Written by Jussi Tolvi
The first Building Online Communities of 2016 had Robert Fenton from Hipsters, Hackers & Hustlers (aka the Triple H) doing a “fireside chat” with Laura from Club Soda. Robert told the story of how he took over a dying MeetUp group with a couple hundred members, and turned it into the biggest tech meetup in London, with 25,000 members, all from organic growth.
The topic of the day was using MeetUps to build communities, and Robert talked about both the good things of MeetUp.com (it works for small groups, lots of people are there already) and the bad ones (getting data and metrics out of the system is hard if not impossible, difficult to use). For triple H, Robert now uses Eventbrite for ticketing, with MeetUp just as a marketing channel, and they are also building their very own online platform, with some quite exciting features to come.
He also talked about how much work needs to go into organising events, especially if you use several event platforms to draw more people in (HHH use about 20!). He puts a lot of effort into the details of his events, from meeting and greeting attendees to making sure that the tech works. This ensures that the good word of mouth helps them grow and each event is a marketing boost for the next they run.
We all know the no-show rate on MeetUp is poor. For HHH the no-show rate is usually from one in three to one in two, depending on the MeetUp, which sounds about right in my experience too.
There was an audience question on franchising MeetUps. 3H are setting up their own “chapters” outside London. Robert thought that it will be important to set up clear terms and conditions for these, ask franchisees to attend the original events to see how they work, and for the main one to keep an eye on the franchised ones.
Another question was on finding topics for your MeetUps. Robert suggested surveying your members to find out – also about potential speakers etc. On funding events? Robert’s list was: franchising, finding sponsors, setting up paid-for classes and workshops and other events, selling merchandise and charging for membership.
So the big takeaways were:
- MeetUp is great for recruiting members and people interested in what you do, but it is not the perfect tool on its own.
- You can monetise your MeetUp – but it takes hard work to get into a rhythm of producing events that draw the crowds so you can find sponsors.
- Just like any other business, you need to know your audience, and where to find it and what it wants.