Meetup.com and the Year of the Flog

At the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, I started exploring more into affiliate marketing. I discovered that there were far more offers to promote that would yield a higher return. Weight loss was a hot niche and people were making a ton of money by selling nutraceutical products. I wanted in.

Now, affiliate marketing is a copy cat industry. Everyone copies each other in one capacity or another, but most commonly copied is landing pages. I don’t remember where I copied mine, but I did find the very first landing page I used back in 2008-2009 thanks to WayBackMachine. It was titled “Maria’s Weight Loss Blog“.

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Spamming on MeetUp was my first endeavor on promoting weight loss products. I was new to the niche, but I was excited to take on the new challenge. Meetup.com was a fast growing social website that allowed people to create groups and meet each other with the same interest/hobbies. This was a great potential target for me, because I could infiltrate these groups as a new member without being introduced by an existing member. There was also an e-mail address assigned to each group that would distribute an e-mail to everyone in the group. So if there were 5,000 members in a group, all I would have to do is send 1 e-mail. It was essentially the key to the castle.

In my previous spamming operation on MyYearBook, I learned the process of scraping data. That technique would play a huge part in the success of this campaign. I needed to scrape every group and even join the group with an account to grab the otherwise hidden e-mail address. To achieve this I needed multiple accounts even more frustratingly, I had to activate the accounts by clicking a link in the e-mail. I used a trick that’s still around today. I used one throwaway gmail account and used a variation of it by putting periods randomly in the email address. This would allow me to use the same account and automate activating the accounts using IMAP.

When it was said and done I had successfully captured the e-mail assigned to 70,000+ groups on MeetUp. I guess this would be considered my first e-mail campaign even though it wasn’t the traditional e-mail campaign. Everyone got an e-mail about Maria’s weight loss success and a huge percent bought the products “she” used.

The next day MeetUp addressed and released a blog post detailing how to disable the e-mail for the group feature. It’s since been taken down, but it was very fascinating to have a response to my operation.

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