I threw a Tweetup once.

It was December of 2009, at the former BlackStone in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. We dubbed it #JollyTweetup because it was holiday themed and we even included a Yankee Swap.

At the time, there were a few popular tech-based Tweetups in Providence, but no general-interest get togethers that I knew of.

About a week before the event, fear set in: What if nobody shows up? What if I didn’t order enough food? What if people don’t like me in person?  What if it’s boring and everybody leaves and then Tweets about how boring it is?

Throwing any event comes with fears and Tweetups are no exception!

Well, like most things in life that we worry about — none of those worries came true. In fact, around fifty people showed up that night! We packed the bar, had hilarious conversations, took tons of photos and made TFFL (Twitter Friends for Life).

And most of us were there until last call. Successful event? I’d say so.

If you didn’t already know, Tweetups are social gatherings where Twitter users connect face to face in the real world. As people build connections online, they often want to take those connections offline into the real world and it’s up to the users and small businesses to make them happen!

Even though it’s typically the users who organize Tweetups, sometimes it’s a super savvy business owner who knows that getting Twitter users into their place of business for a social gathering can build loyalty real fast. It can also build word-of-mouth lightning fast, since Tweetups are typically associated with unique hashtags and if there was ever an audience to post photos and spread the good word an an event, it’s Twitter users.

While I couldn’t find any record about the first Tweetup, NASA (@NASA) has been doing them for a while, limiting them exclusively to social media users. Boston’s Lansdowne Pub (@TheLansdowne) has become the venue of choice for Tweetups like the NogUp (5th edition in 2012). The Roger Smith Hotel (@RSHotel) became a nexxus of social media gatherings after they enthusiastically started welcoming social media events.

If you’re running a small business with enough space to host a get together, then a Tweetup is a simple, fast, and effective way to promote your business. There are opportunities to test new menu items, release new products, or just come up with a theme that gets people together, like an indoor beach party.

Tweetups in Action

Wrightstown, Pennsylvania witnessed over 40 customers gathering for an ice cream and networking Tweetup hosted by ice cream shop Owowcow (@owowcowcreamery) this March. Meeting new people and sampling the upcoming season’s flavors was on the menu.

Burrito Tweetups are also popular and Pancheros (@Pancheros), a Mexican restaurant chain, ran a popular  #BurritoUp Tweetup where burritos, Twitter, and conversation resulted in huge buzz and even blog posts written by attendees recapping the event.

Then there’s the San Diego Zoo (@SanDiegoZoo) with its exotically themed Tweetups, like the Garden Fest Insect House Tweetup, Festival of Flight Tweetup, and the Animal Superstars Tweetup. Not only are these Tweetups free to attend, raffles and other giveaways ramp up participation.

Choice of venue is a big thing for Tweetups, as Norwegian Cruise Line (@CruiseNorwegian) showed when they hosted the first ever #SeaTweetup in 2011, and then again in 2012. A cruise to the Bahamas, private events, cocktail parties and lots of socializing was on board long as one was willing to pay the $300 charge.

The Bookmans Entertainment Exchange (@BooksmansPhoenix) is a chain of six bookstores across Tucson, Mesa, Phoenix and Flagstaff, has around 1,500 followers on Twitter and hosts regular Tweetups at their various stores with designer t-shirts, free coffee, and pastries thrown in.

The DIY Tweetup

So how does a small business go around organizing a Tweetup?

  • A fun theme is essential, this is social media after all. If you are a candy store or a video game retailer it might be easier a more serious business, but timing the event around a holiday or cultural theme may work well in such cases.
  • Food and drink tend to keep conversations flowing. If you’re in the business of food, then this part is easy. If not, you can put on a good event without busting the bank by getting co-sponsors or by partnering with other local businesses.
  • Hashtag it up. It’s a Tweetup, so make your hashtag catchy, short and descriptive so that it’s Twitter-friendly. #BurritoUp is a great example. Also avoid confusing your audience by using hashtags that sound similar to others, or worse, have been done before.
  • Organize your venue. Restaurant owners have the advantage of an entertainment infrastructure, but others will have to focus on the details to accommodate lots of people.
  • Invites.While Twitter is informal and improvised, successfully planning dates in advance and getting RSVPs helps in putting together a great event. Luckily, there are a host of sites like Meetup, Eventbrite and Twvite to help you manage the invitee list.
  • Promote. Pull out all the stops to promote your Tweetup by advertising it in your business location, on Twitter, and through any local Tweetup organizers, like @BostonTweetup.

Paid Tweets

A word of caution when inviting people to your Tweetup. If people like the event they will tweet about it, put up pictures, and your Tweetup will be all over the Internet. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) frowns upon paying an invitee or providing freebies in exchange for an explicit expectation to promote your event. Paid or sponsored Tweets must be identified as such. Nordstrom was pulled up for one such Tweetup, so take a lesson from them!

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Insights from and on the restaurant industry. Curated by the content team at Upserve.