New Event RSVP Tool

NetSquared has been using meetup.com as our events platform for more than 10 years, but I think it’s time to see if another tool will serve us better.

Meetup is NetSquared’s primary event RSVP platform. We currently have 116 groups with 42,960 members. Meetup has served NetSquared well – it’s a powerful marketing tool for finding event attendees and has helped us grow. But meetup is also a data roach motel – information goes it, but it can never come out. That means we know almost nothing about our members and are trapped in the meetup.com platform (reducing our options and flexibility for the future).

If we ever want to do something beyond what meetup offers a change will be necessary.

Therefore I am beginning a community consultation with the organizers to determine what event platform will serve us best for the future. We are seriously discussing options for a meetup.com replacement (actually, more like a supplement), but before we do anything we need your input since you’re the major users of meetup.com.

I have done some initial research and have identified three platforms that look like reasonable fits for the NetSquared way of working: Nvite, Startup Grind white label, and Nationbuilder.

  • We’ll do an analysis of each of these platforms based on the prioritized feature list we’ll create as a community.
  • We may also add other platforms to the test as they emerge.
  • Each platform vendor that moves to the final consideration round will provide a demo and host a Q&A that will be open to all NetSquared organizers.

What Will Happen to Meetup?

We’ll keep it! It’s very helpful for half the NetSquared community and we’d be foolish to turn it off when it’s working. But the other half of the NetSquared community isn’t getting value from meetup, so we’ll shutter inactive meetup groups.

We want a tool that will allow you to automatically cross-post to a group’s meetup.com and include a link back to the new RSVP tool. This will allow us to retain the promotional power of meetup.com while also slowly transitioning our community to the new platform.

Why Bother Making a Change at All?

NetSquared should have control of our own destiny, rather than being tied to meetup.com.

The major driver for TechSoup is the opportunity of using NetSquared as our way to identify nonprofits who don’t yet have a free TechSoup account. We can save more nonprofits money and make TechSoup more sustainable. And when TechSoup’s financial incentives are aligned with NetSquared’s success it means we’ll have more access to marketing support, including email campaigns and social media advertising.

From the organizer perspective we want to make the management of events easier, give you full access to your member’s data, and automate the process of being an organizer including speaker thanks you, surveys and more.

Finally, for NetSquared members we want to reduce the barrier to access. Moving off meetup.com means no more passwords and user accounts stopping people from RSVPing. Plus we can explore new ways of event reminders, including SMS.

How Do I Have My Say?

This will be a major step for NetSquared, so we’ll have four opportunities for you to participate:

Wednesday, April 19

  • Slack Chat: 6:30 AM PT in the #meetup2 NetSquared Slack channel RSVP
  • Video Chat: 12:00 PM PT RSVP

Thursday, April 27

  • Video Chat: 6:30 AM PT in the #meetup2 NetSquared Slack channel RSVP
  • Slack Chat: 12:00 PM PT RSVP

I will share the notes and videos after the meetings for those who couldn’t attend.

Meetup’s Core Features

NetSquared is chapterized and each group is mostly autonomous. Therefore the data model must reflect this. NetSquared’s core feature sets include:

  • Chapterized data model that gives each local group control over their community and event
  • Event RSVPs
  • Emailing members
  • Group and event search
  • Event-level comments

Help establish the core features we need from an events tool here: http://j.mp/2peDUPv

Meetup Issues

The core meetup.com issues I hear from organizers are:

  • No data export
  • Difficult to collect custom information like organization, title, email, phone number, etc.
  • Meetup sends too many emails / people unsubscribe from alerts
  • No SMS messaging
  • Hard to measure impact of events
  • Only half of RSVPs ever show up

Not Used in All Communities

NetSquared is a mighty acquisition engine in some cities. But it’s also almost useless in other communities. There are 116 meetups, but 46% of them have less than 100 members. And the top 10 meetups account for 47% of the total community membership. So when meetup works it works, but much of the time it doesn’t.

Other Platforms

We are open to exploring other event platforms that are structured to support independent chapters. Send your suggestions to Eli!

  • https://demo.controlshiftlabs.com/

FAQ

Q: How did NetSquared start using Meetup?

A: NetSquared co-founder Bill Bicket was an early Meetup.com employee, so when TechSoup wanted to grow a grassroots network of Tech4Good activists it was the default choice.

Q: How quickly will the transition happen?

A: I anticipate the new platform introduction taking one year.