10 tips for organizing a tweetup

And now for the society pages. You know, Twitterers don’t just spend all day in front of their computer screens or buried in their iPhones. Some of us like to use Twitter to arrange real life meet-ups, or ‘tweetups’ (Twitter loves these portmanteau words beginning with ‘tw’).
The most recent tweetup I went to was a gathering of London publishing folk following FutureBook, The Bookseller’s digital conference. It was dubbed #tweetmas, and most of the revellers weren’t even at the conference. It was a fairly last-minute affair, but that’s one of the great things about Twitter – you can arrange drinks at short notice and draw a crowd.
@SimonJuden and @Danoosha having a merry #tweetmas: on Twitpic@MissCellany and @benjohncock: also available in real life. A... on TwitpicLovely night at #tweetmas @carolagent and @jonreed being gorg... on Twitpic

@missdaisyfrost at #tweetmas on Twitpic
Organised by The Bookseller‘s Ben Johncock and Sam Missingham, publishing luminaries included Official Tweetmas Photographer Simon Juden (who I believe also moonlights for the Publishers’ Association), journalist and publishing consultant Danuta Kean, and everyone’s favourite Agent About Town Carole Blake. Add a sprinkling of publishers, most of The Bookseller staff, and well-known writers such as Liz Fenwick, Marika Cobbold and Isabel Losada, and you have a broad mix of publishing people who almost never meet (why is that?) There was even a rumoured sighting of the ever-elusive Miss Daisy Frost.
A marvellous time was had by all. Many of us already ‘knew’ each other on Twitter but had never met in real life. Yet such is the nature of a tweetup that it felt like seeing old friends.
This is to be encouraged. Social networking is all very well – but it’s nice to be social over a drink as well as a keyboard. It’s also a way for those publishers, authors and booksellers who have built a following on Twitter to arrange events: book launches, author readings, even mini-conferences and seminars. You can be as ambitious or ad-hoc as you like, depending on the nature of your tweetup. But where do you start?
Here are my top ten tips for running a successful tweetup:

  1. Have a focus for the event. This depends on the size and aims of your tweetup – sometime you just want a post-conference drink, an informal gathering of local people, or a chance for an online community to meet and chat in real life. But you can also have a more formal networking event, guest speakers or a panel discussion if you so choose.
  2. Get organised. For a small ad-hoc gathering a quick shout-out on Twitter might do. If you have a larger event to organise, use Twtvite – a great free tool to manage your guest list, and even print out name badges with Twitter names, user names, and avatars. If you plan to charge for your event, use Eventbrite. You can also use this for free events, or to invite people to make a donation if they wish. You may consider creating a Facebook event too, for those on Facebook but not Twitter, and publicising through sites such as Meetup and Upcoming.
  3. Choose your venue carefully. Make sure it is large enough (you can specify a maximum guest capacity on Twtvite), and caters for any food, drink or audio-visual requirements you may have. Most important of all, make sure there is access to WiFi so that people can tweet from their laptops. At the very least, there should be a good mobile signal so people can tweet from their phones.
  4. Anounce the hashtag. Hashtags are keywords with the # symbol in front of them that become links to a list of all tweets using that keyword: #tweetmas in this case. Pre-announce the hashtag to be used. Twtvite has a facility for doing this and displaying a list of all tweets using it.
  5. Use a Twitterwall. This is a real-time updated, animated list of everyone tweeting with your hashtag. Use www.twitterfall.com, plug in your hashtag(s), set the speed you want, and you’re good to go. Then project it onto a wall for all to see at the event. This may encourage people to tweet at the event, since their tweets will be highly visible – some may tweet just to knock someone off the top spot! It also enables people not physically there to participate.
  6. Encourage people to take photographs. These can be live-tweeted on the night using one of the Twitter photo services such as Twitpic. You could also set up a group pool on Flickr for people to post to. Ask them to tag their Flickr photos with the event hashtag so they can be found easily, and even be pulled into a widget on your website.
  7. Let’s hear what’s going on. Why not audio too? AudioBoo is a new service that started this year, and the easiest way to describe it is ‘audio Twitter’. Like Twitter, it is part of the real-time web. It’s a free iPhone app (though you don’t need an iPhone – you can now also record direct from your laptop or upload an audio file). Record some audio – perhaps a short interview with someone – on your iPhone. Take a photo. Upload both to your AudioBoo account with a short description, and it automatically tweets to your Twitter account and/or updates your Facebook status. It even includes a little geo-located map showing where you recorded it.
  8. Live-stream or record your event. If it seems appropriate, take your media a stage further and consider live-streaming your event, or part of it, using a service such as www.ustream.tv. That way, people outside the room – even outside the country – can see what’s going on, tweet comments and questions, and feel involved. This is useful if, say, you have a large international Twitter following and you’re running a speaker event. And/or you might consider audio or video recording your speakers, and then podcasting it for the benefit of those unable to attend.
  9. Consider sponsorship. While you may not want to provide food and drink – for the sake of your budget or to screen out those only coming for free booze – sometimes it may be appropriate to invite sponsorship for the event to cover these things or any other costs associated with your tweetup. There is a space on Twtvite to list sponsors as well as organizers. You’re more likely to attract sponsors if you have previously arranged events with a large niche audience that a sponsor wants to target, or if you generate a decent-sized guest list in advance of your event.
  10. Facilitate networking. Create a Twitter list of attendees after the event so that people can make contact with those they met. Twtvite will provide a guest list; but why not use the new Twitter list feature? The #tweetmas people can be found at @samatlounge/tweetmas, for example.

Our new Publishing Talk website launches in the New Year, and we’re planning a series of tweetups to encourage this sociable and healthy mix of authors, agents, publishers, trade press, commentators and industry bodies. Watch this space for details, and I hope some of you can come along.
Meanwhile, may I wish you a very Merry Tweetmas, and all the best for your writing, publishing, and other projects in the New Year!

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Jon Reed

Jon Reed is a content writer, author, screenwriter, lecturer, blogger - and the founder of Publishing Talk. He was previously a publisher for 10 years. Publishing Talk aims to help new and emerging authors write, publish and sell books. Advice is available via the blog and our masterclasses and membership programme. More...