One of the main uses for Twitter is for networking – it allows you to contact a whole range of different people from a vast array of different professions. As a virtual meeting place, nowhere on the web currently comes close to providing the opportunities for such diverse interactions that Twitter does. And yet, I often find myself wanting more – I want to connect with my Twitter friends offline. Sometimes this takes place over the phone, over Skype, or over coffee, but more and more frequently it’s happening at tweetups.
To explain the value of tweetups and to give you some tips on attending and organising one, I’ve asked Baxter Tocher, organiser of the popular Edinburgh Tweetups, to share with you his thoughts on how you can get the most out of tweetups. He’s been involved in social networking since “Web 2.0” first appeared and loves connecting people and finding patterns. His generous responses will give you an idea of why he’s such a natural at organising these events – as a host he really excells himself. I’m sure after reading what he has to say you’ll be checking out when your next local tweetup will be, or even organising one yourself!
So without further ado, here’s the interview:
Q1. What is a tweetup and why should we go along to one?
A1. Well, a tweetup is a real life gathering of folks who are somehow connected via Twitter. A few may be friends in real life who already share their experiences using Twitter, some will never have met before but will be already have discovered each other on Twitter, and others will be completely unrelated strangers who happen to find themselves in the same place at the same time, on different threads of the spiders web created by Twitter. Some will not know each other at all but will have Twitter friends or followers in common, even though they may not know it. They are connected via a web of contacts, some close and some distant. Oh, and some will have met perhaps once before, at a previous tweetup, or at a twestival, or even an unrelated event.
It’s very much a social night which gives everyone an opportunity to get to know others, to find out whether others share common interests, and perhaps to end up following each other on Twitter too. You should come along to a tweetup to meet the people that you regularly converse with on Twitter, to make new personal and business connections, to find new people to follow and be followed by, but in the main to simply have a good informal night out in a friendly environment where everyone there has at least one thing in common.
Q2. Why did you decide to organise the recent Edinburgh tweetups?
A2. Hey, I know this one! Pick me! Pick me!
Seriously, though. The Edinburgh Twestival was an utterly magical event. All of the hard work done by @jimwolffman, @tanepiper, @andrewburnett, @bureauista and @davelaw00 fitted together at very short notice to create a fabulous experience for charity: water. It gave all of those attending a superb opportunity to meet lots of other Twitter users for the first time, while ensuring that an essential cause was aided by all of the musical and fund-raising events of the evening.
From those I spoke to during that night, it became evident that there was an appetite for Twitter users to meet up more often, not necessarily for charity, but to allow folks to keep in fairly regular contact, to be able to talk informally, and importantly outwith the constraints of Twitter’s 140 character message limit.
I already had some experience of arranging social events, albeit on a much smaller scale than the Twestival! I organize the Edinburgh Diners group on Meetup, and I also host the Edinburgh Lunch Bunch there, though the latter events are jointly run by my good friends @jehollin and @blitzmiz.
So I thought I’d go ahead and book a venue, and see what happened. Everyone said they enjoyed it, and some folks asked me to organize another. So here we are already with the second Edinburgh Tweetup.
Q3. What has the response to the tweetups been?
A3. To be honest, it’s been knockout. Around 40 of us attended the first one, and it’s looking like there may be nearly 70 of us the second one. It’s been way more successful than I’d hoped.
In terms of feedback, everyone has been very positive. For anyone wanting to check what folks have said, have a look on Twitter for the hashtag #edtweetup.
Q4. What are your top tips for someone attending their first tweetup?
A4. I’d say try and speak to as many people as you can. Four hours or so is a limited time. Not everyone has a list of who’s expected to arrive, and there may very well be people there that you already follow on Twitter that you haven’t yet met. If you’re looking to do business, it may happen in the sidelines, though that’s not the main purpose. So if you’re going to do that, please do it subtly. And for the record, I don’t want to buy, or sell, anything!
If you’re looking for someone with particular hobbies or skills, don’t be afraid to ask the organizer. They’ll be trying their best to keep a handle on who has arrived or is running late, and what specific interests or skills they might have. They’ll likely be able to connect you with web designers, musicians, promoters, authors, bloggers and even bathroom fitters, if that’s what you need. If you want to discuss films, books or music, the organizer may be able to point you towards others with whom you have a common interest. And most importantly, if you just want to meet people and have a few drinks, that’s just fine.
Oh,and if you’ve a poken*, please take in with you!
Q5. What are your top tips for someone organising a tweetup?
A5. If you can find a private venue or a function room that’s the right size, and it’s very central for buses and trains, make that your starting point. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you don’t want to be out of pocket in arranging a tweetup.
One thing that became clear after the first Edinburgh tweetup was completely counterintuitive – being in a room with limited connectivity to Twitter is a bonus. Yes, you heard that right! Tweetups are about talking to others face to face. If there’s somewhere nearby with wifi and/or a great 3G signal (say a bar upstairs or next door), that’ll do just fine. There’s no value in folks spending the entire evening typing into a mobile Twitter client at a tweetup. That’s what a lot of us do on a daily basis already.
Finally, as an organizer you need to try and ensure that everything is running smoothly. And finally, don’t forget that you’re allowed to enjoy yourself too. Organizing and having fun are not mutually exclusive!
Have you attended or organised a tweetup? What advice would you give to someone who was attending or organising one for the first time? If you haven’t been to one yet, what’s holding you back? Oh, and if you’re coming along to tonight’s tweetup in Edinburgh, I’ll see you there!
*Poken – I’ll be writing a review of how my new poken fares tonight. Expect it on Thursday!