Meetup.com is a website designed to help you organize a club. First, someone joins meetup.com, which is free, and then they join which groups they want to attend, which is also free. Most members of meetup belong to many groups. Once someone has signed up for meetup.com, it is nearly effortless for them to join an additional group.
People who are meetup members are people who are interested in going out and attending events, so they tend to be people who are interested in getting out and doing things and meeting people, more so than, say, typical Facebook members. Furthermore, when you create your group, you list about a dozen interests relevant to the group. When people sign up for meetup.com, they list as many topics that interest them as they want. People who have expressed an interest in topics relevant to your meetup will be informed via email of your group’s existence, which typically will result in a stream of people joining the group.
Prepare Before You Start. It is important to set up your group right at the beginning, because in the week or two after you create your group, meetup will send out emails to all the meetup members in the vicinity who have expressed an interest in the topics of your group. This initial mailing is really your chance to get members and get off the ground. So you want your group to be up and running and as attractive as possible when that mailing goes out.
Decide upon your group’s title. Search for it on Meetup and make sure there isn’t already a meetup with that name.
Decide upon your meetup group’s cover photo. Even if you’re not a good artist, Google Images is a great source of public domain images you can use, and with a little tailoring in photoshop you can render them to have the right aspect ratio. You want two images — a horizontal rectangle for the main group cover photo, and a square one for the logo to be displayed on sub-pages.
Write up what you’re going to say on the group’s introduction, at least 3 paragraphs explaining what the group is about and what sort of activities you will have.
Decide upon what your meetup group’s URL will be. It will be of the form http://www.meetup.com/<your choice> where ‘<your choice>’ can be anything you want, unless it’s already taken. The URL’s of EVERYTHING on your meetup will start with that, for example a typical event URL will be http://www.meetup.com/<your choice>/events/258837669/ where the “258837669” is auto-generated by meetup.com. Ideally, ‘<your choice>’ will be short, since you might want your group’s URL on your business card, and you will be emailing URL’s to events all the time.
Plan at least 3 events in the future before starting the group. People will be much more interested in joining a group if they can see that is it active, and if they can see what sort of events are planned, and where they will be held. Be very clear in the write-ups for the events about what sort of activity will take place.
Ideally, have a different graphic for each event.
Next, create the meetup group. You will have to give a credit card which will be charged $90 every six months. For that $90, you can organize as many as 3 separate meetup groups based upon a single email address.
Under “Your Members” you have several choices:
Firstly, you can require organizer approval for people to sign up. This is almost never desirable unless there are some types of people you really don’t want. If you opt for this, it means people will try to sign up, and then not be let in right away, so they can’t start signing up for events until after an organizer has approved them, by which point they may have forgotten about the group.
You can require a photo. Nearly all meetup members have a photo up, except for people who are not very computer savvy, typically older people. Some people like to be anonymous, so they put up pictures of cartoons or landscapes.
Next, you can ask questions, which can be mandatory or optional. Typically it’s good to keep them short, like “What did you hear about us?”. You might want to add “Anything else you’d like to say?”, which is useful — there’s a field for them to enter an “Introduction”, but it’s very limited in the length of answers they’re allowed to give, while answers to questions may be much longer.
Then write up a little note to be emailed to people in response to their signing up, welcoming them to the group and telling them how you look forward to seeing them.
Next, choose the topics. You only get 15, so choose them carefully. This can make or break a group — the topic determines who will be informed of the existence of your group.
Under “Content Visibility”, you usually want “Public”, unless your group’s members are embarrassed to be there, like if it’s an Alcoholics Anonymous meetup. If you choose “Private” that means that people trying to decide whether to join your group can’t examine upcoming events or look at your member list.
Under “Communication”, you have a few choices. “Mailing List”, if fully enabled, allows any member to send an email to everybody in the group at any time. You probably don’t want this because idiots will spam your members, who will quit the group in droves. You can set it to moderated, so that people can send emails, but the emails have to be approved of by you, or you can turn it off altogether, which is what I always do.
he Message Board is a good feature, it allows people to have long discussions without spamming everybody. However, the meetup website has evolved so that the feature is largely hidden and most meetup members don’t even know it exists. Also, when someone creates a thread on the message board, the organizers aren’t informed. I had a guy post an interesting YouTube video on the message board of my meetup once, and I didn’t notice it until six months later, and when I did I loved it and read the book it was based on and used it as the basis for an event.
Unless you are going to be charging people to attend events, the currency and money options aren’t important.
If you have any assistants or co-organizers in your group, once they join, you can set them up to have special roles, like “co-organizer”, “assistant organizer”, or “event organizer”.
- Event Organizers have the authority to schedule events and email the members.
- Assistant Organizers have all the privileges of Event Organizers, but may also kick out hecklers.
- Co-Organizers have all the privileges of Assistant Organizers, and may also edit the meetup group’s introduction page and change all the settings of the group.
- There may only be one “Organizer”, who is the person who pays for the group, but they have no privileges that “Co-organizers” don’t.
I’ve been organizing meetups since 2006, I done a lot of them, some that succeeded, and some that failed miserably. The important things to get right are to choose your group name and topics well, and have the meetup set up well with multiple events in the future when the initial e-mailing goes out, to get off the ground.