An online tool for in-person gatherings

Real Estate Tech Review: Meetup.com

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Continuing the thread of digital tools that help you meet in the analog world, this week let’s take a look at Meetup.com. Similar in some ways to the event organizing software Eventbrite, Meetup.com is for, well, organizing a meet-up.

Meetup.com focuses on the social nature of groups as it’s main organizing feature. Instead of focusing on one-off events, Meetup is designed to help you manage a face-to-face community that will get together more than once.

Typically, Meetup groups are organized around a specific topic or cause: software user groups, book clubs, hiking clubs, foreign language groups, and so on. If people are going to spend actual face-to-face time they like to know what the purpose is.

As with the other bringing-it-offline tools I’ve been covering lately, if you are good at setting appointments or doing other business development when you’re meeting people face to face, Meetup might be a useful addition to your marketing practices.

Using Meetup to meet people

The Meetup.com home page does a good job of getting you focused on your task. There are clear calls to action about finding a group and starting a group. Let’s start with finding a group.

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You need two pieces of information to search the Meetup database of groups: a topic or interest, and a location. If you’re not sure what topic or interest is best for you then just leave that blank and enter your location. You’ll quickly get a sense of what sorts of things are happening in your area.

See related article:
Bring conversations offline

Once you’ve let Meetup know where you want to meet people, you’ll be given a list of what’s happening there in the near future, what new groups are starting there, and which groups are getting the most traction in terms of members.

Each group started on Meetup includes standard group-organizing tools. There’s the obligatory calendar (how else will you know when you’re meeting up?), message board, member list, "About" page and photo collection. In addition, there’s a place specifically for posting new ideas. Before heading out to a Meetup, you can use those tools to figure out if the group is vibrant or not.

If you decide to join a group on Meetup, you’re given a profile within that group’s membership area. Be sure to make good use of all the fields it allows you to fill out.

If you’re especially interested in maximizing the time you spend meeting new people or trying out the different groups in your area, you can subscribe to a weekly e-mail that will let you know about everything going on in your area.

Using Meetup to organize people

If you’ve done your homework and know what the people you do business with like to do, you can take your Meetup use up a notch and organize your own group. As with all group-enabled social networking, the moderator/owner of a group is always the best spot to be in. If you can host, then you should.

Setting up your own group on Meetup is pretty straightforward. You fill out some information for the profile page just like you might expect: title, description, topics that are relevant to your group.

It will cost you a monthly fee to host a group. Which, aside from the costing you money part, is not such a bad thing because it keeps the spam groups to a bare minimum.

If you really want to make your Meetup group shine, it’s probably best to start with a small group of people who actually meet on their own via old-fashioned organizing tools like e-mail, and then migrate to a Meetup-facilitated structure.

This will prevent you from having a lonely old group with just one member. It’ll also help you group be in the "trending" category on its initial launch.

Sponsoring groups

If there’s a vibrant group that is a good fit for your real estate practice, you can offer to sponsor that group. A sponsor gets a link and image on the sidebar of the group.

The system for sponsoring is pretty straightforward. You fill out your contact details and provide a copy of the image you want to put in the sidebar and then you make an offer. If the group wants your sponsorship then it’s all good to go.

A group doesn’t have to accept your sponsorship offer, however. So your success with this might increase if you first become an engaged and helpful member of the group.

Go out and meet up

Given that we’re a ways away from "Add house to cart," meeting people in the real world will continue to be important for some time for real estate professionals.

If you’re looking to expand your sphere there are a variety of digital tools to help you find a good fit for your personality, interests and skills. Meetup.com is one of them and worth a look.

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt.

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