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Tweetups evolve from networking to celebrity-studded social events

8:41 AM, Sep 19, 2010   |    comments
Folsom Tweetup at the Lava Cap Winery
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SACRAMENTO, CA - Less than a year ago, SacTweetup was the only Tweetup group in the Sacramento area. Now, not only are there more of them popping up in different communities, but they have evolved from small social networking groups to mainstream social events that attract everyone from the Average Joe to local celebrities.

"We attract a lot of different kinds of people. We like to say the Tweetups are two parts social and one part business. It's about deepening relationships offline," said Alejandro Reyes.

Reyes is one of the co-founders of SacTweetup.com and held his first Tweetup in March 2009. Back then, the concept was new and getting people to understand exactly how it worked was a challenge. Reyes laughs at his struggles now, but remembers what it was like to be a pioneer in the Tweetup realm.

"We started out with 65 people at a Panera Bread off of Howe because no one wanted to host it. People didn't understand it," Reyes said. "Now we get 120 to 150 people at each event. And I think with the fall and some of the events we have planned, that number is going to increase to close to 200."

The Evolution of Tweetups

Reyes says in the last three months he's noticed a change in the type of people coming out to the events. It's not just small businesses and people wanting to network anymore. Instead, as Twitter has evolved into a popular mainstream social media tool, the people at the Tweetups have also changed.

"The Tweetups have become the modern version of the old town forums. It's not like an educational event where people have to sit and listen to a lecture. It's a place where you go and connect," Reyes said. "I've been noticing over our last three events that there are a lot of new people. I would say 30 percent of the people who attended our September 16 Tweetup were brand new."

Reyes believes the growing popularity of the Tweetups is happening because of the two reasons: First of all, more people are on Twitter where before only a handful of people used the tool, and secondly, the events are attracting better venues, better prizes and better celebrity guests.

"You have businesses coming out and wanting to sponsor the event because they understand that their target audience will be there. Plus, we've had local celebrity guests like the Sacramento Lady Mountain Lions, Matt Barnes of the LA Lakers and Big Al from 102.5," said Reyes.

The local news stations and newspapers are also playing a role by reporting the events or showing up to see what's happening in the community and mingling with the guests. Reyes says having the local celebrities and the media at these events gives the attendees the chance to meet them and tell them in person that, "Hey, we're following you and we're cheering for you."

Expanding into Folsom, Placer and Other Areas

Jim Pelley, who runs the Folsom Tweetups, has been planning his events with a slightly different twist.

"We'll never be SacTweetup. I admire them and go to them periodically and that's where I kind of learned how to do these, but my idea for Folsom is to do something that's here and uniquely us," said Pelley.

Pelley says social media is the media that connects his attendees to the event, but the event is not about social media.

"Folsom is a very tight knit community and our mission is to connect residents and businesses and community. Part of the goal of the September 16 Tweetup was to come out and support a local business, the Lava Cap Winery," Pelley said. "It's not just a meet-and-greet. It's an event with wine, food and fun."

A wine expert from the SacBee came out to the Folsom Tweetup to talk to the attendees about wine. The free event also included a vineyard tour, wine tastings and a Tweetup wine special - 30 percent off the winery's Petite Syrah.

The Tweetup also had a twitter contest with Niello Auto Group involving five cars: A Maserati, two BMWs and two Mini Coopers. The idea was that people would get to keep the cars for 24 hours and tweet about them. To win the car, they had to tweet about why they deserved to have the car for the day.

But the fun doesn't stop there. Pelley is already planning his next Tweetup which will take place on October 30. Breaking out of the "Tweetups are only for adults" mold, this one will be family themed.

"The night of 1000 pumpkins will be our next Tweetup and it will be a family-friendly event where we encourage people to bring their kids," said Pelley.

Reyes is also planning his next Sacramento Tweetup which will take place on the third Thursday of the month. He says he loves that more Tweetups are now being planned in different communities.

"People ask me if I see them as competition, but that's like saying there should only be one salon in town. Having more around only adds validity to what we are doing. It's been really cool to see Folsom do it and see what they are doing in Placer," Reyes said.

Other Tweetup locations include PlacerBizTweetUp and if you are into wine, check out the VinoTweetup.

By Michelle Ponto/ News10
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