Whether you are moving an existing offline community online or starting a brand new online community from scratch, regular meetups can help breed a sense of community among your users. In addition, people can sometimes feel disconnected or removed from the people they engage with online. Therefore, having your community connect in real-time can help put a human face on to each other and result in a more respectful debate.
Many people are careful with meeting people they met on the internet in real life, which is completely understandable. A much more comfortable way to get your community to interact in real-time is to do it online. There are a number of options for this:
A video group chat
You can use tools like Google Hangouts or Skype for this. The downside of video group chat is that it can get messy with people speaking over one another, additionally not everyone may have the necessary connectivity to engage or even join in properly
A group chat
While these can also get messy, 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 the meetup and check attendance. Moreover, you can even use the Event itself as the platform where real-time debate takes place. Right there within your community! Even if you do decide to go off-platform we recommend you use 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 or an interesting community member;
- Diving deep into a topic that recently blew up in your community;
- Discussing community guidelines during a real-time meetup.
As your community matures, it can be worth considering organising 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). Still, as your community matures, it can be worth considering organising offline meetups as well.
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 the 3-5 users 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 to organize a bigger event for a larger section 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 users.
What are your experiences with organizing meetups and events for your online community? Share them in the comments!