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Tips for Starting a Social Group

Making New Friends With Group Activities

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Group of Friends at Bar

Group of Friends at Bar

Digital Vision/Getty Images

There may come a time when you want to do some activities that none of your friends will want to do with you. Maybe you like to go hiking, see movies, or have a game night. When you mention this to your friends, they look at you like, "Why would we want to do that?" Not everyone in your life is always going to want to do the same things you are. What then?

You could always join an already established group somewhere. There are several websites that allow you to connect with other people, and while it might take some time to make new friends, you'll still be active doing a hobby you enjoy.

If there isn't a group you're interested in, however, don't let that stop you. You can always start a group yourself. Here's how to do it.

Have an Idea of What You Want to Do, When, and How
Before you get started, know what it is you want people to do. Do you want them to join you at your house? Meet at a central location? Do they need to bring their own equipment? (Such as games, movies, walking shoes, etc.) Do you want to hone in on one activity (networking, games, books) or do you want to focus on an age range or life status (stay-at-home moms, people over 50, people who work from home).

When you figure out exactly what you'd like to have happen in the group, visualize the best way to make it happen. Seeing it play out in your mind will help you as you plan and advertise for the group. While you'll need to be flexible, you should also understand the purpose of the group. This small distinction will help make the group more successful than if you were just "winging it."

Spread the Word
Luckily, there are several ways for you to spread the word about a new group today. Some online sites, like Meetup.com or Yahoo Groups, even help you organize and advertise for new members. Figure out where your core group of people will hang out, and focus your recruiting efforts there. For example, if you wanted to start a walking group, you might try advertising at a gym, your local community center, or even with other related groups (yoga or running, for example).

Tips for recruiting for any type of group include:

  • Set up a Meetup.com page. This will help you advertise your group, upcoming events, and philosophy. Meetup will help members find your page by suggesting it to those people who have indicated a related area of interest. People can sign up and comment on events.
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  • Start a newsletter on Yahoo. You can start a group there to include forums and discussion, relevant links, photos, and more. Send out a monthly wrap up of events with a newsletter, and use it to help recruit new members.
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  • Your own website or blog. An online presence can help any group get attention, even one that is designed to be local and specific. You can start a blog for free and include upcoming events, encouraging links, and guest posts. A dedicated spot online will help members get to know more about your group and give them a virtual place to hang out.
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  • Start a Facebook page. Lots of folks are on Facebook today, and with a dedicated page you'll have a place to remind people about events, share photos, and get comments and suggestions. The easier you can make it for someone to be an active part of your group, the more success you'll have at maintaining members.
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  • Place an ad. You can advertise your group online in local online magazines, Craigslist, or on related group sites. Or you can go retro and print up flyers to put in bookstores, coffee shops, or community centers.
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  • Recruit members from a related group. Don't steal members! But if there is another group that is slightly related to yours, ask if you can come to a meeting and see if people want to join your group. For example, members of a business networking event might want to join a business book group. Or people in a weight loss support group might be interested in a new walking club.

Be Welcoming, Flexible and Accepting
It's important to have an understanding of what you'd like the group to be, but it's equally important for you to be flexible in how the group develops. Maybe one member is just as passionate about the group's purpose as you are, and as a result has some great ideas you didn't think of. Maybe someone else doesn't get out very much and would be willing to host events.

By the same note, make sure every group member feels welcome. Say "hello" and "thanks for coming" to every person who took the time to show up. Follow up with people with a note afterwards that thanks them for coming and reminds them about new events. Make people feel as if their attendance is desired and important so they know they are valued.

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