In the beginning there was the meet up where people would get together in real life. Then there was the Internet where suddenly everyone met friends online chatted via instant message and stayed in touch by micro-blogging their daily lives on websites like Facebook and Twitter. Now online social circles are moving out of cyberspace and back into the physical realm. Where is everyone going? Why to the nearest tweetup of course—a real-world meet-up made up of Twitter followers or “tweeps.” And brands in the know like Panasonic and Zipcar are moving there too.
Now if you are still in doubt about whether people will move offline to actually (gasp!) meet each other in person check this out: Panasonic did it with bloggers at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year and well over 100 guests came to the brand’s tweetup after-hours event to hang with company execs and check out the exhibit VIP-style (Crayonville New Haven CT handled the event).
Bob Greenberg vp-marketing at Panasonic North America said the company saw that its Living in HD campaign had developed a wide following in the blogosphere due in large part to the online videos the brand created to support the initiative. Though the online following was there the brand had yet to leverage it so CES became an opportunity to make a move.
“We had this huge event in CES and we had never reached out to our online community ” he says. “So we sent out invitations and they came and we really saw the virtual world come to life and people come together in real time.”
Panasonic invited its Twitter followers and friends from other social media communities to come to the booth for a private tour get expert answers on products and get access to executives who might otherwise be out of reach for many of the attendees. “These people are more in tune than traditional media and they are very influential among their followers ” Greenberg says. “We needed to tap into these new influencers and treat them like we treat traditional media. That’s important to them. If you don’t respect that you lose as a marketer.” Panasonic plans to continue hosting tweetups perhaps later this year.
Zipcar brought its members together for Earth Day in New York City as a thank you and a call to action as part of a greener practices initiative they called Green Confessions. The 500 people who came to the event were encouraged to tweet their not-so-green secrets like taking long hot showers or throwing out plastic grocery bags without reusing them.
The urban rent-a-car company holds environmental responsibility and sustainability as corporate values and wanted to find a fun interesting way to promote that message and leverage its Twitter following while getting some more mileage out of its Green Confessions promotion kicked off in Washington D.C. a few weeks earlier. So the company booked New York City hot spot BLVD (pronounced “boulevard”) sent out the tweet-vitations and announced it in its members-only newsletter and email blast. The event’s hashtag (a twitter-specific word that helps followers find tweets by topic) was secured and the physical space was set up with eight flat-screen televisions all of which featured live-feeds of the green confessions and tweetup-related tweets during the event.
“This was such a fun way to both poke fun at ourselves and attract some attention to what we’re doing ” says Scott Cochran New York marketing manager at Zipcar. “People were huddled around the screens tweeting and talking about the confessions. It was like a snow globe version of the Twitter-verse.”
But it wasn’t all fun and games. The members who attended the tweetup were invited to bring a non-member friend to join in the fun. The strategy helped Zipcar garner 50 new member sign-ups at the event—a respectable 10 percent of the attendee list.
Like Panasonic Zipcar intends to stay on the tweetup circuit. They will expand the program however to include more markets possibly including San Francisco and Washington D.C. where this year virtual attendees watched the Twitter-feed and contributed even though they could not make it to the physical event.
The take-away for Zipcar? Tweeps that follow their friends online will follow them offline too. So be ready. “We needed to have a better idea how the live-feed screens worked and Twitter’s bandwidth limitations ” says Cochran. “Next year we’ll be ready and will have a much bigger event with 1 000 to 2000 members.”