Twitter networking events – a complete guide

Go here for a list of social media events, days and times arranged by day; Go here for an interactive map arranged geographically (Northern England only at present).

While on the surface Twitter appears to be much simpler than Facebook (posting a tweet does ostensibly resemble Facebook’s status updates, but with a 140 character limit) there is definitely a sense that you’re tweeting into a void. What should you tweet about? Who are you tweeting to? At least with Facebook, there’s a concrete sense that you are talking to your friends.

In this post, a draft chapter from an e-book I am preparing, I explain how social media networking events work, and give an idea of the etiquette involved.

Social media events: #yorkshirehour

It might help prevent the embarrassment factor if you get yourself familiarised with the nuts and bolts of Twitter with a social media event. There are more and more of these springing up, and while some are on a particular theme (such as #weddinghour), many are regional. Some cast their net wide (#yorkshirehour) while others are much more geographically specific (#DiscoverRipon).

Basically this kind of event can help you feel that there’s an audience, and can introduce you to Twitter’s greatest strength – two-way interactions. Make sure you set aside the hour to devote to the event, and then set up a column in Tweetdeck or Hootsuite in order to follow the hashtag for the event you are interested in. To save taking up lots of columns (and computer memory) you could set several hashtags to display in one column. Since most people observe the time and day for each event, the column shouldn’t get too confused.

Not only does the column help you keep track of all tweets that are participating in the event, it also takes the pressure off you keeping up with all of the activity (a busy event like #yorkshirehour can make you go cross eyed trying to read the 4000+ tweets a week that use the hashtag). With the column, you can take your time after the event has finished to scroll back through all the tweets and follow or retweet interesting content at your leisure.

When your column is set up, you will see all tweets that use that hashtag rolling in. It means that you will suddenly get a snapshot of the twitter population for the particular region or sector that interests you. You may find lots of interesting businesses and people to follow (who might follow you back, or who might have interesting connections themselves that you can benefit from). You might even find direct custom for your services.

Frame your tweet straightforwardly. There’s no need to disguise it in marketing language. State what you do or what you offer. There’s no need to link to your own Twitter profile or your own web page (your profile should already contain this info and people who are interested will click on it). Make sure you include the relevant hashtag so that your tweet is included in the event. Also, good practice is to leave a gap at the end of around 20 characters. This will mean that when your tweet is retweeted in a standard style, there is room for the text ‘RT’ and your Twitter username at the beginning (you can count them to find the exact figure), and you won’t lose any characters off the end (and you’ll minimise the risk of the person retweeting editing your tweet in a way you don’t like).

You don’t, however, have to sell sell sell in every tweet you write. You could comment on the weather or a local hot topic – or you could recommend fellow businesses or local organisations, or cafes you’ve frequented. If they are on Twitter reference them. Remember to strike the right tone: informal but professional, chatty and friendly.

Retweeting: show your community spirit

The tweet has to be interesting and worth bookmarking or passing on. It will tend to be positive (since retweeting implies approbation, negative or odd-sounding statements are unlikely to be passed on). If you recommend other businesses this is perceived as being community-spirited, and Twitter is all about community spirit. Niggardliness is looked down upon.

If you mention another business approvingly in your tweet, they are highly likely to retweet if they are active on Twitter. It’s great PR for them to demonstrate that they have received spontaneous recommendations.

And above all, reciprocate and participate. If someone else recommends your favourite café, retweet that. If someone asks a question you have a response to, reply to them. Keep an eye out for tweets which are particularly witty or relevant, and reward them with a retweet. Even if you have no followers yourself, it doesn’t matter: building up interesting content in your feed is how you gain followers in the first place. People are more likely to follow an account which, at first glance, contains a history of interesting content.

But if all this sounds a bit calculating, keep one thing in mind: be sincere. Don’t recommend someone if you don’t mean it. You wouldn’t do so in real life: and this is a facet of real life, not something separate and apart. You may well meet many of these people in person. And there’s no need to be coy – everyone participating wants to increase their followers, and may have products or services to sell. People respect and understand your ultimate motivations, just as they expect you to respect and understand theirs.

I recently read an advice columnist’s response to a woman who was concerned that she had made a bad first impression on her boyfriend’s friends and wondered how she could correct that bad impression. The response was that, in fact, how you appear represents something of what you are. It’s only by improving your true behaviour that the impression you give will correct itself.

If it doesn’t sound like a twist of logic, be as community minded as you wish to appear. How you appear will be the way you are. If you are not genuinely community minded, you will not enjoy the interactions, you will not feel naturally curious about other people’s tweets, so you will not respond to them as someone who was genuinely enthusiastic would do: it will be visible in the way you Tweet. If you start to understand how it works, and end the session with a warm fuzzy feeling of camaraderie with the other virtual participants, then you’ve understood the spirit of it.

Ending the session

If you’ve been particularly chatty it’s nice to wish everyone good night when you leave. You should also thank everyone who’s retweeted you or mentioned you in their tweets (you can do this one by one, but if there are a lot of them it will fill up your feed and be boring for your followers, so you can lump them all together in one.)

Another way to thank people is to include them in an #ff or Follow Friday. Obviously, do this on Friday. You don’t have to justify or explain your choices, just include a list of the people you want to mention along with the #ff tag and they will feel noticed or acknowledged.

To get the most out of your social media event, read back over the evening’s tweets. Check that you are following any interesting accounts, or that you’ve favourited any useful links or resources that have been tweeted.

It’s worth bearing in mind that often the very last tweets, along with the very first, will be the most visible. People who keep a column dedicated to the hashtag will see the last tweets sitting in the column all week long (as well as those posted by the cheeky few who don’t abide by the specified time and date!) And people who have missed the event will scroll back in reverse chronological order and may never reach the earlier tweets. That’s also a reason to keep tweeting your information several times during the session (while varying it each time so that you don’t become boring, or get taken for spam).

Good luck, and enjoy it! If you need help during the session, feel free to tweet me at @yorkshirelang.

Click here for a regularly updated list of some regional and themed Twitter events.

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