Meetup for marketing
Project Ignite Podcast by Derek Gehl Using MeetUp For Marketing With Matt Astifan
00:00:00 00:00:00
  • Episode  23
  • Matt Astifan


This episode features Matt Astifan of Matt has run over 200 very successful Internet Mastermind Meetups over the past six years, building a community of over 5,000 members and is known for using social media to grow your business. Matt is a leading authority on running effective social media campaigns, and in this episode he shares with us how use social media and MeetUp for marketing his online businesses.


Transcript: Using MeetUp For Marketing Your Business With Matt Astifan

Welcome to the Project Ignite podcast, this is your host, Derek Gehl. Today’s guest is someone that I’ve watched here in Vancouver for quite a few years now. It felt a bit stalker-ish, honestly, because he didn’t know I’d been keeping an eye on him!
But I’ve been watching him leverage something that I consider to be one of the most under-utilized online marketing platforms and social networks to grow his business.
Once I started chatting with this gentleman, I realized that to really understand how he’s leveraged this platform, you kind of need to understand his overall marketing strategy which he has named the Ace Formula, something that he’s actually agreed to share with us here today.
So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to an entrepreneur and Internet marketer, the founder of the Internet Masterminds Meet Up, and, Matt Astifan.

Matt, thank you for being here.

Thank you for having me!

So to kick things off, I like to ask about your background story. How did you become a digital entrepreneur? How did you get to be where you are today?

Well originally, I was really big into film and art direction. I used to work in movies as a prop master. Then there was a huge writers strike, and there was no work anywhere in the industry, and I was almost completely broke. At the time, the real estate market in Vancouver was booming, and all of my friends were becoming realtors.
Eventually, they convinced me to become a realtor as well. I tried that for about a year, and just wound up really broke with about $30,000 in debt. It was a horrible time.
So at the end of the year, I went to a managing broker, and said, “look, I’m broke. I’ve got no sales experience, no managing experience, what should I do?” And he said, you’re young. You should go learn this Internet marketing stuff.
The week before, I had just met someone that had left the Microsoft team. He was a big SEO guy, and while he was telling me about it, I was wondering, “is that legal?” I had no idea.
So I went back to him and I wound up working with him for about two years, selling SEO and websites pretty casually. I liked staying on top of the news in social media. Around the time that all of the celebrities started getting on Twitter, and everyone started asking about the platform, I started teaching social media courses. This led to a meetup, and seven years later, here I am.

So today in your business, you have different certification programs, stuff like that. Give me a big picture.

So initially I was teaching business owners to manage their own social media. But it was always the same thing: after every workshop, they’d ask if I could just do it for them. Either they didn’t have the budget, or I already had too many clients, and I actually had someone that was also working in social media ask if they could attend the workshop, because they saw themselves as competition.
I said, “of course you can come!” And then I realized, it would be amazing to have a bunch of social media specialists that I work with all the time. So we repositioned the program more to serve people that were either just starting or advancing their careers in social media, which is why we put the certificate together.
It’s based off of results, too–so they have to either gain five clients or make $2,500 within five weeks through social media in order to be certified. And that sort of provides proof that they know what they’re doing.
Then just last year, we put together the SEO Director program, which sold out really fast. And we’ve been doing the Internet Mastermind Meet-Up, which we’ve been doing since 2009. We’ve been doing it every Monday night.
Also last year, I launched a site that houses all of the videos from our meetups as well.

How many meetups have you done over the past six years?

Well over 200 meetups. We have a counter on the website, actually. I’ve started taking summers off, and Christmas off, so now we’re at 36 meetups per year.

We’ll have to dig into that as well, because I think that meetups are so under-utilized.
So I have a ton of questions for you, but I know a lot of this will be answered once we dive into the Ace Formula. So let’s just dive in. What is the Ace Formula? Why should someone just getting started know about this?

Basically, the Ace Formula is building an audience, getting conversions, and then continuously engaging with that audience. That’s what ACE stands for: audience, conversions, and engagement.
I just think that anytime I approach a social network, that’s what I’m thinking about. How do I build the audience? How do I convert them, long term? Are we going to be direct messaging them, funneling them through the website–there’s lots of ways that we can do this without seeming spammy.
With social media, if you’re going straight for the sale, it just doesn’t work.
Using Meetup For Marketing
And then there’s the engagement aspect. It helps you build your brand. I’m a direct response marketer–I don’t really believe in spending thousands and thousands on marketing, but I do think that engagement will help you build your brand.

Absolutely. So three components: audience, conversions, and engagement. Let’s start with audience.
Can you talk about audiences within social networks and also in terms of meetups. So someone comes to you and says, “I need to build my audience on Facebook. What do I do?” Where do you point them?

Well, people always look at people with millions of followers and think, “I want to be like him.” But if you have 1,000 people in a room, that’s a lot of people. And it’s not as though you’d be talking to these people once–if you’re building your audience, and you start small, you can constantly engage them as your audience grows.
You don’t need large numbers. You need a small number of quality people that will engage with you on a regular basis. I always tell people–if no one knew how many followers you had, would you care?
People come to me all the time and say, “I want to grow my fan base.” But why? What you really want is more conversions. So that’s the approach I take. Don’t focus on big numbers, just focus on building a true audience that will stay connected.

I definitely want to highlight that point. I’ve been in the Internet marketing sphere for 16 years now, and it used to be about who had the biggest email list. But now that’s all changed–and historically, over my career, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a guy with a list of 3,000 people, but it’s such a good quality list, that they make more off that list annually than someone with a list of 50,000.

Exactly. You know how they say that for every subscriber you have, you should be able to make $1 off each of them per month. So if you have 1,000 subscribers, you should be making $1,000 per month.
I had a list of about 1,200 people and I was pulling in on average about $10,000 per month. They were so engaged, always coming to the meetups, and talking to me in person. It helped to get that conversion and build that engagement.

Okay, let’s go down this vein that you’ve just brought up. The meetup platform.
For everyone listening, if you’ve never used, it’s a place where people can go and find groups of people in just about every niche imaginable, and they can all meetup regularly.
So Matt, you have your Internet Mastermind Meet-Up, here in Vancouver. How many members do you have now?

I actually checked with on this: it’s actually the largest Internet marketing meetup on the website. The largest group is in New York, with around 15,000 members, and they actually rent auditoriums for meetups. So our group is running just shy of 6,000 members. On average, we have between 80 and 100 people showing up per meetup.

That’s really impressive. Vancouver isn’t a huge market for that kind of meetup. Even compared to Toronto, let alone LA or Singapore. That’s incredible.
So first of all, what drew you to

It’s actually kind of funny. I was a Twitter addict in 2009. So someone posted a link to a meetup on WordPress, and I had just learned what that was. I had been selling PHP websites, and then realized I should learn more about WordPress.
So I went to the meetup, met two other guys there. I had just been gifted Traffic Secrets 2.0. Did you ever watch that one?

It rings a bell.

Oh, what was his name?

John Reese?

Yeah! That’s what it is. That was the first million dollar launch. So someone gave me those discs, and I met these other two guys, and I mentioned that I had them.
So they suggested that we started a mastermind group and that we watch these videos together. So us three, and one other guy, picked a weekend and watched a few discs and then brainstormed the entire time.
The following Monday, one of the guys made an ad on Craigslist posting about starting an Internet marketing meetup. He got in touch with someone that had already started a similar meetup, and he invited him, and consequently me, and we showed up to this hair salon, at 7PM.
We were late, and people were giving introductions. And then we watched videos from Internet marketers. That night, we watched Frank Kern videos. It was so energetic. I look back on that day, and it was like all of the Internet marketers in Vancouver that I know today, they were all there that night.
So then every Monday night, people knew to show up there. After a few weeks, it started to die out a little, and then one night, the organizers just didn’t show up. No one knew anything, or what to do, so I put up my hand and said, “I just saw this Gary Vaynerchuk video that I could play for you guys.” So I found it on Twitter, and played it for everyone. And everyone just started saying, social media is amazing. Can you teach us more?
So the next week, I gave my first public speaking presentation on social media, with my friend. Then a few weeks later, I made the meetup, named it Internet Masterminds, and it’s just kept growing from there.

So since then, you’ve done over 200 meetups and have over 5,000 members. So you kind of inherited a platform when you got started–here’s my question. How have you leveraged the meetup to now grow your business?
How do you monetize that? We all talk about socials, which are very online, but meetup is a totally social platform to get people to meetup offline.

Absolutely. So my secret is that my goal is to make sure I make no money from that meetup. We charge, now: $10 online, or $20 at the door. But I can tell you, there’s not a lot of revenue from door funds.
So with that fund, I make the meetup events cooler and cooler as we go. There’s nights where I use the door fund to buy everyone drinks. Now I’m really keen to bring in really cool speakers, so it’s more about paying for their hotels in order to have them come talk to us.
All about creating that dynamic experience. Today, I’m going out to find a nicer venue for the new year. It’s not about profiting off of the meetup, it goes right back into making it a great experience.
The money that I make comes from the connections and friends that I’ve made. So you’re in front of people every night, and we were bringing in around 350 unique people each month. I always host, I organize, there’s power of association involved in that. People trust me. I’m doing a bit of affiliate marketing here and there, and then I just get tons of referrals. It just happens from being in front of people that frequently.

I want to highlight another point here. You’ve made such a smart move. All businesses can benefit from that human element. I speak at events all the time, and people ask why I do events like that. But the fact is, when you can get in front of people and connect in person, it creates such a powerful connection that is never quite the same online.
What I find fascinating about MeetUp is that it allows you to use the social media aspect to connect people offline.
One point that I want to emphasize is not profiting from the meetup itself! I’ve been part of meetups, not in the Internet marketing space, and when someone decides to try to turn that into a business, the meetups tend to implode on themselves.

People know that you’re trying to profit off of them. I’m always trying to give back–even for our Christmas party I bought iPads to give away. A friend of mine made a joke: to do really good marketing, you have to make people think you’re cool. It was kind of a joke, but we were kind of serious about it.
As a personal brand, or as a company, you want people to think you’re cool. If you’re getting $10 at the door, what can you do with that money to make people think you’re awesome?
I actually learned something a few years back, funnily enough, from Wiz Kalifa–when I started listening to him, all he rapped about was how rich he was, the drugs he did, and the women he slept with. I was like, “who is this guy?”
I googled him, and I found out that back in 2011, he was the 11th richest rapper. I was so confused, because I had no idea how he could be so rich. I’d never heard of him before. I learned that it was because he toured constantly. He sold so many tickets.
That kind of stuck with me. He had talent, and he kept working the hardest. That’s what it’s about.

That’s why I still do live events! Getting in front of your audience is a great way to create strong connections.
Okay, so you use MeetUp but obviously that’s only one social platform that you use. What are your other preferred social platforms?

Well Facebook is something that everyone uses. That’s a given. Outside of that, I think Instagram is getting into being a lot better for businesses. Anything that’s going to be happening with Instagram and now with Snapchat is really valuable because they have a really young audience.
So that audience is going to grow with the platform over the next decade. We’re all going to grow up, and it’ll become a business platform.
That’s what I’m paying attention to. When we all started on Facebook, it was so easy to grow an audience. You could just add people like crazy, but now there are limits to that. Whenever a new network comes out like that, you want to grow your audience as soon as you can. It’ll cost you more as the platform grows.
Then, if that network sticks around, that audience is going to grow, and you’re going to have a legitimate platform for growing your business.

Yes, absolutely. For everyone listening, being an early adopter for these is the best way to go. Waiting until it’s really accepted and big is not the cheap way to do it.
Now, one network that you mentioned that you loved but haven’t mentioned when it comes to platforms today is Twitter.

Man, Twitter. I would love to sit down with Jack Dorsey and tell him what’s wrong with Twitter.
It’s become a place where people just blast out links. Visibility is really bad. Back in 2009, right around when Justin Bieber got on, he kind of ruined it for everyone.
There used to be a core group of people in Vancouver that used Twitter. You’d go to networking events and recognize each other. It was the Twitter crew. Now, everyone has it, there’s not a lot of value-creation happening with Twitter.
I’m really glad that Jack Dorsey is back, and he’s kind of apologizing and asking forgiveness from developers, because everyone was using their API to build really cool tools, because it was  a really cool and open platform. But then they started competing with the developers, so they started cutting off use of their API and started building everything in house.
That was when everything started going downhill. They were trying to profit off of that conversation, and then the conversation died. I’d love to see Twitter go back to its roots, but I’m finding that people are not engaging like they used to.

I’ve also been turned off by it. I use Twitter, but it doesn’t hold a candle to these newer networks.
So we’ve talked about audience, but I want to jump ahead to engagement. I think engagement is something that a lot of new businesses screw up. They build a platform and just kind of hammer away at it with noise that people start to ignore.
What’s your advice on engagement?

So I have this theory called the reality show method. The more you can emulate yourself in the real world online, the more successful you will be.
That is what makes a great social media profile. Making people think that you’re cool. Sometimes, I embrace that. Even if I don’t feel like going out and doing anything, I think, if I go, I can take a picture and share it.
It’s always in the back of my mind! Half joking, but it’s kind of true. It’s actually making the world a better place–I really believe that. It’s getting people out, doing cool things. We all want to seem cool, and be loved.
Even on the business side of things: talk about the cool stuff happening to your business. If it makes you look bad, you won’t want to share it, but it tells your story. We all know the values of storytelling.
I remember I was out one day, and I ran into someone that I hadn’t spoken with in years–and they were asking about my recent trip! It was like we hadn’t skipped a beat. We’d never talked about it, but they knew what was going on with me. I think it’ll make your life a lot more fun and it serves as a great brand.

I wholeheartedly agree. Social media is about people, and people are invested in people. I see businesses always speak from brands, not from people or personalities. So I like your reality show method–people are going to engage with you, and get to know you.
When they feel like they know you, it creates a whole different relationship.
I see that at events all the time when people ask me about my kids, or my family, and I’m like, “I’ve never met you!” It is a bit on the creepy side occasionally but to have that powerful of a platform is huge.
So that’s massive.

They say the fastest way to build a relationship with someone is to find things that you have in common. So if you’re always posting about things that you like, someone else will join in and say, “I like that too!” Whether it’s hiking, food, all of that stuff–people will share that with you.

Absolutely. Okay. So we’ve got through the A and the E in the Ace Formula, but we skipped conversions. So let’s talk about that a bit.
You recently became a certified ClickFunnels consultant, of which I’m a big fan. Let’s take a step back and talk about conversions from social media.
We’ve gone from the old media, which was emails and direct searches, for example, to socials. So what are your social leads?

What I find is with Facebook, running ads–you basically have two choices. You can run ads to grow your fan base, post to your page every 48 hours or so, turn every post into an ad–I recommend $1 per every thousand fans you have, in order to reach the most people–and then run ads only to your fans, with offers.
The first run shouldn’t be profitable, it should just be about getting the lead and getting them into the funnel. That’s one model that’s been working well with Facebook and socials.
Now with Newsfeed ads, they get a ton of clickthrough rates. At first, everyone hated them, but they’re working now. Now, you can target people, too. You get a much lower cost per click if you are targeting your fan base, though. That’s really just advertising–that’s not really social media anymore.
Once you get to that point of creating your offer, you always just want to give away as much value as you can for what’s considered a good amount by your prospects.
I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but with the meetups, ten dollars per, just promoting–people would learn about the other services I offer through attending the meetups and getting in touch via email.

So let’s break this down a bit. So step one, get people to like your page. Once they become a fan, step two is to start advertising to them a self-liquidating offer.
Basically what that means is you’re not trying to make money from this ad, you’re simply trying to cover your ad cost, get that conversion, and take the relationship to the next level.
After that offer, do you have any advice on the next steps? Time? Frequency?

It really depends on the business and their model. I’m sure a lot of people have probably heard about Ryan Dice’s model, around the machine–basically he has a lead magnet, and people opt-in for this free thing, then you automatically make a trip wire. That’s gonna be something for $7, or $10. Just for covering your ad costs.
I heard Terry Belcher speak at the last ClickFunnels conference and he was saying that they had so many people clicking through on ClickFunnels that they don’t even follow up with emails unless that person had bought something.
It’s an interesting psychology–only focus on the people that are willing to give you even a few dollars. A lot of people get scared to ask for money, though, because the information is out there somewhere, for free. But it’s like self diagnosing!
People will pay. Even if it’s just a little amount, they value it a lot more. Even if it’s just an opt-in. I do this with my webinar replays. I say, you can attend the webinar for free, or you can get the replay for $10. I knew that if they bought the replay, they’d watch the video.
That’s kind of the psychology behind that. After they take the tripwire, you can give them a one time offer, or go straight into your core offer. This is all relevant to info-marketing, but this also works with physical products.
That’s one model, the machine. What I’ve been doing for years is I didn’t have a sales funnel. I’d just gone from an ad to a video, one that was thirteen minutes long, and from there, to an application form. Then, I’d call people that I thought were a good fit, and they’d sign up over the phone.
There’s different kinds of funnels based on different businesses.

We’re running out of time here, so I want to wrap up. But I want to highlight something that you have done really well: mixing your online and human touch.
I hear it in your sales funnels, and through your meetup groups. When we start Internet businesses, a lot of people get fed up and say, “well, I don’t want to talk to anyone.” But it’s such a limiter in business.
If you’re willing to get out there and meet people and apply that human touch like Matt does, you’re going to see a big growth in areas where you may have struggled before.

You wind up with way more conversions. Even with a small audience. You can easily build a six figure business within the year just by getting in front of people and talking to them.

Absolutely! Once again, Matt, thank you so much for taking the time to be here.

Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Oh! I forgot to ask–Matt, if people want to learn more about you, where do they find out more?! That’s where you can find out about our meetups, and get access to our video library. We’ve got almost 60 videos up there, organized by the Ace Formula. Over a dozen videos just on growing your audience. Plus, there’s the SEO and social media director programs starting up this month.

Well everyone, if you’re looking for URLs or our transcription, you can find that over at I sincerely hope that you took away some valuable information from this podcast, and more specifically, real and practical strategies that you can use to grow and multiply your business online.
Again, please leave us a review on iTunes, or on Soundcloud if you’re an Android user. Thanks again, everybody, and we’ll see you in the next episode!

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