With so many brands on the market today, one of the few remaining ways a company can differentiate itself is by building a unique community around its brand and mission. By doing so, you'll increase brand loyalty and drive word-of-mouth marketing among members.
One surefire way to build community is by regularly hosting company meetups and other events. If you're a frequent attendee of meetups though, you're sure to know how most are overly promotional, a time-suck or just plain boring.
Here's how to throw company meetups attendees won't soon forget.
1. Don't be cheap.
No dilly-dallying. You need to decide whether or not this is something your company is willing to invest into. There are a lot of costs associated with running meetups: renting venue space, buying snacks, providing beverages, paying for speakers and more. If you aren't willing to pay to create high-quality events, don't waste your time.
2. Make sure your content is both entertaining and educational.
Being sure the content of your event is informative, actionable and entertaining will drastically increase the chances your attendees will return for the next meetup.
If you have any high-profile friends or people in your network who are respected in your industry, see if they'll speak at the event. If that's not in the cards, use your company's highest performing blog posts and other content as inspiration for topics to increase the chances it will resonate with your audience. Also, search through platforms like Quora to see what questions your target audience is dying to have answered.
3. Think of a great name for your meetup.
If you want to build community with your meetup, you shouldn't just slap on your company name and call it, "The 5th Street Cafe Meetup". To be more effective, your name should rally like-minded people around a mission they care about or an identity they hold onto. For instance, instead of calling your meetup, "Ricky's Bar & Pub Meetup", give it a name like, "Bartenders of Los Angeles" or "Good Times With LA Bartenders".
4. Provide food and beverages.
Providing food and beverages at your meetup is a no-brainer. Be sure you have a variety of options to make the event welcoming to people who might have dietary restrictions. You don't need to go overboard and provide organic, vegan-friendly wheatgrass ice tea popsicles at the meetup, but be sure to meet somewhere in the middle.
5. Set aside at least 30 minutes for networking.
Let's face it, the older you get the harder it becomes to meet new people with interests similar to your own. Meetups and industry events are a terrific way to meet others you're likely to vibe with, which is one of the main reasons so many people attend them in the first place. No matter how prolific the speaker is at your event, be sure you set aside at least 30 minutes for networking, mixing and mingling.
6. Don't make it all about your company.
There's nothing more corny and cringe-worthy than a meetup shoving a company or sponsor down the throats of attendees. If you're overly promotional at your meetups, you'll come off as inauthentic, and attendees will begin to wonder whether or not you actually care about the content of the meetup at all.
Instead, sprinkle in your company where you can: give a blurb about what you do at the beginning of the talk, put "sponsored by" in all branded materials or host it at your company headquarters.
7. Leverage third party tools.
Setting up your meetup for success is half the battle -- the other half is getting people to actually go to it. That's why using platforms like Meetup.com, Eventbrite and Facebook's Discover Events app to spread awareness can go a long. These third party tools have a much wider reach than most companies out there and can ensure the right people get the chance to see and consider going to your event.
8. Capture the moment.
When it comes to meetups, social proofing is key. It will prove to potential attendees these events are enjoyed by other people, so it'll more than likely be worth their own time. Because of this, be sure to document the event through pictures and videos, and publish the content across your social media channels, your website and on your Meetup.com page.
To encourage online sharing, host a contest where participants post about the event on social media in exchange for entry into a drawing for an Amazon gift card, free merchandise or something similar. Lastly, be sure to reach out to local journalists and thought leaders in your space to see if they'd be interested in attending and recapping the event with their own audiences.