Last updated: October 11, 2023
What would happen if I put up flyers around New York City to try and make new friends?
Last week I ran an experiment where I paid someone to print and laminate 100 flyers around New York City with the headline of, “Do you want new friends?”
Here’s what happened.
Why did I do this?
I think big urban areas like New York City attract some of the most interesting individuals.
And I love meeting new people.
Fun fact: if you go to Facebook.com/newfriend, it redirects to my personal profile.
Usually I meet people through my existing friend network. I make new friends at parties, work events, etc.
But what about the other millions of people living and working in New York City?
My theory is that putting up flyers will expose me to a whole new group of potential friends.
“A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.”
Designing The Flyer: What Should It Say?
In designing the flyer, I wanted the message to be big and bold: Make new friends.
This is the very simple poster that I made in Google Docs:
The headline is bold. I’m including wording that will attract the type of people I want to meet: interesting, smart, fun, stylish, and ambitious.
In the footer, I have included my TEDx talk to give myself social proof.
Hiring a Flyer Person
Next, I hired someone on Fiverr to print, laminate, and distribute the flyers around New York City.
“activistnation” was a true professional. He was proactive in communicating and gave me a detailed writeup of all flyer locations. I will link to his profile at the end.
Surprise Alternate Poster Design That I Did Not Ask For But Appreciated The Effort
The flyer guy sent me a mock-up of an alternate poster he made.
I guess he thought my design was too boring.
Please note that I did NOT provide any of these images or copy. He just made it on his own.
There’s a lot to talk about in this sample poster he made instead of my design:
- Do I look like that?
- Am I a social butterfly?
- When was I featured on Meetup.com?
I rejected this design and decided to stick with my original, boring poster.
Three days later, on a Sunday afternoon, he completed the task and sent me photos of 30 of the flyers that he put up.
I assume the other 70 were done. He said it was too tedious to take photos of all 100. I agreed, and I wasn’t willing to pay for photos of all of the posters.
Flyer Photos: How to make new friends?
These are a few pictures of my flyers up around Union Square and Chelsea and Flatiron:
I wanted the posters to be put up in areas around Union Square, Washington Square Park, and Flatiron.
The flyer person sent me locations for 30 of the posters that he put up, which I’ve mapped with pins here:
I started to get messages nearly immediately after he put them up on Sunday afternoon, 3 June 2018.
That day I got seven emails.
The next day, on Monday, I only got one. Then two more on June 5th, and one on June 6th.
In total, I received 11 emails from people.
The gender response rate was six women and five men.
This was the first email that I got:
Here’s an email from a museum professional:
One of my favorite emails:
Data Point: Direct Visits to My Home Page
While I only got 11 emails, I got a statistically significant influx of new visitors to my home page.
I assume that lots of people saw my poster, went to my home page, then decided not to email me.
How do you think I could improve my poster design? Leave a comment and let me know!
I’ve emailed everyone thanking them for being open to making new friends.
Next, I will invite them all to a special cocktail party just for people who replied to the flyer sometime in July.
To be continued!
Future Research Questions
- Should I have shared my Instagram handle instead?
- When I do a party and invite all of these new friends, what will the attendance rate be compared to my normal parties?
- Does the location of the signs affect the amount of people who respond?
- Should I split-test poster designs and see how the one with the picture of not-me performs?
This was a fun project and a neat experiment to see about meeting people outside of my normal social circle.
I’ve already corresponded via email with everyone who emailed me. They all seem super nice.
I will host a small party to invite everyone to, and then see who I want to be friends with (or who wants to be friends with me).
Thanks to Caroline Calloway, Michael Alexis, Jamie, Moira, and others who gave me edits on the poster copy. Thanks to Mike Smith for helping with the Google Maps pins, and Alejandra for translating the Portuguese Instagram story that I reference below in the Bonus.
Bonus & Extra Stuff
My Poster on Instagram
I saw this on someone’s story who just added me on Instagram:
Translation: “I thought, this is incredible, right away I will send an email. But I thought about it twice: it is very organized, it has to be marketing. Imagine! An encounter with a surprise show of Lady Gaga. Nobody knows! In NY, everything is possible.”
Is This Legal? Or: What Makes a Good Flyer Location in NYC?
The flyer person gave me an interesting list of 30 of the flyers and where they were placed.
He categorized them each with ESL, TSB, and SE which mean:
- ESL = empty store lot. A store that has closed or one yet to open. He said that such spots are excellent locations for posting fliers.
- TCB = traffic control box. We saw a lot of these and I thought they were light post boxes. He told me, “The only flaw is that these are serviced at random and fliers are taken down quickly.”
- SE = Subway entrance. I learned that posting inside the subway is prohibited, but posting our flyers near the entrances is not.
How can I improve response rates?
I want to do this experiment again with more posters.
What do you think I should change in the poster design to get a better response rate?
Let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading!