NOTE: This is a guest posting by Kathy Jentz, a Silver Spring activist. The article was originally published by the American Farm Publications Inc.
Marketing with MeetUp
By Kathy Jentz
Who says social media is the death of face-to-face interaction? MeetUp.com has been around for almost 15 years now and is used by over 30 million members for more than 600,000 monthly in-person meetings. The whole basis of this web site is to create connections beyond online.
Yet, marketers and businesses have been very slow to adapt MeetUp as a tool for growing their customer base. This resource is low-cost and one of the most under-used of the social media channels for reaching new customers.
First, create a MeetUp account, if you don’t already have one. Then, go to your Profile and upload your same avatar image that you use on the rest of your social media channels and thoroughly fill out your information. Be sure to select several interest groups. There are many that are in the horticultural and agricultural worlds – from “Sustainable Farming” to “Plant Collecting.” This part is free, to create a MeetUp group you sign up for a basic or an unlimited plans that allow organizers to run up to 3 Meetup Groups on a single account.
Next, set up groups in your specialty area. You might search first to see if there is anything similar to what you are considering already in your area and then join that. You want your group to be specific and narrow in scope. Remember, you can host up to 3 and can create other groups for your various business focuses. An example of a MeetUp group might be “Organic Flower Farmers in New Jersey.”
After you attract a few group members, engage with them online and ask them to introduce themselves. You can then set up a tentative in-person MeetUp. You could host it as a brown-bag lunch at your own location or at a neutral spot like a nearby coffee shop.
Now you want to share and market that event far-and-wide across all your social media networks. MeetUp makes that pretty easy by allowing you to connect your various accounts to your profile. Post to your blog about it and announce it on other, related MeetUp groups. Print up flyers announcing your group and meeting and insert them in customer orders.
Don’t be disappointed if you do not have a large turnout at your event. Focus here on quality over quantity. Make the events attractive and fun and eventually you will start to build up a loyal base. A friend of mine, who sells beautiful flower photography, set up a MeetUp group for other flower photographers in her area and once a month they go together in the early morning to various local public gardens to take photos as a group. Afterwards, they meet for coffee and compare shots and swap photography tips.
Some ways to liven up your in-person meetings include having a guest expert speaker (that can be you!), providing delicious food, breaking the ice with introductions plus nametags and games, and pulling in a charity to benefit from the gathering. The nonprofit could be a marketing partner and help promote your event as well. An example might be a gleaning day at a local fruit farm at the end of the harvest with participants being able to keep some produce, but the bulk going to a local food pantry.
After your event, no matter how small it was, post photos and thank those who attended. Build up anticipation for the next one.
Business relationships are best built on friendships and MeetUp.com makes it easier than ever to connect with like-minded folks in your geographical and topic areas.
*About the Author: Kathy Jentz is the Editor/Publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, the publication for Mid-Atlantic home gardeners. She is the former Brand Ambassador for Meadows Farms Nurseries and the Social Media Guru for various nonprofit organizations including DCGardens.com. She can be reached at KathyJentz@gmail.com or 301-588-6894.
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