There’s nothing like the personal touch when it comes to expanding your network. As much as social media is great for increasing the size of your network, if you still haven’t met people in person, they usually remain a stranger.
Just like any other business, culture or group, there’s no replacement for meeting people face to face. Got food? Even better. Liquor can help “improve” conversational skills; I don’t drink alcohol so I have to rely on my own skills! But you probably know all this already, so what am I sharing today? Meetup.com. The networking social site that helps just about anyone meet who they are looking for, in person.
If you can’t find a group of people already engaged in a specific interest, activity or business, Meetup.com can help you start your own group. Other folks interested in your activity can locate your group on the site, request to join, and then join you in person at various venues. And since everyone on the site is networking, everyone’s already on the same page about getting together.
Here’s an example of how to use Meetup.com to make valuable connections for your business.
The Association has DSLR filmmaker training (think digital filmmaking) every month called the Canon Boot Camp. Now, most of our students already find us online, because we have very good visibility from our blog. I’ve already covered how we achieved such high visibility online through blogging in another blog post, so I won’t retell that story here. Like many other companies, we’ve found that traditional marketing with print and newspaper ads is not effective anymore. So that leaves in-person networking as an alternative to online marketing.
But where to find groups of people in LA that are interested in digital filmmaking? LA411 is not the answer for networking purposes. And if I find filmmakers, how will I connect with them in a meaningful way? Is there a way I can provide value to them first? And how can our first encounter be as non-threatening (not a sales pitch) as possible? Meetup.com has made all of this possible. I was already a member, but if you’re not a member yet, you’ll have to create a profile for yourself first.
After selecting a number of film and DSLR related interests (or whatever you are looking for – suggestions will be offered), Meetup.com will suggest some groups to join. When you find some groups you like, hit the Join button and follow the instructions. More often than not, you will be asked to complete a profile for each group you join. Take the time to answer the questions so that other people will know something about you. The little bit of information you supply can help facilitate the first conversation. Each group has one or more Organizers who run the actual events and maintain the group’s page. The Organizer may or may not need to approve your request.
Once you are part of the group, you have some opportunities to provide value and make a good first impression. The most basic way to participate as a valuable member of any group is to RSVP and actually show up! This helps the organizers plan appropriately, obviously. And you don’t want to be that one guy or girl that always says, “Yes” but never arrives!
Another way to provide value to a Meetup group is to offer a Sponsorships or Perks. Sponsors are able to provide a specific group with something of value to their members, such as discounts, a place to meet or supplies of some kind. Perks are much the same, but are offered to a number of groups through Meetup.com as a more general offer. For example, I offered a $50 discount off of our Canon Boot Camp for members of the Los Angeles Filmmakers Network. The Organizer approved my offer, and even posted it on their Facebook Page. Literally a few minutes later, I was contacted by a member of the LAFN asking about the class. It can be that fast.
Once you are a member of a group, you can contact other members directly and start a conversation by email. This can be useful to set up an in-person conversation at the next Meetup, if you locate someone that appears to be a good connection for your business. However, avoid starting with a sales pitch or spam as members may report you and you could be kicked out of the group, defeating the purpose of networking.
Is there another networking group or site you’ve had success using? Tell us about it in the comments box below, we’d love to hear your suggestions or tips.
- See more at: http://blog.theassociation.tv/blog/the-association/page/4#sthash.FEZaGm4n.dpuf