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Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Plan and Organize a Tweetup

Want to hold a live event of face-to-face #IRL (in real life) people that you know or met through Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or other social media sites?  The tools today make this so easy to accomplish.  So, lets talk about what it takes to hold a "tweetup."

There are several steps we must consider.

1.  Determine Your Audience

  • What is your event about and who would be interested in attending?
  • What do the attendees look like?

For example are you holding a workshop to discuss issues of Human Trafficking?  Are you interested in a biking meetup group?  Or would you like to throw a conference on using technology in the classroom?

Once you decide the exact topic and what the attendees look like, you will need to think of keywords that you believe will be used in conversations by these people to help you spot them out in the digital world.  For example, lets assume you are wanting to throw a conference on the use of technology in the classroom for the St. Louis market.  Keywords or phrases that might appear in social media conversations could include:

  • edtech, #edtech or education technology
  • STEM or #STEM  (science, technology, engineering, mathematics)
  • technology or #technology
  • STL, #STL or St. Louis
  • flippedclassroom, #flippedclassroom or flipped classroom
  • BYOD, #BYOD or bring your own device

Do not worry.  You do not have to think of everything.  Once you start examining some of the conversations including these phrases you will see other words or phrases that you might have overlooked and will add them to your list. 

2.  Find Your Audience and Begin Engagement

Your next step is to go to the various social media properties and start the process of finding your future community members.  Lets discuss this for the three major social media sites including Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook

Twitter:  You will use the search function in Twitter to search for tweets containing your keywords.  For example the figure below shows us a partial list of tweeters that have used the hashtag #edtech & #STL in a Twitter search.

You will then click on each one and see if they are meeting your criteria.  If so, follow them and place them in a list that you create on Twitter for this event.  If they do not meet your criteria then pass.

Next steps include: 

  • Wait a day or two and note who follows you back.
  • Start observing what they are tweeting.
  • Retweet some of their tweets or favorite some of their tweets but only if it makes sense and fits your goals.  But, do not go overboard.
  • In your approach you must be real and considerate or they will not let you in their community or want to be a part of the community you are trying to form.  Very important!  If you come across as too aggressive, pushy or sales-like and they will ignore you or worse yet, unfollow you.

Linkedin:  On Linkedin there are two types of searches you will want to do:  individuals and groups.

For individuals:
  • You will search for people that include your keywords or phrases.  
  • Attempt to connect to anyone that appears to be your audience.  
  • Ensure you tell them why you wish to connect.  Do not use the default "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn."  That will NOT work.  
  • If they are a friend of one of your friends on Linkedin (e.g. 1st level or 2nd level connections), ask them for a virtual introduction.  That will ensure higher success. 

When searching for groups, you will do the same thing: 
  • Do the same search of your keywords and phrases but for groups. 
  • Join the group if it looks good and observe the members for a few days
  • Take note of how active they are, if members regularly contribute and how they interact with one another.  
  • You want to be observant and considerate.  Each group has different dynamics.  So study them first before you start posting things about your event.  Some groups are very strict on advertising events.  In that case you will need to approach them differently.  And, if the group is large with much potential, you will want to plan your strategy carefully to ensure they accept you and identify you as having a high level of authority.

Facebook:  With Facebook you can search for friends that are interested in certain things via the graph search function.  For example, as shown in the figure below, you can enter in the search box "people who are interested in education pages."

You can also search for groups the same way.  If they fit your profile then like them.  Similar to Linkedin, observe the page for a few days noting how active the fans are, what they typically post and how they interact with each other.  And, the more important you see the community being to your cause, the more strategic you will want to be in the planning stages of how you will approach them to ensure they embrace you as a part of the community.

3.  Determine Your Event Details

Now that you are in the process of finding your audience/community, the next step is to determine event logistics.

  • How will you do ticketing and will it be free or paid
  • Where do you want to hold the event
  • What hashtag do you want to create for your event

Ticketing:  There are many free options for ticketing.  Two of the most popular companies include meetup.com and eventbrite.com.   Both allow you to create a webpage for the event, collect payments and even help promote your event to known communities. 

But if your event is charging a fee, they will take a cut.  That is how they monetize.  So, that brings up the next question.  Do you want to charge?  For your first event you will want as many present as possible to spread the word of your event and future events.  Try to hold your first event free.  If not then seek out sponsors to help deflect the costs.  

I have used Eventbrite for many free student events and it works great. Check them out for all the details. They will give you the professional and polished look you will want.

Location:  The location of the event will be equally important. You will want to try and assess where the majority of your community lives and try to find a spot somewhere in the middle.  Take into consideration if they will be coming from work or home. Very important. Ask around to get the best deals.  Sometimes nonprofit locations may donate space if there is a synergy with their cause or clientele or in exchange for free attendance.

Hashtags:  You will want to create a hashtag for the event.  If this is going to be a annual event, then do not embed a date in the hashtag as you will want it to live on.

Having a hashtag will allow you to:
  • Determine how long the conversation is going after the event.
  • Monitor the conversation live during the event and display that conversation for everyone to see using simple and free software which I will reveal later.  
Additionally remember to keep the hashtag simple and easy to remember.  For example, the hashtag I created for my "State of Digital Media Marketing Conference 2013" held on the UMSL campus was #UMSLDigital.

To use a hashtag, you simply tell all tweeting attendees to include your hashtag in their tweets.  It is that simple.  Anyone can make up a hashtag.

 4.  Getting the Word Out

This is the step where you are going to greatly increase your level of engagement with those you have decided to follow from step 2.  If you did your homework correctly on those you are following, you will know who they are, what they like and what they react to. And as such, you should have engaged with many of those you are following, and have had some of them engage with you.  If that is not the case then are not ready to proceed with this step. This is the step where you are going to ask for help in extending your reach.

At this step you will begin to send communications to some of the influencers directly by putting their handle in the tweet.  For example, here is a tweet that might be created to inform a few influencers of an upcoming important conference.

If you have successfully formed a relationship with those you are following, they will be more than happy to retweet your messages to their followers on your behalf.  Success!

But do not forget, when they ask you to extend their reach on their behalf, you will do the same without hesitation.  Very important for a strong relationship to be forged.

5.  At the Event

At the event you will want to do as many things as possible to heighten the engagement of your audience members and to spread the word to their followers.  You have many options to do this.

Stream your tweets live during the event.  Using free software like twitterfall.com or visibiletweets.com you can stream your tweets at the event live for all to see.  Doing so will cause the engagement rate to increase due to the competitive nature of wanting to see yourself on the wall. Below is a screen shot of twitterfall for the hashtag #kenya.  This tool streams the tweets live in real time.

Use hashtags.  You must create a hashtag for your event and ask all in attendance to use that hashtag when tweeting.  Doing so will allow you to determine how long the conversation is going after the event in addition to monitor the conversation live during the event.

As previously stated, keep the hashtag simple and easy to remember. 

Consider using an app such as Bonfyre to further heighten engagement.  Bonfyre.com is a private "Facebook" environment for which you must be invited to join.   You will send an invitation to all attendees of your event or conference to join the Bonfyre.  Once they join, members can post comments, like others posts, share their posts, or upload photos or links.  Once the event is over, Bonfrye serves as a nice digital diary of the event.  Just another way to engage.  I love Bonfrye and have used them for many conferences and in the classroom.  Here is a writeup of my use of Bonfyre for my large digital marketing conference in April of 2013:  Around the Bonfyre with Professor Drake an Event App Conversation

I hope you found this post on creating a tweetup of your virtual friends valuable. Would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions I may have not considered.

Perry D. Drake
Professor of Digital and Social Media
University of Missouri - St. Louis