The trouble with Meetup

I’m trying to remember when I first joined Meetup.com. I think it was around 2009, but not certain. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Meetup.com is a website where people with mutual interests join groups. But unlike other social networks, the intent is to arrange in person gatherings, rather than just chat or interact online. I do remember one of the first Meetups I attended was the Santa Cruz WordPress Meetup. I was so intimidated by the other participants who seemed to be so knowledgeable – I felt like a dork who didn’t belong, and would duck out at the end of the meeting, hoping nobody would talk to me.

A lot has changed since then. Now I’m a key member of the WordPress meetup and a have even been the featured speaker a number of times. I attend other tech and professional meetups. And I’ve created and led groups including a playgroup and a book club. Recently I tried starting a support group for solo-preneurs which has pretty much bombed.

What have I learned through all this?

  • Lots of people will sign up for your group. But for the majority, that will be the last interaction you’ll have with them. They lurk, but do not participate. Did the reality of the group not live up to the possibility?
  • It’s not uncommon to have 10x as many members officially in a group as are actually active in the group.
  • Flakiness abounds. Typically half of the people that RSVP’d yes to an event will just fail to show up with no apology or explanation.
  • Some people in business meetups always RSVP yes and never show up. I think this is because they get exposure just by being on the guest list – their profile is shown and that’s enough.
  • Meetup sends so much email that most if it ends up in the spam pile. And those that do get through are typically ignored.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Meetup is not the best way to form and maintain groups. The platform is impersonal and promotes non-commitment and poor etiquette. Though the possibility of finding one’s tribe is highly seductive. I still find myself looking for new groups to join – new possibilities. Despite the drawbacks and disappointments, Meetup is an addiction I just can’t kick.

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