I attended SMX East in 2011, but I missed out on a lot of great content. Apparently you need some sort of pass to access the really good stuff, including cupcakes. Shucks. But I lucked out. This guy Mike King, who spoke at SMX East, was speaking at a meetup right here in Philly. Sweet. His presentation on local SEO was excellent, especially the delivery, but it was the networking and education that blew me away.
I was amazed that so many people were interested in just hanging out and geeking out over SEO. OK, so there was beer, but I’m sure most of the SEOs I met would have made an appearance regardless. Before the night was out I had started following some of the best SEOs in the industry on Twitter. (To see who check out this post.)
So I kept attending meetups until I got up the nerve to be a presenter. And what I thought to be a sub-par presentation turned out to be pretty helpful. Taking that leap of faith helped me land a speaking opportunity at SEER when SEOmoz came to town. And after each event, my network grew and so did my appreciation for the power of the meetup.
Host Your Own Meetup. Do it.
Build relationships with local businesses.
In addition to networking and learning, meetups are also good for business. Many local businesses are aware that they need to do internet marketing and many attempt to do it themselves. At the risk of hurting someone’s feelings, no one can do SEO like an SEO. And the web can be daunting place to begin learning about SEO, so some business owners and marketers prefer meeting real people and having real conversations.
Build relationships with other SEO companies.
Invite your competitors to attend as well as to speak. Meetups are about the community, not just about promoting your brand. Reaching out to competitors can open doors to new opportunities. Having speakers from multiple companies means that your event and its content are likely to be shared in multiple places. Winning.
Find new talent.
Some of the smartest and most driven people I’ve met in the industry attend meetups regularly. If someone is taking the time to meet with other professionals on their own time, they might be a good candidate even if their experience is limited.
Grow your employees.
Encourage your staff to present. Even better, encourage them to present on a topic they aren’t quite experts on. Teaching is one of the most effective ways of learning. Additionally, you can show the depth of your team’s knowledge. Ask your employees to attend as many of your meetups as possible and engage the community on social media using hashtags on Twitter and Google Plus.
Attend more conferences.
Industry conferences are awesome for company visibility and networking, but they can get expensive. Instead of just attending, become part of the action. Presentations at meetups can be used to show conference leaders that you know your stuff. And being a speaker usually means you pay nothing to get in. Free > expensive.
Pick a good spot for the meetup.
Our first Agile SEO meetup of South Jersey took place in a bar. The noise made it hard for the audience to hear the presenters, but the networking after was better. Our second SEO meetup took place at our office with a little networking at a local restaurant bar afterwards. The venue definitely makes a huge difference in how much your audience can take away from your event.
Use the web.
Broadcast your meetup online! SEOs are all over the world and may be interested in seeing the presentations, too. Including a global audience in your local meetup can help build national and international relationships.
Meetup.com is probably the most popular way to manage your local events. Encourage your employees to join the group and announce when they are attending. Use geographic indicators in the title of your group, such as Agile SEO South Jersey as people searching for local events tend to use locations in their searches.
Brand your meetup page and promote your events early. After each meetup, be sure to thank your attendees and show them where they can download the presentations for even more sharing goodness.
See you at the next meetup!