Meet the Forrest Gump of Social Media | TravelResearchOnline

Meet the Forrest Gump of Social Media

It is not a stretch to call me a true denizen of the digital age, after all, I know my way around Photoshop, know how to code a webpage with Dreamweaver and understand that CSS in not another spinoff of Law & Order. I even communicate regularly with my teenager via IM – often the ONLY way to get her attention.

But when it comes to Social Media, I’ll all thumbs and fumble fingers.  Weeks go by before I remember to check my Facebook page.

And Twitter? Even with two accounts – one personal and the other for business – I still don’t “tweet”…or read them.

(There is something about the scatter shot approach and ultra-brevity of the Twitter-verse that stops me in my tracks. It’s like fishing for trout with dynamite – too hard to spot the edible bits amongst the detritus that floats to the surface. And don’t talk to me about ‘hash tags’. That term will always be associated with corned beef in my mind.)

It may very well be that I’m nuts for not exploiting Social Media as a business opportunity, but the idea of continuous, shameless self-promotion is a turn off. I find it annoying when I see others doing it. But, in spite of my intransigence on the issue, I may have stumbled on to the perfect online app for my laissez faire approach…MeetUp.com. And it has generated new business already…just from attending meetings. Hosting my own MeetUps is still in the planning stage.

I first visited MeetUp.com about a year ago to see what social activities might be available the Memphis area that would get me out of the house more often.

(Working from a home office with the kiddo now away at college and my spouse traveling on business much of the time…it’s often just me and the dog here…and the dog has begun fetching my passport instead of the leash.)

I am currently a regular with these groups in the Memphis area –

–      WordPress Users Group (blabbing bloggers)

–      Twilight Camp (Happy Hour meet & greets to discuss online issues)

–      Laughter Yoga (think placebo – fake laughter is as good as the real thing for improving health, attitude, etc.)

–      Clicks & Coffee (sponsored by the local newspaper – targeted to metro area small businesses interested in fine tuning their web presence.)

(Hosts of the above were interviewed for purposes of this article.)

At each meeting the general format is for attendees to take a minute or two to introduce themselves, describe the nature of their business, exchange business cards, email addresses, URLs, etc.

After a few MeetUps, it did not escape my notice that some of the people met through this venue have begun booking travel at my website. Which begs the question…what if I took the next step and initiated my own travel themed MeetUps?

A good place to start researching such possibilities is to visit the MeetUp.com homepage and search on “travel” in your own zip code to see how others may already be utilizing MeetUp.com.  To view a truly huge sampling of existing travel themed groups, search on “travel” in a Manhattan zip code – such as 10024.  You’ll hit a jackpot of over 300 travel themed MeetUps.

The cost to organize and host MeetUps is $12 to $19 per month and is month to month – no long term contracts required. The higher fee allows you to post your logo – highly recommended since attendees who RSVP for a meeting can click a Facebook icon to have the meeting confirmation posted to their FB page that will include any meeting logo or icon that the host has created. (see sample image)

A list of some MeetUp hosting possibilities/services –

–      Post videos of your product/service or of previous meetings

–      Make meetings a regular event

–      The meetings are held at a venue of your choice – restaurant, coffee shop, book store, church, etc.

–      Make meetings “themed” – i.e. focus on a particular destination or type of travel

–      Schedule talks by DSMs or destination specials, travel writers, etc.

–      Make clear it is primarily a social meeting to create relationships – not sell product – for the purpose of networking, sharing of travel experiences and advice

–      MeetUp can assist in creating printed materials – name tags, flyers – post cards – tabletop signs, business cards- if needed

–      MeetUp handles distribution of invitations

–      MeetUp handles RSVPs

–      Enables post meeting evaluations and comments

–      Attendees can network

–      Organizers can sweeten the deal for attendees with the new ‘MeetUp Perks’ service by indicating they are open to offers of discounts, deals and other benefits from relevant businesses and organizations

–      Conversely to the above, you can choose to be a Perk Provider to existing groups

For more research on possibilities, the MeetUp Forums are a great place for tips and advice from veteran organizers.

Whether attending meetings – or organizing your own – MeetUps.com is a fun, inexpensive opportunity to educate potential customers on what you do – as well as add a live, in-person human dimension to your Social Media game.

We will soon see how Forrest Gump fares with his own MeetUps. (Maybe that’s why the dog brought me a ping pong paddle this morning.)

  7 thoughts on “Meet the Forrest Gump of Social Media

  1. Lyn:

    You may well be onto something here, congratulations! I’m eager to hear of your meet-up exploits. I think you have been successful at accumulating some bookings largely because you have not been “overtly” marketing yourself. As Nolan Burris says, social media is for socializing!

  2. Nolan Burris says:

    Terrific post Lyn. You’ve hit my pet peeve nail on the head! The biggest mistakes people make with Facebook, Twitter and the rest are non-stop self promotion, and one-way impersonal message blasting. It’s called SOCIAL because it’s supposed to be about socializing! Those who get this important point are the ones that succeed with it.

    MeetUp is AWESOME! Since it focuses on in-person gatherings it “completes the circuit” that Facebook or Twitter can often start. Many people are using them in concert with one other, although even on its own, MeetUp is a powerful tool.

    Regardless of the tool, those who are most successful with online marketing never forget that it is good old fashioned human beings that are at both ends of the line. Be real, be genuine, be human. Thanks Lyn!

  3. Great resource, Lyn! I had poked around MeetUp before, but never really got into it or explored as in depth as I perhaps should have, but you’ve turned on the proverbial lightbulb above my head. (and yeah, what Richard and Nolan said. *sage nod*)

  4. Keith Powell says:

    Great article. I belong to two MeetUp groups, one on coffee, and the other a wine group. Can be a great resource.

    I find the key to Social Media is the “social” part. In order for it to work for a business purpose you need to develope a relationship. And this takes time and effort. I am still learning in the Social Media arena.

  5. Great post, Lyn – I’m glad you’ve become part of the WordPress group! And come on back and try Twitter again – I promise it’s not all self-promotion – there is some pretty good conversation there much of the time.

  6. Lyn,
    Great post. I think you hit the nail on the head with the Meet Up. It has been a tremendous tool for me. Not only my personal development but business as well. Hope to see you soon!

  7. Jen McGuigan says:

    Great info, thanks! I’ve heard of meetup.com but mostly from friends that are single and looking for active ways to meet people.

    This is a great suggestion! 🙂

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