Many organizers asked me how we built an engaging startup community at CoInvent. The answer can always be simplified and broken down to two parts – people (team) and technology. In this post, I’m going to focus on the latter part – technology – a.k.a. social platforms or content management tools. If you have attended a CoInvent event in the past, you either registered on Meetup or Eventbrite. In addition, Mailchimp is our choice for sending newsletter and group email messages. So I will focus on the pros and cons of each of these platforms below.
1. What is Meetup?
According to Meetup.com, Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.
Use case at CoInvent
The CoInvent concept was practically founded as a small Meetup group in May, 2009. Over the past 6 years, we were able to build one of the largest startup/entrepreneur Meetup groups in the world.
Meetup.com is one of the original event management software tools. It revolutionized the way people organize events. It enables organizers to create groups and host events based on specific interests and hobbies. Every group on Meetup is closely connected to each other. Members can join as many groups as they wish. If people talk about your events positively, your Meetup group can grow real fast. Meetup’s ecosystem is well developed in big cities and metropolitan areas.
1). Meetup.com doesn’t disclose members’ email info to group organizers even though they belong to their groups. And there is no way for organizers to collect that info either
2). Meetup groups are good for organizing local events as in one particular region or area. If you have a New York group but want to hold an event in Boston, you have no choice but have to start another Meetup group
3). Meetup can also be considered as a ticketing platform. Sadly, it doesn’t let organizers add multiple tickets with different tiers of pricing
4). Although Meetup has been around for more than 10 years, it’s not uncommon for you to see the “fail-whale” sign from time to time. I vividly remember that Meetup suffered a DDoS attack on March 2nd, 2013, and had a hard time staying up for an entire week. For organizers who solely rely on the Meetup platform to host events, it’s really bad news if one of their events experiences these downtimes too
5). There isn’t a way to turn off the “comment” feature for Meetup events. When someone posts a comment, it automatically gets delivered to every attendee’s email inbox. I think Meetup should make the “comment” feature optional in the future so organizers can turn it off for the group if they deem it necessary. Personally, I’d much prefer to have a conversation with our group members on Twitter or our Facebook page
2. What is Eventbrite?
Eventbrite is a global marketplace for live experiences that allows people to find and create events.
Use case at CoInvent
We integrate the Eventbrite platform to the CoInvent website. It’s considered the official registration tool for our non-Meetup crowd.
Eventbrite seems to be the perfect choice for event organizers these days. It seems to understand the business it’s in and doesn’t have a lot of distractions other than its ticketing features. For me, what makes Eventbrite unique and useful is its ability to integrate with our own website and the fact that event hosts can put out several types of tickets at the same time.
Compared to Meetup.com, Eventbrite doesn’t have the community aspect. But you can also consider that as a pro if you prefer its simplicity. Also at this moment, it seems that Eventbrite is very heavy on business and tech events. Not many sports and concert events can be found there.
3. What is Mailchimp?
MailChimp is an email marketing service for users to send email newsletters, manage subscriber lists, and track campaign performance.
Use case at CoInvent
We use Mailchimp to send our newsletter, local event alerts, and special announcements almost every week. All our non-Meetup contacts are stored in our Mailchimp database. Without Mailchimp, we wouldn’t be able to communicate with our subscribers and most of our members.
1). Mailchimp has clear guidelines on how to conduct email marketing. Make sure all your contacts are opt-in emails. Otherwise, your newsletters or messages can be easily flagged as spam. This killer feature leaves no room for spammers
2). The data analytics tool that Mailchimp provides gives marketers all types of real-time metrics – open rates, click rates, subscriber demographics, click map, bounce rates, opt-out rates, etc. This in turn helps campaigners get a better understanding of their audience
3). Mailchimp lets you add an opt-in form to your website or link it to an url. This is a great branding feature. For example, CoInvent’s newsletter subscription link is www.GetCoInvent.com
1). Mailchimp can get pretty expensive once you reach a critical mass for your subscribers – usually start with 30,000 subscribers. You can view its pricing here
2). Certain email servers flag Mailchimp emails as spam (even though it’s legit). An example is qq emails. I’ve contacted Mailchimp about this as we have some readers in China, but it doesn’t seem that Mailchimp has a solution for this at this moment
Needless to say, different combinations of different social networking platforms will generate different results for growing your business. There are other content management tools to help you build a personal/consumer brand, such as WordPress, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Mightybell. No matter what tools to choose, it’s imperative to keep it simple. No organizations have the resources to do them all. So choose cautiously. And only choose those you understand. Also keep in mind that building an audience takes time. Patience is a virtue.