You maybe surprised to find out that the Oxford Dictionary has added “tweetup” to the English lexicon along with a number of neologisms that may sound familiar to you such as “unfriend“, hashtag” and, for us bloggers, “tag cloud“. This shows us that social media has taken a firm grasp in our daily lives, enough so that a venerable institution such as the Oxford University Press would add the words to their dictionary.
What exactly is a tweetup? The portmanteau combines the words “tweet” and “meet up“. In other words, tweetup is a gathering of a group of Twitter users (or “tweeps“) in real life. The reasons for gathering tweeps together could be analogous to why people, in general, gather together. Some examples, among many possibilities, include:
- charity events
- memorials of a fallen soldier
- gathering tweeps with common interests, professions, or political interests
- buzz-generating events to giveaway tickets or prizes (always in short supply during the event)
- gathering tweeps for a larger event (e.g. a tweetup to gather tweeps for a “Flash Mob” event)
- concerts at the park
- job or career fairs
- store grand openings
Tweetups cover a wide spectrum – from spontaneous, quickly arranged acoustic concerts to highly organized, highly publicized protests. You cannot gauge how many people will attend the event. For example, you broadcast your tweetup to 20 of your followers. Only nine of the 20 show up, but each brings along two friends. The attendees of your tweetup, therefore, consists of nine people you contacted directly and 18 you don’t even know. While attracting a large audience for your tweetup is nice, engaging your audience would make the tweetup a true social networking event. Otherwise, you would have nine groups of three people each that silently keep to themselves.
Organizing the Tweetup
DO Make the most of your Twitter network. You may not need professional assistance for small gatherings. However, if you are planning a large event, PR and marketing people on Twitter can help create buzz and support for your event.
DO Visit the venue in person. Yes, I am serious. You do not want to organize a tweetup only to find out, along with the rest of the tweeps, that a venue has gone out of business or been torn down months ago. Don’t trust an outdated photo from Street View on Google Maps. Visiting the venue will also give you ample time to decide whether or not you need a larger one, which leads me to the point.
DO Plan for more people to show up than you think. Earlier, I mentioned the example of nine people bringing two of their friends each. In the world of Twitter, people may tag along with a group because they happen to mention the tweetup and, before you know it, an entire bus, subway car or ferry full of people start making their way to the tweetup. Expect the unexpected and embrace with open arms the non-tweeps who just so happened to show up.
DO Invite a well-known speaker or two. If you manage to get Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki), Tony Stevens (@tonystevens4), or Dave and Sarah Larson (the couple behind @TweetSmarter) as guest speakers, you may need a soccer field and the field next to it.
DO Use email. It stands for “electronic mail”, remember? People still use email. Just think of it as a way of writing seven DMs in a single message. While you may meet thousands of tweeps and know them by their Twitter username, you may never learn any of their email addresses, yet still communicate to them on Twitter. In addition, email would help you discern your pre-Twitter friends from your current followers.
DO Use event services to help you organize your guests, collect donations, and provide sharable content. Mashable provides a listing of services you can use.
DON’T Use a venue with limited Wi-Fi or cell phone reception or, worse, dead zones. The Twitter crowd is a technologically savvy one. During a lull in activity at some point during the tweetup, hundreds of people may go online at the same time. Make sure that the venue can handle the traffic. As a rule of thumb, pretend that the total number of people you expect to show up at the tweetup has an iPhone, iPad, DROID, any of the two, or all three.
DON’T Have the event in a venue ill-suited for the tweetup. The name of the game at tweetups is communication. Tweetups are social networking events. Anything that impedes communication will cause the event to become memorable to the attendees for the lack thereof.
DON’T Treat the tweetup as a kickback. You may hang out with a group of friends every Saturday afternoon for five years in a row for no particular reason whatsoever, but the tweeps attending the tweetup are not that group of friends. Make the purpose of the tweetup very clear so that people can get ready accordingly. Is the tweetup a luau? People need time to shop for a Hawaiian shirt if they don’t have one.
DON’T “Wing it”. You want people to remember you for the well-organized and purpose-driven tweetup you setup, rather than slapping together a “tweetup” last-second that leaves attendees wondering, “Why are we here again?”
During the Tweetup
DO Arrive at the event early. It’s common courtesy to arrive early, and it gives tweeps some relief that you, the tweetup organizer, would show up to your own event. Just before you begin, you can pass out tweetup material such as schedules that list the day’s events.
DO Collect business cards. For whatever purpose you set out your tweetup to accomplish, networking with the attendees is the most important activity you do with them, and that begins with collecting their information.
DO Provide food. How many missed networking opportunities would take place if you didn’t provide food? After all, networking takes place over as little as coffee. After a couple of hours of workshops and guest speakers, provide food to the attendees so it gives them a chance to talk about the day’s events so far amongst each other.
DON’T Fade into the background. It’s your tweetup; you host it. Besides, if you are hosting your first-ever tweetup, the attendees, more likely than not, do not know each other and are, therefore, strangers. As host of the tweetup, you are there to greet arriving guests and answer peoples’ questions. You can also engage in the first step of networking: providing new arrivals with nametags where they can write their first name and, just below, their Twitter username. However, –
DON’T Use water-soluble markers or thin pens. You want the attendees to read each others’ names from afar, so use dark, permanent markers with thick ink tips.
DON’T Snub the guests. Treat @TeenW_Braces with the same respect as you would @CodesInBasic, @WearsIPadOnNeck, or @BlondeMensaGal.
DON’T Go open bar. I wasn’t expecting Mashable to include this in its list, but it makes perfect sense. You do not want rowdy attendees that had no other purpose than to drink free alcohol.
Above all things, what do tweetups do? They turn online interactions into real-life contacts. In communities that hold regular tweetups, the line between online communities and real-life communities will become blurred. Start planning a tweetup in your community. You never know who may show up.
Tags: business cards, email, Flower Blossoms, gathering, guest speaker, Guy Kawasaki, hashtag, Mashable, meeting, online community, Oxford Dictionary, planning, social media, social networking, TweetSmarter, tweetup, twitter, unfriend, Wi-Fi