Keeping Your Virtual User Group Members engaged

Introduction

The year is 2021 and almost everything runs remotely. People attend meetings without leaving the couch. The amount of available online content is exploding while there are still only 24 hours in a day. Competing digitally is getting harder, and it’s time to learn new tricks, tricks to retain your members when in-person human interaction + pizza is no longer an option. The main goal here is to keep the number of members attending, or at least registering, to attend as high as possible.

This blog post is going to showcase specifically what LA Data Platform User Group is doing to engage and entertain it’s members between monthly meetings. We are going to assume that you are familiar with Zoom/Teams to run the meeting and you are proficient with EventBrite/LinkedIn/Facebook events/Meetup.

Problem

With so much digital content available everywhere, it’s hard to compete for attention and captivate members. Our LA Data Platform User Group has been running remote meetings for 2-3 years now. The challenge has always been how to keep it interactive, but beyond that, how to keep members engaged between meetings. Obviously, it got much harder in 2020-2021 where almost all other meetups went virtual/online. How does our User Group is keeping our members engaged? What is our secret sauce?

Solution

The solution is to communicate, communicate, and communicate. Especially communicate with members between meetings to keep them engaged and entertained. While great monthly meeting content (speaker + session) is important, it’s only 10% of the success. Communication is the other 90% that makes it worthwhile for new members to join and existing members to come back for more content.

We use https://www.moosend.com to send email newsletters and https:///www.buffer.com to schedule social media posts. Both tools are freemium products. We communicate with members more than 10 times between monthly meetings.

We meet on the third Wednesday of each month. Here is the cadence of our email marketing campaigns and social media posts.

  • 4-5 emails a month (every Friday morning) – Favorite content/links
  • 1 email a month (Thursday/Friday following 3rd Wednesday meeting) – Thank you for attending
  • 3-5 emails a month (preceding the monthly 3rd Wednesday meeting) – Monthly Meeting reminders
  • 1 email a month (Thursday/Friday following 3rd Wednesday meeting) – Recorded session is available on YouTube

Examples of MooSend and Buffer scheduling:

Email Marketing newsletter sent by MooSend.com
Social Media (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter) posts sent by buffer.com

Examples of each email are shown below:

Favorite content/links email
Thank you for attending email
Meeting reminders email
Recorded session is available on YouTube email

Conclusion

Now that we shared our communication strategy, let’s see some data – newsletter opens/clicks and meeting registrations.

For the email newsletter (see image below), we are hovering over 20% opens (200 members opening emails) with 2% clicks (20 members are actively clicking on links inside the email).

Moosend.com Email campaign activity

For meeting registration (see in the image below), we are averaging 100 people per meeting.

2021 EventBrite.com Monthly meeting registration

Welcome aboard

Introducing our new member. Welcome Maria.

We would like to welcome a new member to the Data Driven Technologies, Inc Team – Maria Lopez. Maria volunteered and helped us to successfully deliver 2 SQL Saturday in Los Angeles events (2019 and 2021).

Maria will assume a Director of Digital Marketing position and will lead us to new heights.

Maria (Mima) Lopez

Maria (Mima) Lopez, a.k.a. Mima is a Systems Administrator & Founder of Mimz Techritory

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariaglopez12/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Mimz_Techritory

About Maria

I am a Systems Administrator and a technology enthusiast from LA. I am one of the leaders of Long Beach Women in Tech, a Tech Instructor for Brown Girls Code and the founder of Mimz Techritory.

Mimz Techritory is my way of broadcasting my IT portfolio and tech interests to the world! Here I publish technical projects I am working on, applications and gadgets I am building and tech events I attend throughout the year. I have a passion for learning and I create content to share my knowledge and tech excitement!

LA Data Platform Speakers wanted!

Want to become an LA Data Platform speaker? Have in interesting subject about SQL Server / Data that you want to share with the community? Please use the form message below and provide the following information:

Official message about our the move to sqlsaturday.com

It has been brought to our attention that there might be some confusion about the status of the 2021 Data.SQL.Saturday.LA event and our decision to deactivate our listing on the https://datasaturdays.com/ platform and move it to https://sqlsaturday.com/2021-06-12-sqlsaturday1020/

Originally the 2021 Data.SQL.Saturday.LA event was listed on https://datasaturdays.com/, but about a month or so ago we were asked to remove our branding and our logo.  Our branding and our logo are very important to us for sentimental reasons and we decided to list the event on sqlsaturday.com instead.  Everything else stays the same.  The event is still scheduled for June 12th and we will be sending out more details soon. 

If you have any other questions about our move to the sqlsaturday.com platform or its affiliation with Redgate, please reach out to us directly and we will be happy to discuss. 

You are cordially invited to attend 2021 Virtual Data.SQL.Saturday.LA event!

Virtual 2021 Data.SQL.Saturday.LA
 Logo by Janella Payumo and Robert Mizikovsky

You are cordially invited! 😎

We are reaching out to all people that enjoyed SQL Saturday in LA 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 events to let you know that the 2021 event is fast approaching. Only 30+ days remain until the June 12 Virtual Data.SQL.Saturday.LA event.

Please register soon to reserve your spot by using http:// 2021sqlsatla.eventbrite.com http://sqlsatla2021.eventbrite.com/ hyperlink, register using a form below or just use a QR code.

https://linktr.ee/sqlsatla

Eventbrite QR code

Our sponsors

Event Flyer

Choosing a FREE Email marketing service platform to engage your community event members

Introduction

Running community events occasionally is not enough to engage your attendees/members. Unless you are running daily events, you are advised to communicate with your members between the events, as much more as possible. Using Email Marketing Service (EMS) platform is one way to make it happen. This blog post is going to take you on a leaving the MailChimp journey and exploring few of the alternative Email Marketing Service (“EMS”) platforms that we (organizers of Los Angeles Data Platform User Group and SQL Saturday in Los Angeles event) chose to use as well as few DNS settings to setup to avoid the spam filter.

After years of using MailChimp to keep our members engaged for both LA Data Platform/SQL Malibu user group (started on 2013) and SQL Saturday events (started on 2017), we’ve finally decided to draw a line and choose something else.

While MailChimp has a great product, the company that became the staple in the world of emails got overly confident and decided to squeeze every dollar. Some of the features that made MailChimp the king for SOHO market are ability to schedule posts to Facebook and Twitter, superb email deliverability reports, and overall great interface. At the same time, some of those features became paid plan only features. We were enojying a FREE plan, but over the years MailChimp decided to make it less attractive by pushing some of the previously included features behind the paywall.

It’s started with something minor like making it difficult to BYOH (bring your own HTML code), continued with reduction of the contact list, and finally ended up with making campaign scheduling capabilities only available in paid plans.

Problem

We are a non-profit and trying to enjoy a champagne on a beer budget where we can. We prefer to enjoy free services as much as we can. With Mailchimp taking away campaign scheduling, we decided to seriously consider alternatives. We briefly migrated to MailerLite to only discover that sending 12,000 emails a month is not enough for us. If initially, our user group emails were mostly about inviting members to attend user group meetings, in a last couple of months we have added weekly links Friday campaigns which caused us to run out of 12,000 monthly emails quicker and making MailerLite not that attractive any longer. Hitting the 12,000 monthly emails limit for a free plan too soon, effectively brought us back to look further and consider much more forward looking alternatives that would work for us today and a year from now.

Solution

What are we using today? We reviewed and analyzed all different alternatives here and chose 2 platforms. As of May 2, 2021, we are using Sender.net for SQL Saturday in LA event and Moosend.com for LA Data Platform.

What are we getting for free from each platform?

Sender – 15,000 monthly emails for a contact list under 2,500 subscribers with all features included.

Moosend – unlimited emails for a contact list under 1,000 subscribers. We can schedule campaigns and we can see open/clicks/problems reporting.

How did we migrate from MailChimp/MailerLite?

Migration is a fairly simple process of exporting/importing your contact list and exporting/importing your regular campaigns. What might take you more time is matching every EMS platform dictionary (see Fig 2). What might be also a bit confusing is how to recreate Signup form, so people can easily subscribe to your mailing list.

Fig #2 – MailChimp’s Audience is MailerLite’s Subscribers is Moosend Mailing lists is Senders subscribers

Like with any EMS platform, you would want to invest some time in setting things up to improve email deliverability beyond the content of your email. You would want to make sure that your DNS is aware of your EMS. Luckily, all major EMS platforms can you help with that and would even provide you with instructions on how to fix it.

SPF, DKIM

In a nutshell, you would need to add the following records to improve your email deliverability and avoid the spam filter:

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an email authentication method designed to detect forging sender addresses during the delivery of the email.[1] SPF alone, though, is limited to detecting a forged sender claim in the envelope of the email, which is used when the mail gets bounced.[1] Only in combination with DMARC can it be used to detect the forging of the visible sender in emails (email spoofing[2]), a technique often used in phishing and email spam.

DomainKeys / DKIM is an email authentication method designed to detect forged sender addresses in email (email spoofing), a technique often used in phishing and email spam.

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) is an email authentication protocol. It is designed to give email domain owners the ability to protect their domain from unauthorized use, commonly known as email spoofing. The purpose and primary outcome of implementing DMARC is to protect a domain from being used in business email compromise attacksphishing emails, email scams and other cyber threat activities.

While the 3 settings mentioned above are a great way to ensure your emails are reaching your member’s mailboxes, you would be strongly advised to get a free account with mxtoolbox that would constantly scan your domain records for problems.

Disclaimer

This blog post is partially based on the following resources:

https://tutorialdeep.com/blog/free-mailchimp-alternatives

Add a dial-in number to your MS Teams meetings

Introduction

Microsoft 365 subscription. Whenever you have a paid Microsoft 365 subscription or free via a Microsoft for Nonprofit program, there is small, but handy feature that you might want to enable. This blog post is going to talk about how to enable dial-in option for your MS Teams.

Let’s assume that you already setup your Microsoft 365 subscription (BTW, Microsoft did a fantastic job in making it super easy) that gives you an access to the entire Office Apps suite. You can now enjoy all the Office products including a very popular Microsoft Teams (“MS Teams”) online communication and team collaboration tool. MS Teams provides a very potent replacement to Skype for Business enhanced by adding collaboration with OneDrive, SharePoint, Forms as well as other Microsoft tools. Essentially, MS Teams allow you to chat, call, collaborate and much more making it more not just a product, but rather a productivity platform. It’s like having Slack, Zoom, and more all-in-one place.

Fig #1

Problem

While MS Teams best experience comes with Windows/MacOS desktop and/or iOS/Android mobile apps, you can also enjoy it within the browser. Both browser and app will allow you to have audio and video using the power of the Internet, but what if I you have a bad Internet connection or let’s say you are driving, but still want to hear and enjoy the conversation? In that case, you will be looking for an old tech – a dial-in phone number that you can call-in. Unfortunately, Microsoft 365 doesn’t have that option enabled by default.

Solution

All you need to do is to enable Microsoft 365 Audio Conferencing Adoption (Fig #2). Audio Conferencing is effectively an add-on to existing MS Teams that will add a dial-in phone number option.

Fig #2

Once Microsoft 365 Audio Conference is on, MS Teams meeting info will change and now include all the dial-in information (Fig #3).

Fig #3

2021 Data.SQL.Saturday.LA Sponsorship Plan announced

Sponsorship Plan

We appreciate you taking time to consider sponsoring 2021 Data.SQL.Saturday in LA. We have assembled a few sponsorship plans that you can select from. Donations for this event will be used to cover the costs of running the event and the LA Data Platform SQL User Group meetings. The event is put on by the Data Driven Technologies, Inc. a local 501.c.3 non-profit.

Event Overview

The Data.SQL.Saturday is a single day conference that offers data professionals the opportunity to improve their stills and learn about new products while networking with others in their field and connecting with other members of the local Database community and our sponsors.

This event is put together by a group of dedicated Los Angeles database community volunteers and local database user groups as well as volunteer speakers from across the globe. 

Attendance

When the event was held in-person, it used to bring in 300+ attendees.  In 2020 we moved to a virtual event for the first time and had 700+ registrations from all around the world, with 400+ attending the event.

Cost of Sponsorship

This year, sponsorship ranges from Swag Only to $1,000.00, depending on the package you select:

 TierSwagBronzeSilverGold
Amount$0$250$500$1000
Sponsor Logo and URL on the event web site and xxxx
Sponsor Logo and URL included in email campaignsxxxx
Sponsors Logo included in session slidesxxxx
Sponsor Logo included in YouTube videosxxxx
Social Media posts Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Instagramxxxx
Sponsor Rafflexxxx
Collect Raffle Leadsxxx
Email sent on behalf of a sponsor  xx
Product-focused sponsor session 
(based on availability, first come first serve) 
  xx
Sponsor a virtual room (name a room)
(based on availability, first come first serve) 
  x
Short video advertising embedded in a recorded session
(YouTube video will contain a paid promotion like a product placement, sponsorship, or endorsement)
   x
12-months of LA Data Platform User Group sponsorship   x
Dedicated virtual sponsor rooms (MS Teams breakout)   x
Sponsorship Plan

*To collect and received leads you must participate in the raffle and offer a raffle prize valued at $50.00 or more.

To sponsor please follow this link to fill out the sponsorship form: https://tinyurl.com/3zjp744s.  An invoice will be emailed to you (generated by PayPal) and can be paid by check or credit card. All fees must be paid in advance.

Cancellation Policy

Any cancellation that is caused by us will result in a full refund. It’s really that simple – no event, no expenses, no need for sponsorship money.

Raffle

The raffle registration is used to opt-in for us to share their information with our sponsors.  Remember the raffle prize is your key to success and the better the prize the more leads you will collect.

We will manage the raffle and collect, cleanup and de-dup the data for you and send you the leads after the event.  We will let you know who the winners of the raffle are, and you can send them the prize.  If you prefer that we manage the prize for you, please let us know and we will work on the details. 

PASS members, stay in touch with us!

Dear PASS members,

Today is the last day to stay connected with LA Data Platform and SQL Saturday in Los Angeles. PASS is ceasing it’s all regular operations, effective today, January 15, 2021.

The many ways we can stay connected:

  1. Follow #LADataPlatform / #SQLSatLA on social medial channels (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn/YouTube)
  2. Sign up to our monthly newsletter – https://lnkd.in/g38-FYF
  3. Visit our web site – https://lnkd.in/gmyPpuA
  4. Email us – ladataplatform at datadriventechnologies.org
  5. Scan QR code below

Your friendly neighborhood,
Los Angeles Data Platform & SQL Saturday in Los Angeles Teams!
#sqlfamily#passcommunity