On mobile, everything wants to be a messaging app – even Pinterest, it seems. But in Meetup’s case, the addition of a new Messages feature makes sense. Most people are familiar with Meetup as being the long-time online home for local community groups that organize outings and other activities like hikes or biking trips, cooking classes, playdates for the kids, and much more. But the Meetup mobile app was in need of some work.
Meetup has always excelled at getting those who share a common interest to connect with each other in the offline world, but the company was born on the web back in 2002, and has only more recently had to adjust to the new ways people communicate via their smartphones. The Meetup mobile app has always felt like an under-developed version of the company’s online product, allowing for quick, at-a-glance information about group meetings, but not necessarily providing a best-in-class communication experience.
With Messages, Meetup is taking a small step toward changing that.
Unlike most mobile messaging apps that aim to connect your friends, Meetup’s Messages is designed to keep your personal contact information guarded while you get to know new people. After first joining a Meetup group, you may not immediately feel comfortable exchanging your contact information with fellow members. Other times, you may need to reach a group member with a quick question, but hadn’t bothered to get their contact information just yet.
In the past, Meetup members – and I speak from personal experience here – had no choice but to leave comments on group message boards with your cell phone number in order to share your contact information with the group when you weren’t face-to-face with them.
The new Messages feature will offer a safer alternative – group members can now reach out directly to one another both on the web and in the app, in order to continue getting to know each other, plan future events, share information, or just chat.
All your Messages can be seen in the new Messages tab in the mobile app, and you’ll also receive push notifications when new messages arrive.
However, the feature is fairly bare bones – there isn’t a way to share media like stickers, photos or videos in the Messages section at this time, which would be a good way to kick off a conversation with a new friend (e.g. “Here’s that picture you wanted!”). Hopefully, the company will add more functionality to Messages over time.
This feature has been live for a few days now, but it’s one of many user experience enhancements Meetup has been rolling out over the past few weeks, it should be noted. There have also been upgrades to some of the icons in the app, including Notifications, and the company also launched its own take on crowdfunding with a “Contributions” feature. Meanwhile, now in the works is Group Discussions, a feature that will allow group members to chat with multiple other members outside of group meetings.