It doesn't matter what type of online community you are running, regular community meetups can help connect your members. People sometimes feel disconnected or removed from other community members because they have not met offline before. Having your community connect in real-time can help put strengthen relationships and trust, and result in a more respectful debate. Plus, meetups are fun!
Online community meetups
Many people are careful with meeting people in real life from the internet, which is completely understandable. If there is some hesitation, a much more comfortable way to get your community to interact in real-time is to do it online (at least, for the first time). There are a number of options for this:
A video group chat
You can use tools like Google Hangouts or Skype. The downside of video group chat is that it can get messy with people speaking over one another. Additionally, not everyone has the necessary connectivity to engage or even join in properly.
A group chat
While these can also get messy (we all know how group chats can get), it’s easier to go back into the conversation to catch-up and most people will have a stable enough internet connection to join in.
An Open Social Event
The Open Social Events feature is an easy way to announce a meetup and check attendance. Moreover, you can even use the Event itself as the platform where real-time debates can take place. Right there within your community! Even if you do decide to go off-platform, we recommend using the Event feature to announce the event.
Make sure that your meetups have a clear goal or conversation topic since this will help give people a clear idea of what will be discussed. This could include:
- Running a live Q&A session with an expert, yourself, or someone from your team/interesting community member;
- Diving deep into a topic that recently blew up in your community;
- Discussing community guidelines during a real-time meetup.
Offline community meetups
As your community matures, it's worth considering organizing offline meetups as well. People still get together offline, even with plenty of online meetup options out there. As said before, this can be quite daunting (although if you’ve moved your community from off- to online, then this is less of an issue). However, the benefits are plenty!
Some things to consider for real-life meetups:
- Try starting with a smaller group of users who engage more actively with one another or groups of users who may be living closely together.
- Consider some incentives for your first meetup, such as getting face-to-face feedback from your most active users or just bringing them together for a more personal thank you (and to get feedback at the same time).
Stay calm and meet up
Don’t expect too much activity from your first meetups, just like the online community itself. Your online meetups will require experimenting with timings, topics, and platforms. Also, your first offline meetups will most likely only involve 3-5 members at first. However, as your community grows and matures, small pockets of community members may spontaneously decide to meet up over time. If this becomes more common, you can suggest organizing a bigger event for a larger part of the community.
Be aware that the expectations of an organized meetup can be a lot higher than meetups organized by just the users themselves. This means you’ll need to set aside a healthy budget to rent a venue, organize catering, and set up entertainment or speakers, for example. Most of all, have fun! These meetups can help build a stronger sense of community by promoting interaction and gives you a chance to get involved with your members.
What are your experiences with organizing meetups and events for your online community? Share them in the comments!