Social media goes beyond Facebook or Twitter. It’s about connecting with people and developing relationships. And sometimes those connections can be literally face-to-face!
Social media allows us to make connections faster and over greater distances, but there is power in social media to bring us closer to our neighbors, too. One of the ways to do that is with a Tweetup.
What Is a Tweetup?
There are some things that just can’t be done with a 140-character limit.
A Tweetup is an in-person meeting of Twitter users. It has also become a colloquialism for any in-person networking event organized using social media.
For example, there are lots of events on Facebook that result in large parties. One I was recently involved with is Bring Gary Vaynerchuk to Chicago. The whole thing was organized through Facebook. The end result was to meet Gary in Chicago, along with a lot of other entrepreneurs, networkers and wine lovers.
How Tweetups Benefit Your Business
Obviously Gary benefited from the Facebook event by having a lot of attention drawn to his book. Did anyone else benefit?
On a personal level, Nancy S. (a friend, entrepreneur and wine connoisseur) was inspired by meeting Gary. Nancy has been hesitating about starting a new venture, and gained new confidence from the event.
Kelly Olexa, the event organizer, also benefited by hosting this event. She is now recognized as the person who brought Gary Vaynerchuk to Chicago, and she was able to network with a targeted audience during the event.
The nice thing about a Tweetup is that it doesn’t have to involve a celebrity. The key element to a successful Tweetup is having something people are interested in. Just think of parties you’ve had before and what made them successful. You’ll generally get more people to come when you give them a reason to be there.
We’ll cover how to organize a Tweetup in a second. For now, let’s take a look at three major benefits you get from a Tweetup:
This is when people recognize you as a leader and influencer of opinion. Kelly gained credibility as a thought leader by reaching out to Gary and getting him to come to Chicago.
By bringing people together around a common interest, you help them to get to know each other better. Whether it’s a backyard barbecue or a national convention, the most important aspect of any networking event is the conversations and relationships that develop.
The person who organizes a Tweetup is recognized as a leader and an expert. In Kelly’s case, her expertise is in media, getting the word out, and organizing events. She was able to capitalize on her complementary interest in wine to develop a major event with Gary.
Other benefits of hosting a Tweetup include:
- Deeper relationships
- New testimonials
- Media exposure
- Lead generation
- Increased sales
Organizing a Tweetup
The first thing to understand about organizing a Tweetup is that it has already been done. There are lots of resources out there for you to use and make it easier for yourself.
Meetup allows you to join and participate for free. When you decide to become an organizer for events, there is a subscription fee for accessing those tools. You can subscribe for up to 6 months at a time for $12/month. You can charge for events through Meetup if you want to. They allow you to connect to Amazon Payments and PayPal to collect fees.
The great thing about Meetup is that it announces your new Meetup Group to the community. You just pick a topic, describe your Meetup, and you’re ready to go.
Eventbrite and Amiando are more like Ticketmaster. You can use them to organize events, and when you charge a ticket price they take a percentage of the sales.
Aside from using a service such as Meetup, Eventbrite or even Facebook to organize your event, there are three important organizing elements I want to draw attention to.
#1: Visit the Venue
Especially when you’re hosting the Tweetup at your business location, take time to look at the location from the perspective of guests. You might even ask a couple of friends to give you their opinions.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Will guests be able to have conversations without shouting at each other?
- Is there enough light to read business cards?
- Where will refreshments be?
#2: Use Name Tags
Everyone has an online handle, and it’s often different from their real name. Plan to have name tags that show both.
#3: Be Active During the Tweetup
To get the benefits of hosting a Tweetup, guests need to see you and meet you. Make a point of speaking to everyone and introducing yourself.
Stuart Foster wrote an excellent article for Mashable entitled Organize a Successful Tweetup. He outlines 17 things both to do and to avoid when planning and hosting a Tweetup. I suggest you print the article and keep it as a resource, but there’s something else you need to do first.
Networking Before a Tweetup
You’re going to have the most success by making sure you have lots of people to invite. To get a good crowd, you need two things:
- A local network (not huge – millions or even thousands – a couple of hundred people is plenty)
- A common interest
The common interest part is fairly easy, and it doesn’t have to be directly related to your business.
When the earthquake struck Haiti, you know a lot of business owners organized fundraising activities. You could easily use status updates, tweets, and email – even the telephone – to reach your network and tell them about an event like that.
The great thing about it is that everyone you tell is definitely going to tell a friend or two. Being able to help others gives everyone a good feeling.
You could be a hardware store owner and still find plenty of common interests for a Tweetup. In spring, organize an event around garden planting. For the do-it-yourself crowd, organize summertime events around barbecuing, deck installations, and landscaping.
Any time you’re stuck for an idea, just pick up the phone and call your best clients. Ask them what they’re interested in and would like to know more about. Finding a common interest is easy. Building a local network is a tiny bit more challenging. And I mean just a tiny bit because there are lots of tools to help you do it.
Naturally you’re going to start with the social media sites you already belong to. Twitter is an excellent one to use, and not just because Twitter developed Tweetups. It’s also because there are several applications and two features in Twitter designed to help. (If you don’t have a Twitter account, here’s an instruction booklet to get you started.)
One feature in Twitter is geotagging. Just login to your Twitter account and go to Settings. Check the box for Geotagging under Locations. Here’s a screenshot to show you what it looks like:
For your own profile, turn geotagging on so other people can find you. For your network, spread the word about geotagging so it becomes easier for you to find other people.
The other feature in Twitter is its Search function. You can type a city and radius into the search field to find local Twitter users. For example, someone in Toronto could type:
This is going to show you Twitter users living within 50 miles of Toronto.
You can see from the image above that a Twitter search gives you tweets along with who made them. That can be a lot of extra information to sort through. Fortunately, there are some great services out there that help you do the work. Two I particularly enjoy are Twellow and TwitterLocal.
Twellow is yellow pages for Twitter users. You can register for a free account, but you don’t have to be registered to use the service. Twellow is cool because it lets you search Twitter users in several ways. You can search by location, interest, name, and subject, to name a few.
It also has a neat feature called Twellowhood. It lets you zero in on any geographic location in the world. (Remember what I mentioned about geotagging?) You start by picking a continent, then a state or province. When you get to an area that’s small enough – say, Ontario, Canada – Twellowhood gives you a list of cities in that province.
The number beside each city is how many Twitter users are located there. Just click on a city and you’ll get a listing of every local Twitter user.
TwitterLocal is a little different. It’s an Adobe AIR application that you download to your computer.
Once installed, TwitterLocal allows you to filter tweets by location – similar to the Twitter search function I showed you. Obviously this is handy for watching the conversations happening in your area. It can be a great way to get ideas for which common interest to tap into for your next event.
In every case, your goal is to develop new relationships with people in your locale so they can attend your Tweetups.
Keep in mind that your own existing network can help you meet local people, too. Tell them what you are doing and ask your connections to help by introducing you to local people. I was surprised at the people I was introduced to through my own network.
Cooperating With Customers
Social media has become part of our cultural and marketing landscape. We’re also generally social creatures who enjoy meeting new people and making friends.
Hosting a Tweetup allows you to cooperate with your customers to give them three important benefits:
- They’re learning more about the common interest.
- Everyone gets to meet new people and be social.
- Guests develop a deeper relationship with you and your business.
Take your first step today. Pick a common interest and use Twitter to organize a Tweetup with 10 friends. That gives you a doable project with a safe audience. You can build from there.
Have you participated in tweetups? Post your experiences and questions below. And, even more importantly, come back to write about the experiences you have. Let’s make a conversation here that helps everyone build success with social media.