When friends boycott Facebook, we may grieve their virtual departure from our one part of our digital world, but we tend to understand. Facebook is overly crowded, and its algorithms are such that your news feed is populated largely by ads and random status updates from people we might not even know. (Cue your ex’s dad and every conspiracy theory ever spouted since practically the Dark Ages). Users of Facebook stay loyal for many reasons, but they tend to complain about the lack of personalization and efficacy even when you pay to advertise your brand. More and more people are growing tired of curated, picture-perfect images and looking for social media that cultivates quality experiences in real time. The Meetup app is one potential solution: People create groups and post events, and everyone who joins can search for groups that meet to do things that they enjoy. For example, you can enter anything from “women’s tech” to “travel”; type “foodies” to “political activism” in the search bar, and you’ll find groups dedicated to your particular interests. Or you can create your own group that brings others with your interest to you. So why don’t most people use the Meetup app? We’ve got a few theories- and a potential solution. (We’ll get to the latter a bit later).
First, let’s talk about why so many people don’t use Meetup. We know what it’s not, and that’s lack of need for social media that helps us meet new people and create new experiences. Let’s be real- most of us are too busy to go out and meet people on a regular basis. Social media tools like Meetup.com were designed to help you broaden your horizons and make plans from the comfort of home (or work). Yet we don’t see nearly the amount of people we might expect to using the Meetup app. For one thing, the site lacks a news feed. But that’s a good thing, right? For people who want to bypass the chaotic information overload and get straight to what they came for, the lack of a news feed might seem promising.
More Meetup Groups Fail Than Survive
It’s a widely observed fact. You can ask around to almost anyone who has used the Meetup app, and they’ll tell you the same thing. Some of the fault lies in the format here. As you may know, Meetup does not have a news feed. Although Facebook does anything but, an ideal news feed functions to bring you the content that you want. Without a feed, you’re often presented with too broad a spectrum of choices. Ironically, this actually limits rather than adds to your options. Think about it. You have the option to browse meetups by date, location, or category. Meetup does make suggestions based on your preferences, but this method is only loosely customized. Your “preferences” are gleaned from your search history and activity. Therefore, your suggestions can be based on your location, locations you’ve searched, and a nonspecific mashup of interests and groups based on your search history and interactions. Let’s say, for example, you’ve browsed groups dedicated to poetry and Fanfiction, but you also love sports- and travel, and Renaissance fairs. The list could go on and on, as most people have a variety of interests. Added to that mix are the groups and events generated by your location- which could be about anything at all, and totally unrelated to your shared interests. Oh, yeah, and any number of suggested groups may be inactive. And a lot of groups are inactive.
Another reason the Meetup app isn’t overflowing with users is that its meetups are unpredictable. Okay, all meetups are somewhat unpredictable, but events that are generated through groups are potentially even worse. You can join a really active group this month, only to find that organized meetups and activities trail off over the next month. This is extra disappointing because you relied on the group you joined to keep you connected to events related to your interest.
Meetup functions on a group mentality that too often misses the mark. Plus, groups on Meetup vary in size. And in this case, size matters. The larger groups tend to lose focus and become less specific over time. In a group with thousands of members, your reach is limited, and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Also, even the larger groups often become inactive after short periods of time. The smaller ones often have fewer resources to plan or attend events, generate interest, and organize activity. If you really want to stay connected (which is the point, isn’t it?), you’ll have to join many groups. So while Meetup.com has thousands of groups, so many have been abandoned. Sad, right?
Needless to say, it can be a little awkward to walk into a bar, enter a restaurant, or even join a hike with people you’ve never met. But if you communicate with your Meetup group for long enough online and are able to break the ice on that awkward first “date”, you might bond with an awesome network of people with whom you have a lot in common. Your group can open new doors for you, introducing you to new parts of your city, state, or even the world that you’ve never known before. You have the opportunity to become more cultured by experience, especially when your group meets in big cities or cultural capitals like NYC or San Francisco (or other cities, depending on where you live). Besides just enjoying quality experiences with people who share interests, passions, and lifestyles, people often join Meetup.com to expand their worldview or network. All of this sounds good so far, right?
Unfortunately, there is a “but” here. Meetup groups aren’t always made up of the same people. It’s not uncommon to join a group, attend a meetup you loved, and sign up for another one- only to find all new faces. That’s right, it’s very possible that none of the people who attended that awesome last meetup will be in attendance at the next. Not only are you back where you started, but the potential friends you made last time become acquaintances at best, strangers at worst.
What If Your Social Media App Really Listened to You?
There are no shortcuts to avoiding this problem on any social media site that generates events. But a system in which you can add individual friends is a better formula to foster close friendships and connections with consistency. Forgot to grab that number you wanted at the last event? No problem. You’ve already added him or her to your friend list- or someone you both know has.
Enter our upcoming social media tool, apptly called Plans. Plans is an app that generates events based on the shared interests of you and your friends. Instead of large groups, Plans allows you to add individual friends. Your news feed is populated by events only- no spam, no randomized content and chaos. Just plans. Our app uses a much more specific formula than the one Meetup.com has. The events suggested to you are based solely on you and your friends’ shared interests- not your search history, that guy you talked to once who lives across the country, and the search history of anyone ever who liked art and sports. And because you can add individual friends, your network won’t fall apart because it was tied together by one group.
Groups aren’t a bad thing, but they can be pretty exclusive on Meetup.com. You might get lucky and find a welcoming, tight-knit group that plays together and stays together. There’s always a chance of that, which is a good reason to join up with virtually any social media app that brings people together. But with the Meetup app, the chances of feeling like a third (or hundredth or thousandth) wheel are greater because events are broadly based on groups. With Plans, you get to choose your people and add them as friends. Sure, it can be a great adventure to attend an event where you’ll know no one- in fact, we encourage you to do this at least once or twice. But generally speaking, there’s safety in small numbers. Remember the first college party you ever showed up to, where there were more new people than familiar faces? If you’ve ever been new to a scene and brought your best friend, you know that friendships can be safety nets in unfamiliar territory. The ability to add friends on Plans allows people to make more personal, long-lasting connections with people who share your interests. Our app gives you the ability to get to know and build relationships with new friends online before you meet them in real time.
Is Navigating Meetup’s Drawbacks Worth Its Advantages?
Meetup’s benefits don’t outweigh the pitfalls you have to avoid to consistently get something positive out of it. It’s tricky navigation at best, a fail at worst- and “worst” happens all too often. Beginnings on Meetup.com can be disheartening, too. It’s normal and expected if the first group or event you create attracts a handful of people- or less. However, organizing events at which attendance is based on Meetup’s group format is tough. It comes with a lot of responsibility, and it takes time and effort. So do the events generated by Plans, of course. The difference is that our events aren’t limited to any specific group. They’re entirely based on your interests and the people who share them.
When we’re advertising or branding for business, we use search engine optimized keywords and phrases. Is that really something we want to do when naming a social group? Okay, so it’s not exactly the same thing, but Meetup groups have to choose their names and content very wisely. A group’s name should stand out without being too specific, which is easier said than done. If the title is too specific, people might assume that you only focus on one aspect of a hobby or interest. For a random example, let’s say you’re passionate about pets, and decide to get all cute and call your group “Must Love Dogs”. But your group is for lovers of all kinds of pet animals, not just dogs. People browsing through groups on Meetup might pass you by altogether if they aren’t particularly interested in dogs. But those same people may be absolutely crazy for cats or birds or even gerbils, for goodness sake. But they won’t ever know that your group is for them, too. The fact of the matter is, most people don’t give a group a second glance if the title doesn’t appeal to them.
Thousands of groups on the Meetup app are focused on aspects of technology. Yet if your title includes only one type of tech, people will take you literally. They’ll assume you’re only about the kind of technology in your title. Most people have very limited time for socialization, so they don’t want to waste any of it on groups that don’t immediately appeal to them. Like it or not, we’re living in a world that demands instant gratification.
Time Is of the Essence
Last but certainly not least, a platform that allows you to add individual friends has advantages where time is concerned. Although the events on the Plans news feed obviously have set dates, you don’t have to coordinate with an entire group to choose an event on a day that works for everyone. You can plan on attending yourself or bring only one or two friends. Of course, there’s always the option to plan events in groups, but you have the option to form your own unofficial groups rather than jump into one that’s already established. Of course, there is a lot to be gained from diving blindly into a new group, such as developing more social confidence. We would never discourage doing this, but we do want to give you another, more personalized option. Stay tuned for more news about Plans as we approach its launching!