demographics due to Meetup’s privacy policy, but that increases a potential member’s chances of joining. If you know your personal data isn’t shared with meetup organizers (even email address), I feel a member is more likely to join. I’ll take that trade-off.

So how do you collect this demographic data? The simplest way is a survey. Click here to see an example survey I launched a couple of years ago.

And what’s the incentive for a member to fill out a survey? A prize drawing. Pull together a few items of value to your members (t-shirts with your meetup’s logo, gift cards from local stores, donated items from your membership) and publicize that the survey participants will be entered into a drawing.

Once you have your raw survey data, you can create nice pie and bar charts and put all of these demographic snapshots into a packet you can share with potential sponsors.

Tracking the value of a sponsorship

You need to be able to present to a prospective sponsor how you’re going to track the value of the product or cash they are providing, and follow through with this tracking. Nothing is more frustrating to a sponsor than seeing no return on their investment.

Tracking value doesn’t necessarily mean sales dollars. It’s very unlikely you, as a meetup leader, will have access to a sponsor’s sales data. Instead, you count other metrics:

  • testimonials from members about sponsors
  • number of members who attended an event at a sponsor’s location
  • number of clicks from a sponsor’s logo on your site to that sponsor’s site (I’ll get into how to track that in a later post)

Present a clear ask to a prospective sponsor

Sales Training 101 always tells us to know what we’re going to ask a prospect before that first conversation or meeting with the company. I’ve been on several sales calls in the past where the prospect asks in the first five minutes “what is it exactly that you want from us?”

Having a clear “ask” ahead of time (donated product, a space to hold meetings, gift cards, cash) will will prevent you from looking like an idiot in this situation.

You should also develop a standard price list for advertising on your site, email newsletter, or social media page, even if you plan on discounting later. Have a PDF of your price list digitally near at hand so when you get an email asking “how much will it cost me to sponsor your group,” you’ll have a document to quickly send to the prospect. No, it won’t be perfect or even fit all sizes, but it’s something. Be sure to follow up with that prospect later. And remember you can always negotiate.

Philosophically speaking

These answers were part philosophical and part practical. I know this post doesn’t answer one of Pete’s original questions which was how I landed a specific sponsor. Since I treat my meetup like a business, I don’t divulge specifics of a sponsor’s deal.

Land those first couple of sponsors, and just like in business, it’s easier to get customers if you have customers.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Tagged , , ,

Advice for marketers who want to partner with Meetup groups

Meetup groups across the country and across the globe can be a ripe hunting ground for marketers or other entities seeking partnerships. Many want to sell their product, get the word out about their event, or raise money for their non-profit, and Meetup groups (as well as Facebook groups, Google Groups, etc.) have become quite a target of honest and unscrupulous marketers alike.

Why do Marketers Target Meetups?

The open nature of Meetup.com is a blessing and a curse: I love the fact that potential members can see what a strong group we are (in membership numbers, breadth of events, and strength of partnerships), but it’s a curse when spammers want to use my membership to hawk their wares.

Furthermore, the vast majority of Meetups are grass roots, non-business entities who likely don’t have the same types of barriers in place that traditional companies do (salespeople, business development guys). Easy targets.

A Tale of Two Marketers

I don’t care what your “product,” there is a right way and a wrong way to attempt these partnerships. Much like you wouldn’t (shouldn’t?) walk up to an attractive stranger of the opposite sex in a bar and say “I have our china pattern picked out for our wedding,” you don’t assume that a Meetup organizer or group head is just going to immediately take you up on your offer. What the marketer should be doing is basic cold calling (or cold emailing).

Let me give you a couple of examples:

  1. New person joins my Nashville Hiking Meetup. Great. We have an open group with no membership dues. That’s what I want. But immediately that person posts a note on our message board offering low interest home refinancing. Quite often I can smell him coming with a member name in ALL CAPS and member location given is nowhere near Nashville. Member gets banned.
  2. Person does their research, sees that Nashville Hiking Meetup is large by meetup standards, sees that we may have common interests (she has a product or service that fits our membership: hiking, camping, outdoors, volunteerism), but instead of joining my Meetup as a member and spamming the message board, she instead sends a private email just to me as organizer explaining who she is and how she’d like to partner with us. Immediately you’ve passed my first test.

The latter example is exactly how Emily from Pocket Grill™ contacted me the other day: a professional email directly to me, told me exactly what her product was and how we could help. And did I mention her product is targeted to our member audience?


The professionalism of her introductory email, the quality of the hyperlinked material, and the fact that I didn’t smell spam all led me to start a conversation with Emily (and I bet we’ll keep in touch as her company’s product goes to market).

Same holds true in our Facebook group. It really irks me when people I don’t even know or have a prior business relationship with post crap on my group’s wall.

Bottom Line

Dig a little bit. Do your research. Contact the group leader directly. Be professional. Don’t spam the good people of this fine republic.

What good or bad examples have you experienced with folks wanting to partner with you? Let me know in the comments.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Tagged

How to create a new photo album on a Facebook fan or business page

August 4, 2011 update! Facebook has put back in the ability to create a new album at the time you upload a batch of photos:

The NEW upload photos function, showing the ability to create an album.


Original Post:

Frustrating, I know, but sometime after March 2011, Facebook removed the “Create Album” button on the photos feature of the fan/business page. As of this post, seemingly you can only upload photos to your Wall Photos album on your fan page (remember I’m talking about a fan page, not your personal profile page). Note, I’m using “fan page” to represent any sort of business page that you administrate on Facebook.

I finally figured out a workaround and like most tricks, is very simple:

  1. Go to your fan page (like http://www.facebook.com/nashvillehiking) and click on the Photos button (usually under your branded image in the left hand column):

    The Photos link usually found in the left column of your fan page

    The Photos link usually found in the left column of your fan page

  2. Click Upload Photos in the upper right hand corner of your page:

    Upload photos button

    Upload photos button

  3. In the resulting dialog box, click Try the basic uploader:

    The Upload Photos dialog box in Facebook

    The Upload Photos dialog box in Facebook

  4. For some reason, the basic uploadergives you the ability to add an album. Here, name your album. Then add a location if you like:

    The Create Album form in Facebook

    The Create Album form in Facebook

  5. Then upload at least one image to your new album.
  6. Once you’ve created this new album, you can then add new images to that album without using the basic uploader.

Does it work for you? Please leave me comments below.

 

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Tagged ,

Welcome

Kelly Stewart hiking at Radnor lakeI’m Kelly Stewart, and I run two meetups in Tennessee: Nashville Hiking Meetup and Chattanooga Hiking Meetup. Because of the success of the former (3,800 members and average of five events per week as of this writing), I get many requests for advice on managing and promoting a meetup. This blog is meant to be the documentation of success tips — what has worked, what hasn’t — and applies to more than just meetups.

Many of the tips are applicable to overall social networking, promoting conventional websites, email marketing, event promotion, and partnering with like-minded organizations.

Hope you enjoy.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.