Meetup is a social networking service that is commonly used to organize online groups that host in-person events for people with same or similar interests. The website describes itself as a platform for finding and building local communities. It states, “People use Meetup to meet new people, learn new things, find support, get out of their comfort zones, and pursue their passions, together.”

The following is a Meetup review for individuals curious about how the service works, whether or not it’s right for them and what past and present members have to say about it.

Meetup homepage

How was Meetup created?

In 2002, Scott Heiferman and four other individuals co-founded Meetup. One of the main influences behind the idea for the service was Heiferman’s own experience of meeting his NYC neighbors for the first time as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11.

The platform was officially launched less than a year later on June 12, 2002, with a focus on hobbies and interests. It wasn’t until 2004, during Howard Dean’s political campaign, that people started to take notice of the site. Since then, it’s continued to play a role in U.S. internet campaigns. 

At its outset, revenue was derived from event venues, but in 2005, after their membership numbers had grown, they began charging a fee to group organizers, instead. 

As of 2017, there were approximately 35 million Meetup users, with about 225,000 Meetup groups located in 180 countries. That same year, the business, which is headquartered in New York City, was acquired by WeWork. Soon afterward, it underwent various changes, many of which were considered unpopular. 

In 2018, Scott Heiferman, who had stayed on after the acquisition, stepped down as CEO. Recent developments concerning the embattled company have led to revelations MeetUp is, well, up for sale, along with two other businesses the parent company is connected with.

Meetup

How does Meetup work?

Users can become members of multiple groups that already exist across the platform, create their own group(s), or RSVP to numerous posted activities they’d like to take part in. Most users turn to the website for finding friends, sharing hobbies, and for professional networking, much like LinkedIn but without all the hosting. 

Meetup users don’t acquire “followers” in the sense that social media accounts do. Each group differs in topic, size, and rules. The groups are associated with one of at least 30 categories, and a multitude of tags (over 18,000 to choose from) can be used to represent the particular group’s theme. 

The most popular among the various categories are considered to be family, outdoors and adventure activities, and career and business endeavors. The vast majority of the events are held on a weekly or monthly schedule and take place at local venues, which occur primarily during evenings or weekends.

This format is what made WeWork’s acquisition so promising initially because the business is/was cleverly based on the shared utilization of workspace, which could also double as meeting places for organized events.

Meetup groups are run by hundreds of thousands of organizers, and any member can become one, should they choose to. Users who pursue an idea can set up their own groups, organize myriad events, and create their own event content. There is a fee associated with running a group, but it is routinely offset down the road by event attendees. 

The company has policies in place that stand against organizing events centering around commercial interests, hate speech, or groups that don’t actually meet face to face. As it stands, the meetups restricting commercial interests don’t appear to be enforced. It was estimated in 2017 that roughly 28 percent of organizers had sponsors who provided venues, beverages, and event content. There is a fee if sponsors are involved.

Meetup app

What are the Features that make Meetup great?

As stated above, there are at least 30 preset categories users can choose from for finding kindred spirits and the activities they love to engage in. Members have the option of exploring their city, building their career, or getting creative through pursuits like developing a podcast or writing a screenplay. 

Groups resemble clubs in nature, which many of them are. Organizers found the tools on the site to be conducive to connecting on a large scale. So, it’s become the go-to site for many non-profit, non-incorporated groups that are just trying to get together without turning a dime. 

 In many respects, it’s similar to Facebook, with all of the community groups and sub-groups, but without all of the posts about what someone’s had for lunch or how bored they are at work. It’s also akin to the neighborhood app Nextdoor, to some extent, in that it allows you to keep tabs on all of the latest happenings in your area. That similarity stems from all of the localized groups you can connect with on Meetup, regardless of topic. 

 As the saying goes, if there are three or more people interested in a subject, there’s a club and a magazine devoted to it. 

Meetup Site

ser features include:

  • Discover assists users in finding people, groups, and even new interests. 
  • Searches can be conducted with set ranges from 2 miles to any distance.
  • The website automatically recognizes your location, but you can change it.
  • Their Calendar feature lists all of the events for a given month in your area.
  • Start a Group encourages members to become organizers of groups and events.
  • An app for mobile devices using iOS or Android operating systems is available.
  • Spam filters designed to keep unwanted junk messengers off the site are in place.

Standard Organizer Features

When you opt to be an organizer, you automatically become the administrator of the account, just like when you create a Facebook fan or business page. These are the features you can look forward to:

  • Organize up to three groups with unlimited members
  • Ability to promote your group to our network of potential members
  • Schedule events and communicate with members
  • Appoint a leadership team to help manage your group
  • Set your own membership dues and event fees to help cover costs

Advanced Features

Meetup Pro offers community management tools for better efficiency to group organizers. It costs more than a standard subscription, but you do have more advantages. Whether it’s worth it to you is for you to decide. The additional features Pro members receive are these:

  • Ability to organize or sponsor unlimited groups
  • Customizable lists for improved targeted communications
  • Access to analytics providing insights into user activity
  • Integrations like MailChimp for better time management
  • Support from knowledgeable Pro community experts

Pros and Cons of Meetup

As with anything, there are pros and cons to using this service. Here you’ll find a list of both to help you get a clearer picture of what to expect.

Pros

  • Millions of users globally
  • Extensive options for interests
  • Opportunities for meeting like-minded people in group settings
  • Discover new things to try
  • Great way to meet singles

Cons

  • Complaints have skyrocketed since 2017
  • Future in question due to reported sale
  • Customer service messaging only, no contact number
  • Customer service slow to respond
  • Auto-renewal for subscriptions must be disabled manually

How much does Meetup cost?

For members who just want to be a part of groups, Meetup does not charge to create an account. As of October 2019, there is a $2 charge for RSVPing to events, though.

  • Standard subscriptions for organizers/users in the U.S. are $23.99 per month or $16.49 per month for a six-month membership (total $98.94).
  • Pro subscriptions are $30 per group per month billed every six months or $35 per group per month billed month to month. Taxes may apply. 

You can start your Pro network with a 1-month free trial and create up to 20 groups.

A Pro subscription begins and is billed automatically at the end of the trial. Users need to cancel at least seven days prior to the end of their trial period. If you’re already a Meetup organizer, your Pro subscription will apply to all of your current groups.

Meetup Welcome

Meetup Reviews

In addition to our own Meetup review, we wanted to share Meetup reviews from actual users. We searched high and low for member commentary, and here’s what we came up with globally. It’s worth pointing out that most members of an organization who are happy with their service don’t take the time to post about it on the same level as dissatisfied customers. So, take these reviews for what they’re worth.

They do get better the further back you go, but that’s likely representative of the more recent shift in structure and the owner/leadership changes. 

From Meetup users 

Anonymous — 12/5/19

“Meetup is NOT a dating site. It is a site to join groups to meet others with whom you share interests, hobbies and activities. It is not for dating, though there are singles groups. Otherwise it’s about finding like minded people to make friends, connect with people to enhance your career, or learn about something or share a hobby or activity.”

Paul — 10/19/19

“I ran the UK’s most popular motorcycle riding / touring group on Meet-up for 4 years, I paid my organiser fees but never charged members for attending, it was done to meet people and socialise, not to make money. Meet-up began taking away all the functions and tools needed by organisers to create good quality events, they destroyed the website to try and force people to do everything from a non functional app! Members were not getting event notifications, other groups were being advertised on our home page, it was a disaster, a shame as it worked well in the beginning. I moved my group away from Meet-up to Groups Place and have never looked back, it has all the tools Meet-up threw away and more, my group now thrives and continues to grow, and for a lot less money, Meet-Up is still going from bad to worse.”

Bryanna — 10/16/19

“I have been with Meetup for a few years looking for social activities. However, in 2016, I was encouraged to start a group to have a social option close to me.

I will say membership and attendance was a lot better in the beginning. After the update, especially with the app, it seems as if Meetup doesn’t send notifications for event updates or discussion board posts? And this might be contributing to the low attendance.
I wish they invested more into the functions for organizers that allow us to keep interactions with members and/or send them updates. The activity is just so low.”

Louis — 10/1/19

“When they changed the site, no longer able to have sponsors, without a fee. Informed that I can no longer send invites to join via email. My group is private. I must send a link now, in the email. Still doesn’t work when perspective member clicks on “Request to join” Haven’t had a new member in months, no matter how many times I send one. People cannot join. Pictures uses to represent the event, should be separate from pictures Taken at the event, this creates double or even triple of the same photos when scheduling more than once. Ready to quit and just use social media events for scheduling.”

Martin — 9/13/19

“Just trialed meetup pro. We wanted to upgrade to 5 groups and they charge $150 a month. I was prepared to pay this. But…I tried to add my colleague as admin and couldn’t. I had to email them. They take 24 hrs to reply. They then added them as admin.
Admin then tried to add a group. They couldn’t because they don’t have permissions. I don’t actually know what permissions they hold.
I wrote to the help desk and they said it’s designed that only the master admin can add groups and do lots of other things. When I check the help pages to understand who can do what it’s not clear.
They charge premium prices for a capability that is pretty immature. Then insist on email customer service with a slow response time. Customer service, particularly ‘Alex’, borders on arrogance. A dominant supplier that is abusing its position. Try elsewhere.”

Dave — 8/29/19

“Terrible platform and even worse customer support. On 2 occasions I have made a mistake creating a profile on Meetup.com. Two years ago and then just recently my profile has been blocked and removed under their “suspected spam” when all I was doing was sending a few messages not many and sending to group organizers not members suggesting an event. My profile isn’t a company or soliciting anything. Each time I have wasted 2 years building my account only to have it removed and no one in meetup will answer why this happened or assist with recovery. Just no answers to my repeated requests for assistance. I don’t think they employ any real humans on the other end of this platform….DON’T waste your time here.”

David — 4/12/18

“I like meetup and don’t mind the updated format, but I do not like the new photo upload. Before you could choose a batch of photos and upload. Now you choose one at a time and it’s very tiresome. I used discretion and go through my photos prior to uploading. First they screwed it up for Edge, now they’ve migrated the burdensome format to Chrome. Please change it back, Meetup.”

Anonymous — 3/12/18

“Great for users, not so good for site maintainers. Quite expensive site.”

TechBoomer — 5/4/17

“Meetup is worth it for you if you love the kinds of activities that are best done in a group, and can be flexible about when your group meets. It’s also useful if you’re looking to expand your social circles. It’s free to use by itself, so it’s an inexpensive way to get together with people who share your interests.”

Mickey — 11/19/15 

“Great for lonely souls. I used this site when I moved and had no friends in the new town. It’s simply awesome if you are in the same life situation: you can easily find a beer buddy or a cinema lover to watch premieres with or someone just to hang out with no particular reason. There are quite a few groups formed according to the interests, but there are simple “new to town” groups that work perfectly. No cost at all. I’ve also created my own group which was quite fun to lead!”

Summary

Meetup is a social networking site that has successfully been used by millions for creating face-to-face meetings for shared interests, rather than discussing them online. The social events and the camaraderie combine to make excellent settings for dating. If you’re single and wouldn’t mind finding romance while you’re out there broadening your horizons, there’s definitely the possibility of making more than just new friends.

If you’ve recently heard of Meetup and are considering trying it, you might want to wait until the WeWork debacle is over before signing up, because its fate is uncertain as of this Meetup review. It will, however, undoubtedly be snapped up by some other conglomerate, so its chances for survival are good. It really is a fantastic concept for social planning. Who knows, the service may even revert to its former glory and improve. Otherwise, some viable options might be uGetTogether, GroupSpaces, CitySocializer, MeetIn.org, or even Foursquare.

* Pricing for memberships was current as of December 2019 and are subject to change.