Category Archives: Promotion

Meetup changed the event description field (and I’m not happy)

On July 24, Meetup changed the formatting options in event descriptions. No longer do we have an HTML-like view of our descriptions, and many formatting options have been removed (this help post is no longer valid: http://help.meetup.com/customer/portal/articles/868340-html-for-meetup-descriptions). Meetup says they did this so event descriptions look consistent across platforms–desktop to mobile to tablets–but did they have to go so far?

Today I discovered that the system also removes href tags when the destination site appears to compete with Meetup.com. So, if you hyperlink text in your description to Facebook or Google Places, Meetup makes the decision to remove those tags.

I’ve worked hard over the years to differentiate my meetup from others out there. Earlier this year they removed much of the formatting options of the look and feel of my overall site. Display fonts are now exactly the same across all meetups. They reduced the size of the banner graphic.

Now my meetup looks essentially like all other meetups. Not cool.

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Brand your events. You’ll be happy you did.

Nashville Hiking Meetup logoI joined Nashville Hiking Meetup in July of 2007. After several months of participating in hikes, leading hikes, and taking over the group in December of that year, someone suggested we have a social event at a bar or restaurant. Surprisingly enough I was skeptical. I said, "I know these people like to hike together, but will they like to socialize and drink a beer together?"

Boy, was I wrong.

We planned our first crowded barsocial event for January 6, 2008 at a local pub. Trip leader Seth had the brilliant idea (which I later learned was the idea of his then girlfriend and now wife Anna) to call it "Drink a Pint" which then morphed into "Drink a Pint Night" over time. People loved the event from day one.

Fast forward to modern times. We typically do one Drink a Pint Night per month now, attracting usually 100 people or more. Now members expect the "Pint Nights" (as most people call them now). By giving the regular event its own name, people identify with it and can refer to the mixer quickly as in, When is the next Pint Night?

Social events have become great way for current members to catch up with old friends, and new members to meet a few folks to realize we’re not crazy before they head out into the woods to hike or camp with us. Add a great brand name to your mixers and other events (and partner with other meetups in the area) and I bet you’ll have a winning combination. Furthermore, promise a venue you’ll bring X number of people into their establishment on a certain night, you’re bound to find a long term sponsor.

drinking beerNo, we’re not the only group in the world to use the event moniker “Drink a Pint Night” but it has stuck. I’m proud to say that our friends at Bowling Green Hiking Meetup have also taken on that brand.

Our pals at Tennessee Hiking Group do a great job at thinking up creative (although a little cutesy for my taste) titles for their events such as “Romancing the Stone: Standing Stone SP, Cooper Mountain Trail” and “Fiery Gizzard —> And we’re off to see the Gizzard…”

How have you branded your recurring events? Let us know in the comments.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Resources: Brand your events. You’ll be happy you did.

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Truth in advertising

By guest blogger Eve
Entry Level Help Wanted - Experience RequiredWe’ve all seen Meetups that simply function as advertisements for a commercial endeavor. But there are plenty of other Meetups that, with the best of intentions, don’t offer what they claim to. These fall into two categories: those that claim to offer a wider range of activities than they do, and those that claim to serve a wider range of skill levels than they do.

As an example of the former, I encountered a meetup recently that was called the, shall we say, Thai and Chinese Dinner Meetup. I never did make it to an event, because I kept waiting for a Thai dinner to appear in the all-Chinese calendar. By contrast, the meetups that purport to serve a wide range of expertise levels tend to state that in the “About Us” section rather than in the name. This is particularly common in sports and outdoor meetups.

I am sure these groups are run by leaders with great intentions, but it’s natural for leaders skew events to their own level of expertise and needs. Meetup organizing is a part-time but unpaid job, and even the most dedicated of leaders can struggle with planning and hosting events that meet the needs of all their members’ needs without sacrificing their own.

That’s why every Meetup group should periodically revisit its purpose, description, and name. Sometimes, the answer will be the change the name or description to reflect the group’s actual purpose. If a running meetup only organizes marathon training, its name should not be “All-Levels Running Meetup.” Here in New York City, there is a meetup for almost any interest that explicitly bills itself as advanced, hardcore, for experts, etc.

However, one reason many people turn to Meetup is to take up a new hobby. It is a lot less daunting to try kayaking with a meetup than it is to figure it out all on your own (and not to mention safer!). Meetups keep themselves strong and healthy by bringing in new members. Both individuals and meetups benefit from welcoming novices. Thus, for many groups, a better solution is to seek out additional assistant organizers or event hosts who can add what is currently missing. You might have those people in your group already. Recently, I was impressed when an organizer asked me to host some events he felt the meetup was currently failing to provide; it was a sign he was thinking about the group and recognizing its needs.

There is a risk in adding any new event hosts, so it’s a good idea to give them a short trial periods before handing over the keys to the store (that’s a topic for another post), but there’s an even bigger risk in ignoring a constituency your group claims to serve.

Make sure your meetup offers all the events and activities its name and description suggest. It’s better not to attract a member in the first place than to create a frustrated ex-member.

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Eve is an experienced trip leader with several meetups and is an Oregon/Tennessee transplant living and working in New York City.

Meetup turns 10 and we got a birthday present!

Today I received an email from Meetup HQ/CEO Scott Heiferman about the company reaching their diamond anniversary. For being one of the top 200 Meetup organizers in the world (based on total number of RSVPs) I got invited to their 10th birthday party! This is quite an honor, especially with 92,000 meetups in the world! Doubt I can make the party because it’s in NYC, but wanted to thank all Nashville Hiking Meetup members past and present, and also our great trip leaders who carry the torch every day.

It’s cool to think we are one of the top 200 meetups on earth!

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

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If you want to borrow my audience…

With running a meetup of over 4,500 members, I receive many requests to promote other organization’s events and fundraising initiatives. I get it. You want to borrow my audience.

Just keep several things in mind:

  • Your offer must be relevant to my audience.
  • Realize I have companies and organizations paying Nashville Hiking Meetup to be a sponsor. How would it look to give you free promotion? I’d be happy to send you a quote for becoming a sponsor.
  • If I decide to promote your efforts, make it easy on me by writing posts (email, Facebook, Twitter) in my voice and in the appropriate format. Don’t just attach a PDF press release that I have to extract content out of.

Questions?

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.