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How (and Why) to Shut Down Your Meetup Group – For Good

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I’ve waited to post the following information until I saw a response from “Meetup HQ” about their fiasco of an upgrade. It seems clear from the messages from CEO Scott Heiferman that Meetup has no intention of rolling back the changes they made or restoring functionality that has been lost. They are making a few adjustments here and there – apparently, they finally removed the much-reviled admonition not to “flake” appended to the end of welcome emails – but the main changes will remain.

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It seems that CEO Scott, or “Heif” as he’s called on Twitter, has some grand visions he wants to achieve. Some Meetup organizers have concluded, after analyzing his writings, that he wants to create a platform for “personal democracy.” He seems inspired by the uprising in Egypt. Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but that’s certainly not what I paid for. From-the-ground flashmobs are all well and good, but don’t ask me to foot the bill!

Heif’s cry for “democracy” does not seem to be going over well with Meetup organizers, who feel that Heif himself acted pretty unilaterally and dare we say, as a dictator, in pushing his vision on his customers.

An organizer labeled simply “G” wrote the following:

After reading Scott’s response, I do not think any rational arguments are going to work. His response has made me more confident that moving away is the best decision. I don’t want my group to be at the mercy of someone suffering from delusions of grandeur. The best we can hope for is a mutiny by his staff (my heart goes out to you, btw). I think this pretty much sums up how I feel about ithttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5R_pS0h5Qk

(Do click on that YouTube link. It’s pretty funny in this context.)

A Meetup organizer named Linda articulated her frustration with the “member-organized” model Meetup seems to evolving towards:

It’s so sad they don’t get it. It’s so sad they think they will be the next Twitter. They want members to be able to just post “Let’s all meet at whatever bar to hang out”. They don’t see that they were something much more, much better, meeting a need for so many more of all ages. Instead they want to trash a growing business, to try to become the latest passing fancy. As an Organizer of a group for singles over fifty, a thriving active group. I have 10 to 12 events a month turning out an average of 9 to 10% of my membership to each event. If it was about money, I would have gladly paid twice as much to keep the old format. This new format will never work for my group. Thank you for the Meetup that was. I have canceled my payment info, am now shop for a new site and am mourning the loss of a great site for building a strong community. REST IN PEACE….

So…here’s the bottom line. Why should you cancel Meetup? Well, unless you want to be paying for a group that ultimately ends up being member-run, it might be time to cut your losses and move on. Meetup HQ seems to be more interested in democracy than organizer-led groups. Which is great. But that is not the same thing as offering a platform for organizers to create, nourish and direct their own groups. It’s probably extremely optimistic (if not naive at this point) to think that Meetup is going to move back into being the type of service that gives more control and options to the organizers, when Heif himself says that “we do not believe in the “lone-ranger” model of organizing.”

Given the amount of money, energy, time, grief, and love that goes into nurturing a group, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend putting all your eggs into the Meetup basket from this time forward.

If Meetup eventually gets rid of organizer fees, then fine. That would seem to be the fair thing to do, if they truly want to make Meetup into a ground-up democratic platform where members are “empowered” to self-organize. I simply do not think it is fair of Meetup to keep taking money from organizers if they have no intention of actually serving organizer’s needs or desires. It’s bad enough they allowed their organizers to pay for the “privilege” of growing and nurturing their user base by managing these groups, only to turn around and take the power and control away from these organizers. To ask for the organizers to continue paying from this point forward, when Heif clearly seems to want to create a non-hierarchical member-driven platform, is disingenuous at best, fraudulent at worst.

If you continue to pay money into Meetup, don’t be surprised if they don’t pull another bait and switch on you and completely turn the platform upside down in the pursuit of Heif’s vision. This is as good a reason as any to move now, or at least get other options going.

Where to Move Your Meetup Groups

I am moving my groups off of Meetup as soon as my current plan runs out. Thank the heavens that I have only paid them $36 (ever) for an introductory organizer membership on sale. Meetup has given me a mailing list, which is worth $36 I suppose, and I will let those folks know that they can keep up with the groups elsewhere. I am going to host my groups on both BigTent and Groupspaces. I like both services for a variety of reasons, and both seem responsive to former Meetup organizers. Groupspaces seems to be slightly preferred by Meetup organizers, and I am impressed after talking to one of the co-founders, so they may end up being the big player here. But I’ve also seen a lot of Meetup organizers move to BigTent.

A few other options include Spruz and Grouply, both of which I’ve heard decent things about, though Spruz is apparently light on calendar options. Meetup organizers who want a full-fledged custom experience have also been going to Ning and paying for the privilege, but for my needs I see no reason to pay when Groupspaces is free for groups under 250 and BigTent is entirely supported by advertising.

A lot of people are also moving their groups to Facebook, but I am leery of giving Facebook too much power, so I’m staying away from that for now. Plus, believe it or not, I know people who absolutely refuse to get a Facebook account. So I don’t see Facebook-only as an option personally.

Each organizer has different things that are important. Some organizers really don’t want advertising, and are willing to pay to remove it. Some organizers really need a strong event calendar. I would recommend trying out a few places and seeing how they work. None will give you exactly what Meetup was just yet, but consider that you are saving $144 (or more) per year and so a few compromises won’t kill you (or your group).

Some organizers are planning on using multiple services (like I am), since for some of us, we want the ability to advertise events to a wider audience. One thing I am grateful to Meetup for is inspiring me to look for other options – not only to help me reach new people, but ultimately to help me save on Meetup fees. So thanks for screwing up, Meetup!

For a list of Meetup alternatives and links to their group search functions, check out http://www.ex-meet-up.com.

How to Shut Off Your Meetup Group

One of the unfortunate “features” of Meetup is that if you just let your organizer dues lapse, Meetup will announce to your group members that your group is missing a leader and anyone can “step up” by paying organizer dues.

The problem with this is that you could end up having your group hijacked by someone else. When this happens, there is no recourse.

Meetup, of course, wants to keep the organizer dues flowing, so why would they shut off a group of 200 members when they can get a new person to take the helm?

The problem is, if you are running a group that is connected to your off-line organization or business, you absolutely do not want someone else taking over your group once you leave. If you are running the “Daughters of Liberty Vegetarian Group” that is the online face of your offline “Daughters of Liberty Vegetarian Society,” you absolutely do not want someone stealing your name and your members.

Now, supposedly, you can contact Meetup to shut your group down completely, but some folks are dubious as to whether Meetup will help with this what with the big exodus going on right now.

Here is how you can destroy your group completely so that there will be nothing to take over once you’ve left. This information was originally posted by Neal Wiseman, who said I could share it on my blog.

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If meetup.com does not expediantly reverse all of their changes, or at least give organizers the option to change things back, then I anticipate a large exodus. It will be a huge pain in the butt, and a heartbreak, but I plan on leaving myself if meetup does not make a prompt action to reverse this large error in judgement. Please read the following and post a reply with any additional suggestions you may have for organizers thinking about leaving meetup.If an organizer steps down without nominating a new organizer, the entire organization team is bumped out as well. Meetup.com then sends out an automatic e-mail to the membership, giving them an option to step up as the new organizer. If you don’t mind doing this, then go ahead. If you want to move your group to another page, or if you don’t want meetup.com to benefit from all of the work you have done, then you may consider the following options.

1. Change the group’s name. Change it to something completely irrelevant, or change it to the web address that you want to redirect people to.

2. E-mail the membership that you will be shutting down the group and state why. Advise the membership of where else to go.

3. Remove all of the group members. Copy and paste an explanation e-mail to each one of them.

4. Change the group headline to reflect where to go, or change to an irrelevant message.

5. Go into “optional features”, shut down your message board and hide it.

6. Cancel your subscription, but don’t step down until meetup removes you for non payment. Take advantage of leaving up your information until your dues run out.

7. (Added by another organizer:) Also, make sure to close your Meetup group to new members.

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Well, that’s it. Of course, you’ll want to have your other groups set up first so you can tell your members where you are moving to and give them as much warning as you can. I’ve seen some Meetup organizers say they have embedded the BigTent sign-up widget directly into their Meetup page!

If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments.

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