Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Value of Twitter Chats Part II: Bringing Online Offline

I’m a huge fan of meeting people I only know online, offline. Not long after joining Twitter for a beverage brand I was working on, I thought it would be great to “surprise” (not truly a surprise, since I planned it) to fly into cities where we had a large community and take people out to brunch in large groups. I was behind a brand logo, but really got to know people and though it’s been a couple years now since I ran that specific Twitter handle, I still am friends with many people around the country from that community to this day.

I recently heard someone say that “TweetUp” was an “outdated term.” I don’t see it that way. In my opinion, it’s truer to the actual act than the newer term “#ConnectIRL.” I feel “#IRL” is more outdated. For those of us that make our living via social media, how is online not “real life?” Periscope and Meerkat have shown us that our real lives are now up for public consumption. Each day there are more and more ways to share everything you do at all times throughout your day…during your “real life.”

Depending on how much time you devote to social media sites like Twitter, which is my favorite both personally and professionally, the more you begin to develop very deep relationships. There are those people that you meet and feel an immediate connection with. You click with them and feel you’ve known them for years, which makes sharing things and transparency even more enjoyable and easy. Because I feel like these people are close friends, I want to them see them face to face. I want to watch their expressions as they tell me things I’ve previously only been able to read. Twitter conversations often become phone calls and it only follows that a TweetUp would be next.

In school, we were able to make friends without trying. We were constantly surrounded by other people that were doing the same things we were. So where do adults go for that? I follow people on Twitter that have the same interests I do, that tweet about things I’m interested in, or tweet things I learn from; sometimes for work, sometimes because they make me laugh, sometimes because they give me inspiration. Through Twitter, I have the opportunity to make friends with people that I know have things in common with me. It’s much better than meeting someone at a bar. “YOU drink? I drink too! We have SO. MUCH. IN. COMMON.” Until we sober up. When I was drinking daily, I would wake up after a night out with so many pictures of myself with random people I was “so excited to meet” the night before, only to delete them. I don’t know these people. I’ll never make plans with these people. How many times have you gone through your contact list, only to delete people you don’t remember putting into your phone, having met them during a night at the bar, realizing you haven’t spoken to them ever again?

In the past month, I’ve planned two TweetUps – one in my hometown of Chicago and another in my adopted hometown of LA, where I spent 10 of the last 12 years. There exists a huge contradiction inside of me. I’m oddly as much of a hermit as I am an excitement junkie. People are often surprised to hear that, as I’ve made a career out of field marketing and PR, and have always found energy in connecting people to one another. It’s true though. In Chicago, everyone that attended were people I’d never met outside of Twitter. In LA, it was a mix of friends I haven’t seen in years and friends I was yet to meet, after solely knowing them through Twitter chats. Both times, what was planned to be 1-2 hour dinners, ended after 4. Did I think I’d end up hanging with everybody I met after the TweetUp? Maybe. I try not to go into anything with preconceived notions, preferring to just live in the moment and enjoy my time. If it’s awful, it’s 1 hour out of your life. You can get through anything for an hour, right? If it’s a great time? You never know what these relationships will mean down the road. TweetUps help the world feel a little bit smaller, a little more intimate.

I’m heading to San Francisco for 10 days, the last two weeks of May. Soon, I’ll begin going through my Twitter lists to see who I know there, and what the best date is for them to meet for dinner.

Los Angeles TweetUp @ The Federal Bar

Chicago TweetUp @ Hubbard Inn

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