Meetup – The Old School New Social Network and its Potential for Travel PR

I moved to London 6 months ago after a 5 year absence swanning around Italy (swanning purposefully I might add) and imagined an immediate return to the Big Smoke with a brimming social life busting with opportunities. Well. London, frankly, is a scary city if you don’t know many people. For all its 11 million or so inhabitants and frenetic life pace, its damned hard to actually meet people. Facebook, twitter, etc. are all brilliant for following what your ex-roommate from Uni  is doing on her holidays, but really, how social is it? Not a great deal. I didn’t see my nightlife getting any more glamorous thanks to a status update.

Meetup is the social network with a difference. It recognises that however much time you spend online, the one thing we’re all really looking for is physical company and face-to-face conversation. For the travel industry, it presents a casual, yes serious opportunity to organise events, mingle with clients and potential customers, promote and discover using a free channel with real face-to-face interaction.

By uniting people first of all online and allowing you to tap into groups who share your interests and needs, they then set up the face-to-face encounter, usually with incredible levels of efficiency, organisation and professionalism. Like online dating, this is the try-before-you-buy social network. Narrow down exactly what kind of social/hobby/interest group you are looking for online, then go and find it in person at their next event.

In my first month back at home, I  joined a French language meetup, a life-drawing class meetup, the American Expats Political Discussion meetup and my favourite of all: Tastour – a group for food and wine experiences in London where you learn, taste and mingle. Tastour was set up and is run by Kelly Bayliffe, a thoroughly entertaining host – recently winning an IWC award for wine educator of 2010! – with pots of knowledge and enthusiasm for her subject.

A professional wine educator, she also knows how to throw a fun event. I have now been to three tasting evenings – but if I had the time and money, there are weekly events to attend, each with a different twist. It could be wine and cheese pairings, a culinary walking tour of a London neighbourhood, Champagne tasting at Ascot. You name it, she’ll organise it.

As a PR, and a travel-obsessed food nut, I am amazed at how little Meetup is used at the moment as a tool for agencies to set up networking events, product presentations and social gatherings. Through Meetup you can tap into an audience you might not have realised was interested in your product – since anyone can join a Meetup group (they are of course moderated) and in theory, anyone who has joined a group, can attend the event. The above photo is from the Women Unlimited Meetup Group, a workshop group for female entrepreneurs – meeting, exchanging, creating.

Were I to be launching a new hotel, I’d perhaps book the lobby or bar, organise some caterers and a few games (hotel treasure hunt guided by a “fun facts” quiz), post my event through meetup – to my existing followers and new ones, and not only enjoy a fab night out, but get my hotel some coverage and interest through an informal, intensely social channel.

Room for investigation? Meetup is already saturdated with business networking groups – in fact I attended Drinks and Links in the City the other day, with 60 young entrepreneurs sahring ideas, business cards, jokes and inspiration. Lawyers, bankers, doctors, CEos – they’re already on the bandwagon. It’s time for the PR world to step up.

So as much as you should nurture the Facebook, feed your twitter feed and keep that blog up to date, don’t forget every journalist and client loves a face-to-face and a party. We can do it the old-fashioned way with a coffee and a notepad on our laps, or we can mobilise!

Emma Jamieson
Posted by Emma Jamieson
Posted under Events, Experiences

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