Well it’s been almost a year since I have been attending the Lehigh Valley Tweet Ups. I wasn’t at the first one (I started attending at the second one), but I was at the one year anniversary party this month. It was held at the Allentown BrewWorks.
Face-to-face, tweeters are networking
Entrepreneurs take Twitter one step further for one-on-one contact
By Spencer Soper OF THE MORNING CALL
April 15, 2010
Insurance agent Donna Hosfeld uses Twitter to communicate with clients and find new ones. Lyle Richardson uses the social media tool to promote a delivery business he plans to open next month. And marketer Michael Drabenstott helps clients use it to build their brands.
All three mingled this week with other Lehigh Valley Twitter users at the Allentown Brew Works for the monthly ”LVTweetup,” where friendships forged online are strengthened through face-to-face contact.
Many attendees said they use Twitter for both business and personal reasons, which underscored the growing use of social media for commerce, not just chit-chat.
”It’s a powerful way to share information about a brand or category,” said Drabenstott, owner of the Bethlehem marketing firm Spark. ”It’s a way for our clients to form relationships with their customers, communicate back and forth and get customer feedback.”
Twitter allows users to send ”tweets,” which are similar to Facebook status updates or blog posts, except users are limited to 140 characters. Twitter.com had more than 21 million unique visitors in March, and its traffic has plateaued in the past year. Local users say it is a good way to market businesses, meet people and stay informed.
But tweeting alone doesn’t replace personal connections, which is why Forks Township resident Mike Andreano organized the first LVTweetup last year. The event was a success, and his social media training business Be The Bee has coordinated monthly Tweetups since that have become a tradition for local Twitter users.
Tuesday’s event, which drew about 50 people to the Brew Works, was the first birthday for the LVTweetup.
”It validates relationships,” Andreano said about meeting people in person. ”People want to put a face with a personality they’ve been following for months.”
He modeled the event after similar gatherings in other cities. The success shows that social media have taken root in the Lehigh Valley, he said.
”We are a metro area, like New York City and Philadelphia,” Andreano said. ”It’s putting us on the map with regard to social media.
At the event, people chatted over pints of beer and chicken fingers. They hugged and shook hands, often meeting for the first time people they have been communicating with in cyberspace.
”I feel like I know them,” said Donald Flad Jr., a Twitter user from Bethlehem after meeting an online friend for the first time. ”We’ve been conversing for months, so I just give them a big hug.”
Hosfeld, the insurance agent from Emmaus, has been tweeting for about a year. She compared Twitter to a print newsletter businesses have traditionally used to communicate with customers. Except the print newsletter might be done quarterly, require a lot of production work and cost to distribute, and become stale before it is circulated, she said.
With Twitter, the communication is quick, simple and allows for a dialogue with the customer instead of one-way communication from business to client, she said.
After the earthquake that killed hundreds of people in Chile in February, Hosfeld used social media to ask customers how they would prepare for a similar catastrophe.
”For me, the biggest thing isn’t always being on the hunt for new business, but retention,” she said. ”Social media lets us provide more value to our customers and retain them. It allows us to communicate with them in a way we never could before.”
Richardson, who is starting a delivery business, has been using Twitter for about a year. The Emmaus resident, who works as a security guard, said Twitter is an affordable marketing tool. He hopes to reach up to 10,000 potential clients through valuable word-of-mouth referrals through his followers and their followers since information on Twitter is easily shared.
”It’s great for a new business,” he said. ”It gets you exposed to a lot of new contacts and it doesn’t cost a lot. All you need is a phone or a computer.”
Copyright © 2010, The Morning Call
As I have done in the past, I set up a portable studio and took free Social Media Portraits for anyone that wanted them. And here are my images from that night. [Click on any image to see full size.]