Once you’re finished school, it can be tough to meet new people.
You don’t have new classes every four months and you can no longer count on the safety net of student groups that cater to a multitude of interests.
And although most 20-somethings are not on Twitter – the average age of Twitter users is 39! – it’s becoming one of the easiest ways for people with common (and not-so-common) interests to meet in person.
“The biggest thing is that I’ve met so many good people. Everyone is positive on Twitter.”
—Joallore Alon, digital content specialist, Rogers
This summer I was invited by Twitter legend Joallore Alon, better known by his Twitter handle @clickflickca, to #DeliTweetup – my very first event of the kind.
The event was to be held at Caplansky’s Delicatessen on College Street in Toronto.
As someone not quite on the cutting edge of social media, the opportunity to learn something new about Twitter for myself and write about it too was impossible to pass up.
So, what is a “tweetup”?
A tweetup, as I learned, is a way for people who follow each other on Twitter and have similar interests to meet up and share those interests.
This, in turn, allows you to meet (virtually) and follow people with whom you have something in common. The hashtag is the birthplace of most tweetups.
“It’s like keywording, so as soon as you find a keyword and you start to follow certain people, you develop a relationship with them over time,” says Alon.
The next step is to meet IRL, or “in real life” as pre-text/social media speak would say. Eventually, as a group forms around a particular hashtag, someone will decide to organize an event.
“One that’s done by @jeremywright, that’s his twitter handle, that’s #Loserkaraoke,” says Alon. “So every Thursday there’s a bar that everyone just goes to, it’s usually all Twitter people, that just show up to sing and drink.”
Why are they useful?
Although many tweetups are just organized for fun, using Twitter and attending tweetups can also be powerful networking tools. Alon, who works in magazine production for Rogers, originally got on Twitter to meet others in his field. “I follow people in magazine production and just keep myself involved,” he says.
You can also use it to network in any number of ways: within your industry, for job seekers to connect with other job seekers, or discuss techniques or trends in what you do.
Recently, tweetups have also been organized on a much larger scale to raise money for charity. Twestival 2010 raised more than $20,000 in Toronto and $1.2 million worldwide, and HoHoTO, an annual fundraiser for the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, has raised more than $80,000 to date.
How can you organize a tweetup?
There are a few different types of software you can use to set up the Tweetup, including Twtvite (#DeliTweetup was on Twtvite), Eventbrite, and guestlistapp.com. Alon frequently uses the “word of mouth” strategy, where he sends out a tweet inviting people out at a certain date or time.
The key of using these apps is two-fold. “You can cap it, you can control it, and you can see the RSVPs,” says Alon, but adds that, in addition, “you can keep a list after so it’s used for networking after.”
Although many can be completely impromptu, you do want to have some sort of plan. “When you do a tweetup, make sure you check the place you’re visiting first, make sure that it’s the right size,” says Alon.
This particular tweetup was already quite over the number of planned people. Fortunately, Alon’s co-organizer knew the owner of the restaurant and more patio tables were added to our group; the additional guests presumably learned about #DeliTweetup through word of mouth.
Agendas are optional. In this case, the most important part of the tweetup was to experience a new type of food, but in other cases where people may be sharing job-hunting tips or networking, an agenda might be in order. Keep in mind that smaller tweetups are easier for conversation, says Alon.
But isn’t it weird to meet people online?
The idea of meeting complete strangers may seem bizarre to some until you recognize the fact that they are not, in fact, complete strangers.
“I think people trust people more about getting jobs through Twitter too, because you’re following them over time,” says Alon. “Even though you’ve never met them, you kind of have an idea of how they are now, you know their tendencies.”
It’s true. I had always thought that meeting someone through Twitter was basically the professional equivalent of online dating – trust no one. But in all honesty, when you follow someone’s musings over an extended period of time, you may well know them better than someone you see everyday.
“The biggest thing is that I’ve met so many good people. Everyone is positive on Twitter,” says Alon, who networked his way to a free flight to San Francisco from Virgin. “It’s just connections, it’s a small world.”
Alon continues to organize and attend tweetups on a regular basis: according to Twtvite, upcoming tweetups include WooTO on Dec. 14, a dinner at Woo Buffet Restaurant and Lounge, and SweetTO on Feb. 5, where everyone brings baked goods to share with the rest of the attendees.