Bob Putnam and I have long been interested in Meetup. It was a serious contender for a chapter in “Better Together” (by Robert Putnam and Lew Feldstein) on an example of technology that builds social capital. And I wrote a paper on an earlier iteration of Meetup concluding that it helped the social-capital-rich get richer.
Meetup now has 7.8 members, turned a profit in 2010 and launched “NewMeetup” on January 24, 2011; the interesting story of Meetup and how “Bowling Alone” was inspiration for its founding can be read in this New York Observer article.
Meetup’s new slogan is “Use the Internet to Get Off the Internet”
Previously they launched “Ideas for Meetups” which made Meetups more effective by generating 500,000 ideas from Meetup members, but it wasn’t streamlined with the groups themselves. Meetup wanted to increase membership activism and engagement by letting members suggest ideas and to help the organizer, what Meetup calls “let’s” (as in “let’s have an event”, “let’s form a new Meetup on a given topic”). As you suggest an idea, it enables others to participate and help provide ideas about times and places.
Meetup enables lead organizers to shut off this feature, but this seems to have been lost on many lead organizers.
What sounds like an unabashed good, enabling anyone in a Meetup to organize an event has encountered criticism because the official Meetup lead organizers are the ones who pay monthly organizer dues to Meetup. While lead organizers can share these fees with members, often times they don’t. Lead organizers griped about why they need to pay fees if others in the Meetup could organize events at no charge. [See Twitter criticism with hashtags: #newmeetup and #meetuporganizersunite.]
And the fact that Meetup has also recently helped refund some of the fees it has generated from marketers trying to reach Meetup members — $1,000,000 refunded to groups so far — hasn’t seemed to quell the criticism.
We hope that Meetup finds a way of communicating disgruntled lead organizers that they can simply turn off this feature if they don’t want the ideas of members, although this probably sends a bad message. In general, we’re entirely in support of Meetup’s plan as member engagement is a critical component for ensuring that members want to stay engaged, an essential element for the success of Meetup more generally and the group lead organizers.
The unveiling of new features can be found here.