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9. Meetups (offline and online)

Open Social Open Social • 18 May 2018

In this chapter, we will explore how you can use online and offline meetups to keep your community active. 

Whether you moved your existing offline community online or are started an entirely new online community from scratch, regular meetups can give your users a sense of community. In addition, people often feel disconnected or removed from people they talk to online. Therefore, having your community connect in real-time can help put a human face on all members and ensure more respectful debates. 

 

meetup

 

Online

People often have a threshold for meeting people face-to-face from the internet. There are less intrusive methods for getting people to interact ‘face-to-face’ than meeting in person. Here  are two options:

A video group chat:

    1. You can use a video chat tool like Google Hangout or Skype;
      1. Group video chats can get messy with people shouting over one another,
      2. Not everyone may have the necessary connectivity to engage properly.

         
    2. You can use a group chat tool like Skype;
      1. These group chat sessions can also get messy but it’s easy to partake in the conversation,
      2. Most people have a stable enough internet connection to join in.

         
    3. You can create an event on your Open Social platform;
      1. This is an easy way to announce the meetup and check attendance,
      2. You have an instantaneous platform where a debate can take place, right there in your community!
      3. Of course, we also recommend using the event function when you go off-platform. This is the best way to announce the meetup and keep it active by leaving comments on the event ever so often.

 

When you first start organizing online meetups, be sure to set a clear goal or topic of conversation. People won’t just start talking, so  you want to give them an idea of what they will be talking about. Think of:

  1. Running a live Q&A (Questions and Answers) session with:
    1. An expert
    2. An interesting or popular community member
    3. Yourself and your team
       
  2. Diving deep into a topic that blew up on your community in real-time
     
  3. Discussing community house rules or guidelines in a live meetup

 

Offline

If you’ve moved your community from off- to online,  then organizing events is less of an issue. However, for online communities, it can still be a challenge to encourage members to meet offline. Still, it’s worth considering offline meetups as your community matures. Here are some things to consider when moving your online community offline:

 

  1. Consider giving the following groups an incentive to meet up:
    1. Small pockets of users who engage more actively with one another
    2. Groups of users who may be living close to one another
       
  2. Incentives in the early stages of your community to meet up can be:
    1. You would like some feedback from your most active users
    2. You would like to thank your most active users by bringing them together, treating them to lunch or dinner (and get their feedback at the same time)

 

Don’t expect too much activity from your first offline meetups. These will most likely take place with around 3-5 users at first. As your community grows and matures, small pockets of community members may spontaneously decide to meet up over time. If they discuss this publicly and if it becomes more common, you can suggest organizing a bigger event for a larger section of the community. 

 

Be aware that the expectations people have of a meetup organized by the organization running the community are a lot higher than for a user organized meet-up. This means you will need to set aside a healthy budget  to rent a venue, organize catering, and set up entertainment or speakers, for example.