Museums are pillars of the community–and part of that standing comes with the responsibility of building an even stronger community. Museums can “community build” in a number of ways, but perhaps one of the best ways is to take advantage of your beautiful, interesting space and hold events!
Many museums already hold events, and the purpose of this article is to show you two things:
- If your museum doesn’t already host events, you need to!
- If your museum does hold events, we’re going to show you how Meetup.com can be an awesome tool to attract new members and increase engagement for people who are already attending.
Step 1: Create Your Meetup
Once you’ve navigated to Meetup.com and created your account, you’ll want to click “Create a Meetup.” From here, Meetup takes you through the absolute basics with a setup wizard for your event. We’ll get into more detail like your group’s name, description, and main topics or tags later on.
The first step is to set your Meetup group’s hometown. It’s possible your museum may want to run events in different cities; we recommend you choose the location most relevant for you — so likely, the city that your museum is located in or the city where your group will primarily be active.
In Museum Hack’s case, we have groups in New York City and San Francisco. We mostly hold events in NYC, though, so we’ve set that as our hometown.
Step 2: Tag Your Meetup
For the next step, Meetup will ask you what your Meetup will be about.
You’ll have the option to choose up to 15 topics — and we recommend that you use all of them!
Tags are one way potential members can find you via the Meetup site and emails, so using more tags should help you attract more members.There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of potential topics to choose from. Pick the 15 topics that are most relevant to your museum’s target audience–like “art”, “culture”, “science”, “languages”, “social”… the possibilities are endless.
Once you select your 15th topic, Meetup will tell you that you’ve hit your maximum.
Step 3: Describe Your Meetup
Now we’re onto the fun part — naming and describing your Meetup!
The name of your Meetup is the main title people will see on Meetup.com. Think of it as similar to the title of a blog; if people see a blog title they find interesting, they’re more likely to click it. It’s the same on Meetup.
Do not, however, name your Meetup group after your museum. That’s not the right kind of niche.
Instead, name your group with this simple three-part formula:
- State the main benefit or purpose of your group;
- Say who it’s for; and
- Say where it is.
We wouldn’t go for something like “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Meetup Group.” For example, one of our groups is called “Fun Networking for HR and Young Professionals in NYC”. “Fun Networking” is the benefit, “HR and Young Professionals” is who it’s for, and “NYC” is where the event takes place!
This naming convention is important for several reasons. When Meetup community members search the site or look at recommendations, they’re more likely to see your group because the keywords in your title are relevant to their interests. If you wanted to attract designers to your museum, you could follow the same formula. The key is to make it relevant for your potential group members.
Next, write your description. Think of the description as a short bio or “about” page for your events. Tell people who you are, what you do, and why you’re doing it. Get some energy in there! Here’s the description we wrote for one of our Meetup groups as an example:
“We are a group of performers that love throwing fun, unconventional meetups in NYC. No weirdos shoving business cards in your face here. Our meetups focus on fun activities that actually let you interact with and get to know cool, new people. Introverts welcome! It’s a VIP experience, but we keep the vast majority of meetups free to attend, with drinks, etc. optional. Important: to keep the quality of our events high we limit the number of people who can attend. If you are interested in coming to our fun, social meetups in NYC then we recommend you joining now to save your spot.”
Step 4: Optimize Your Profile
Next, it’s time to optimize your profile.
After you complete the setup wizard steps, you’ll have a little more control over the nuances of your event’s appearance.
- The first step is photos. We recommend adding photos to your page to show activity. These can be pictures of past events, pictures of your staff, pictures of your museum–whatever you want! You’ll also have the option to upload a logo.
- Next, click on “Group Tools” and “Group Settings.” There are a few items here you can leverage to improve your group. If you click on “Basics,” you’ll see that it houses the group name and description you already wrote. Remember this if you want to edit it later on!
- You can also create a headline for your group. This input will show as a subheader on your page. Our group’s headline is: “Cool, Unpretentious Meetups in NYC for 20 and 30 Somethings.” Again, the goal is to tell people exactly who your group is for and what the benefit is.
- Another fun touch is the ability to customize what your members are called. The default name is “members”, but you can change this to whatever you want! Some groups’ members are called things like: “improvisers” for an improv group, “competitors” for a soccer league, and “lawyers” for… well, a group of lawyers.
- You can also customize the URL for your group. By default, Meetup gives you a long URL with the name of your group and a bunch of code, but we suggest changing this to a custom URL that’s very short, easy to remember, and looks nice when people share it out. So for example, even though our group is about networking, our URL is just meetup.com/museum-hack.
- Lastly, you’ll go back to the group settings and select “Optional Features.” The most important option here is to add your social media and website accounts so people can find you on other platforms! There are other customizations you can explore here — like changing the background image or changing colors on your group page — but we’ve focused on the most high-impact essentials.
Step 5: Promote Your Meetup
Once you’ve created this optimized Meetup community, it’s important to start promoting it to attract members! There are three steps to this:
- Step 1: Invite your friends and colleagues to join. A big element of Meetup.com and other social media sites is social proof. People don’t want to be the first one to join a group — just like they don’t want to be the first one to arrive at a party. By seeding the group with friends and colleagues, you can get the group started with at least 5-15 members.
- Step 2: With that initial membership in place, now you can reach out to your wider community to tell them about the group.
We recommend promoting your group in email and on your social media channels. For that messaging, you should tell people why you created the group, what they can expect from the events, and a compelling reason to join.
Keep your wording relatively short and concise, and don’t include any other competing calls to action.
For example, in the email you send asking people to join your Meetup group, don’t ask them to also like your Facebook page, don’t ask them to write a review, and don’t ask them to view new blog articles you’ve written. The only goal of this email or social share is to encourage people to go to the Meetup group page and join. You can even go so far as to tell people specifically how to join!
When Museum Hack created our first group, we started off with 5-10 Museum Hack staff members. We sent the message out to our email community and social media profiles, and within about 24 hours we had 200 people join in NYC. The group has grown naturally from there to over 1.1k members at the time of writing. That leads us to…
- Step 3: Organic growth happens in a few ways:
- People on Meetup search for relevant groups and things to do. When users first join, they’re presented with a bunch of groups that are likely relevant to them. So because you added all fifteen tags/topics and a clear event description (you smart cookie!), they’re more likely to find you and join your Meetup group.
- Another way people will find you is the after-effect of publishing events. When you publish an event, it gets added to Meetup.com’s calendar–so you should publish an event right away! It’s okay if you end up changing the date of the event later, but by having it on the calendar as soon as possible, you’ll start to attract more members sooner.
Step 6: Grow Your Meetup
To continue investing and growing your Meetup community over time, you can share it out on social media once a week or once a month–whatever makes the most sense for your museum.
You can also include a link to your Meetup group where you include other social profiles. For example, your site may have links to your museum’s Facebook and Twitter accounts in a certain area, and you can include a link to your Meetup group here.
Bonus: Meetup Hustle
Finding other relevant Meetup groups and collaborating with them is what we like to call the “Meetup Hustle”.
For example, if there’s already a group of young professionals in your city, you can send a private message to the organizer of the group and say:
“Hey! We found you via Meetup. We’re the [MUSEUM NAME], and we’d love to collaborate with you on an event! Would you like to bring people to [THIS THING WE’RE DOING]?”
Keep it short and concise. We’d suggest writing less than 100 words so the person you’re messaging can read it at a glance.
This process is something you need to hustle; it’s very much a numbers game. Some people won’t reply, and that can be for any number of reasons! They might not have seen the message, they may have gotten busy and forgot to reply, or they possibly aren’t interested. But for every 10 people you reach out to, 2 or 3 will likely respond, and of that, maybe one will be a good fit for a collaboration with your museum’s Meetup group.
This is a case where you can provide a ton of value to the community, because many of these event organizers are looking for venues to bring their groups.
Ready, Set, Go!
We hope that the tips and tricks outlined in this article have made it easy for your museum to start building and engaging your community using Meetup.com — it’s one of our favorite community-building tools!
Go forth and create events!