Meetup is a social media site committed to promoting traditional, in-person networking. It's a paradox that makes using social media infinitely easier.
When I first joined Meetup, I met Wayne Cook. Wayne has been involved with social media for several years and leads two highly successful Meetup groups (look for Entrepreneurs International on Meetup). It was Wayne who opened my eyes to the tremendous potential for learning and networking that comes through Meetup.
Joining Meetup is even easier than setting up a profile in Twitter. It takes about three minutes. Go to Meetup's website and look for the words "Sign Up" in the top right corner. Click on those words.
The sign-up page will ask for some basic info:
- Name (your real name, not a nickname)
- Email address
- Create a password
- Country and ZIP or postal code (very important)
- Agree to terms of service (every site has this)
When you click the "Submit" button, Meetup sends you a verification e-mail. This is how they make sure it's you signing up for the account rather a robot program. Just click on the confirmation link in the e-mail and it opens a new browser window to finish your profile. This is really quick and easy.
First you choose what your interests are. For example, I chose Small Business, Networking, Advertising, and Marketing. I recommend limiting yourself to three or four topics. If you pick more, then you're going to end up with thousands of options for groups to join.
After you pick your topics, you choose how far you're willing to travel for a group meeting. The default option is 50 miles, and I suggest you leave it there unless you're in a major city. Then you can choose one of the lower options (5, 10 or 25 miles). The farthest it lets you go is 100 miles.
Remember, Meetup is about in-person networking. Driving more than 100 miles means you're going to spend a couple of hours — each way — just to get to a 90-minute meeting.
Next is a spot for you to write a couple of sentences about why you're joining Meetup. There is a limit of 250 characters, so you might want to type it out in a word processor. That gives you chance to edit what you write, make sure it reads well, and stays within the 250 character limit.
The last step is to upload a photo of yourself. If you can, use a square photo (square photos are less subject to image distortion).
That's it. You're ready to participate.
How It Works
Organizers and assistant organizers are the people within a Meetup group who organize events for the members. For example, Wayne holds a New Members Night every quarter. It's an opportunity for new members to meet more experienced members and for everyone to network.
Other events can be for workshops, sporting events, dinners, or any event that's relevant to the group's topic. Some events will have a cost, and some groups do charge membership fees. Wayne's group, Entrepreneurs International, has a lifetime membership fee of $100.
As a member, you simply indicate whether you are attending an event or not. As an assistant organizer or organizer, you can arrange events, send e-mails to group members, and help other people arrange events.
You can see the whole process is elegantly simple. Meetup is functioning as a communications hub for people who want to network.
Using Meetup for Social Media Training
When you pick your topics, Meetup is going to show you all the relevant groups within your travelling radius. But you're not limited to looking at just those groups.
Start by joining two groups related to your business. To know if a group is a good fit for you – and you're a good fit for the group – takes attending a few events or meetups. After you've attend six or seven meetups, decide whether the group is somewhere you want to be.
You can always leave a group and return at a later date. What you want to avoid is joining 10 groups and getting overwhelmed by all the activities. Try just one or two at a time, stay with the ones you like, and move on to check out others.
When it comes to finding a group for learning social media, you're going to go outside your business interests. At the top left of the Meetup site are two links. One says "Find a Meetup Group" and the other says "Start a Meetup Group." We'll leave starting a group for another article.
To find a group that will help you learn about social media, you can always type "social media" into the search box. That will get you lots of results.
My suggestion is that you narrow it down by searching for groups of copywriters, site designers, marketing and advertising professionals, or media consultants. One type of group you should avoid is MLM or Network Marketing. It isn't that these are bad groups — quite the opposite, actually. It's just that their focus is quite narrow, and you'll spend a lot of time fending off recruiters.
In my experience, people in my profession are quite willing to answer your questions. We'll spend time with you at an event – especially if answering your question draws a crowd. You can usually even get 30 minutes to an hour for free after the event.
You'll probably even find someone you can work with to develop a social media marketing plan. That will give you the help you need to combine your current traditional advertising with social media — just like you're doing with Meetup.