Technology is at the forefront of our culture. Information is available at the push of a button and connection with friends is easily accessible with virtual tools. If we want to stay in touch with someone near or far, we can friend them on Facebook or tweet them on Twitter.
But what if you want to reach a group of people that you don’t even know yet? And then bring them together into a community? Engage in conversations about their challenges, their successes, and all the things they care about?
Since starting my business a few years ago, I’ve had a passion for helping other military spouses who are already entrepreneurs or desire to start their own business. I’ve wanted to help this group find the information, support and resources they need to be successful. A little over a year ago, I met a woman with a similar passion and we worked together to make that vision a reality. Today, our Milimompreneer Meetup group is 88 members strong and steadily growing. Members of the group find the welcoming environment of our community and the sharing of resources to be of great benefit in successfully transitioning to the Military District of Washington (and beyond).
You may be wondering how we’ve grown our community. We started by inviting our existing network and then utilizing the social networking application Meetup.com as the primary engine for Milimompreneer’s growth and retention. I have grown to love the many features in Meetup that helps me efficiently manage our community.
Meetup finds your people and helps your people to find you. As military spouses, we are a transient community. Most of us find ourselves in an entirely new geographical area every few years. And many of our members have turned first to Meetup as a source to find “their people” once they arrive in a new location. It’s always free to be a member on Meetup, and by choosing keywords of importance to you, you find groups in your area that fit your interests.
It’s an affordable means to create and grow a community you care about. Meetup organizers are charged either $9.99 or $14.99 per month, depending on the number of members in your Meetup group. The branding and colors of the group’s home page are customizable (see our group’s home page, below). Group members can easily contribute to offset the cost of maintaining the group. Contributers can be featured on the Sponsors tab, where their logo and website link are listed.
Group events are easy to create and manage. It’s advisable to schedule meetups on a regular basis to create a sense of consistency. Feedback from members drove our decision to meet every other week. Events are easily scheduled from inside your group’s dashboard, whether as a one-time meeting or as recurring events. Members have the ability to post to individual events with questions or comments. The Organizer can feature a specific event to stress its importance to the members. Reminders and email correspondence from the Organizer can be sent to the registered attendees from within the Meetup dashboard.
"Organizer" is not a lonely role. You may assign multiple Organizers to the group – just be sure to communicate, work together, and define the roles that each of you play. Confusion or competition created by the Organizers transcends the entire group membership and can drive members away.
You have the ability to screen new members. In our Milimompreneer group, we want to ensure our members all have a military affiliation. Meetup allows us to set up a series of qualifying questions before a new member can be accepted into the group.
It’s a place to serve and support the people we care about in a real, local environment. Meetup believes that “people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.” It’s a place to share your knowledge and facilitate conversation, not hold sales talks and set up a store front. If you set up a group looking to make immediate sales, Meetup is likely not the right place for you. Sales can happen organically, but over time and not until after the members know, like and trust you and your products or services. Meetup is a place to deliver value and use your expertise to help group members.
Creating and managing a community does require an investment of time and some resources, but Meetup makes it much easier to facilitate that role. Meeting with our members every two weeks for coffee and conversation is a time I always look forward to and delight in afterwards. Facilitating an environment that sets fellow military spouses up for success in their entrepreneurial endeavors has been one of the most rewarding journeys I’ve ever embarked upon.
If you have a passion for a group of people with common interests, and you’re willing to invest a few of your resources to make it happen, I highly recommend using Meetup.com.
April Keating, a military spouse entrepreneur and mom of two young boys, is the owner & founder of online marketing firm Cre8ve Content Co. April is an expert with Constant Contact products and holds a Master Certification as a Solution Partner. She also is a member of the Washington, DC metro area Constant Contact Authorized Local Experts team. Click here to subscribe to April's monthly newsletter.