VMUG Playbook: Promoting your User Group Meeting

This is the third post in my series of developing your user group. In my previous post, I shared why not make it so memorable for the guest speaker that when they leave they become your evangelist.

My seven part series on developing your user group;

Holding your first user group meeting or your 200th can be exciting and nerve-wracking. You have booked the venue, pulled together an awesome agenda, have a wonderful menu for break time and sent out the invites, but you still worry whether anyone will show up. I always cast a wide net in my local area to ensure I would reach a large and interested audience.

There are several things you can do to to complement your existing outreach that are easy, but require a time commitment on your part. But I think the payoff is worth it.

Have a home base you own

Consider having a virtual home base, a blog for your user group. This is where you make announcements of upcoming meetings, share and embed content (we will get to that later) and give voice to your leaders where they can speak directly to the membership. Take the time to learn some simple SEO tactics to help your content show up in search results – this is a great way for someone who is looking for a user group in their area to have yours listed in the top results. Consider scanning YouTube for some tutorials or check out Pluralsight.

Social media can be a great tool for broadcasting information, one of the best platforms is Twitter. Consider creating a Twitter account for your user group. To build up your following, look for local tech events in your area, and following any Twitter accounts that you think have the same audience. Then follow users who have subscribed to accounts. initially you will probably follow more people than are following you, but over time you’ll see that change.

Also engage with people in the local area on Twitter encouraging them to come out to your next event. This is a cool and easy way to find guest speakers for your next meeting. There are some paid tactics, but I won’t cover them here – I want to help get you up and running with the least monetary investment needed.

I would also caution against being on every social media platform. You should have a sense of where your target audience is and spend your time on that platform. Better to be active on a few than not active on many, it just gives off the wrong impression.

Consider also creating notices about your meeting on event sites like Meetup, etc – there are several free ones out there. Add your meeting and link it back to your registration page. It’s a nice way for people to find out you are having a meeting on other platforms. In the past, I’ve used sites like Eventful and others to help promote my meetings.

ProTip: Use URL UTM codes to track which event sites perform the best for you. Don’t make a judgement on just one meeting but aggregate several meeting together for a true representation.

When your meeting is over gather all the presentations and upload them to sites like SlideShare. Include a nice write up in the description section (include blog, user group name, Twitter, etc) and as folks look for content, this is also another way to introduce your user group to them.

In the past I used SlideRocket, which was acquired by VMware in April 2011, and leaders where given a free account. Great way to get your user group also noticed. This is also a nice way to embed that content into blog posts for greater visibility.

Stay connected between meetings

Finally, it’s what you do in between meetings that is important. If your twitter handle is only active when you have a meeting or if you are blogging only the day of the meeting, you are missing a huge opportunity to keep your audience informed and engaged. You want to stay top of mind for the audience and fresh content always does well on social media and search engine results. Keep posting and sharing content during times when you don’t have a meeting schedule.

I hope some of these ideas have inspired you to think differently about how you plan to promote your user group and reach to best audience possible.

Have you done anything cool or different that would benefit the community? Let me know on Twitter and thanks for reading.