How to Do a First Time International Tweet Up

I’m not a heavy user of Twitter, but I’ve found it to be very useful for a handful of things. One of those is creating dialogue around a particular event. If you get enough people tweeting about the same thing in a certain period of time, you wind up with a collective of notes and ideas that’s really useful to dig into later on. It’s also a great way to see who’s paying attention to a particular subject (ie, your company), who’s coming up with the most interesting new ideas, as well as to find new people who might be worth networking with later on. For example, I’ve used Twitter quite successfully to draw attention to certain tracks at conferences, discovering new collaborators along the way.

One of the more entertaining parts of my recent jaunt to Abu Dhabi was the “digital dialogue” put together by Masdar and Tim Hurst of LiveOAK Media. The purpose was to discuss various topics on the future of energy, and also to bring some attention to the Masdar company and their various clean energy projects. It was quite possibly the first “tweet up” of any scale attempted in Abu Dhabi and by all accounts, everyone did a great job in unfamiliar territory.  Here’s how they pulled it off:

First, any successful twitter event needs the following 4 ingredients:

  1. An agreed upon hashtag.
    Seems obvious, but many twitter beginners sometimes over look this necessity. In the case of last week’s tweet up, the tag was #tweetmasdar. Take a look at the link and you’ll see hundreds of 140 character messages, questions and answers about the various subjects that were discussed during the event. It takes a little data-mining, but individuals can be identified and popular ideas and opinions can be parsed out – creating a general zeitgeist of the subject matter.  With some more work, you can tell who was there from the beginning and who dropped in later having stumbled upon it.

    It doesn’t really matter what the hashtag is, only that everyone involved knows it, and that it’s short and sweet (every character is precious!)

  2. A set time period during which the “tweet up” will run.
    Another simple one, but you’d best have a starting point and a end point to keep people’s attention focused. Getting as many people as possible to tweet on a subject in a short period of time will attract a lot more attention than over a long period of time. Call it the “tweet density” effect.
  3. Some basic starter questions or topics.
    Twitter doesn’t need much formality, but it’s a good idea to kick things off with some specific questions to answer or items of news to react to. Otherwise, it’s just too random and disorganized. Masdar did a great job of this by posing a question every ten minutes.  Example: “What are your clean-tech and renewable energy predictions for 2011?

    The best thing about this is that anyone paying attention will reference the question carefully and draw more attention to it, resulting in a viral effect among their following – re-tweets, others answering the question, commenting on it and so on…  the net result: more impact.

  4. A decent sized “starter group.”
    Unless you have an enormous following, you’ll need a crew of at least a couple dozen interested folks to kick something off. It certainly helps if some of them have some experience with twitter and a lot of followers, but the variety of people and their commitment to the tweet-up is more important. Masdar’s event had a good mix of folks from the heavily experienced to first timers who created a twitter account on the spot.

We kicked off the event at a snazzy gallery on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island complete with hors d’oeuvres, spare laptops, and a big screen picture of the action. This afforded the first timers a much easier way to learn and added a little drama to the evening. However, while gathering your core group at a physical location is a great thing, it’s not a requirement. The internet is everywhere, after all.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, don’t forget authenticity – you can’t fake real dialogue. By making the event about clean energy and focusing on topical questions rather than themselves, Masdar found a way to authentically insert themselves into a real conversation without sounding like they were promoting themselves.  At the end of the day, everyone gets promoted anyway, but no one leaves feeling like they just got spammed.

Visitors to Abu Dhabi Tweet Away the Evening


Full disclosure – my Abu Dhabi trip was paid for by Masdar to provide coverage for the World Future Energy Summit. The physical tweet up involved various press folks also there to cover the conference.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

One response

  1. Great parsing of the event Nick. You hit on some really important topics that I’d like to re-emphasize, in particular, the benefits of “starter group” and “authenticity.”

    Having a rock star or two like yourself on hand helped, especially in terms of helping some eager-to-participate newbies.

    Masdar’s strategic decision to not make this just about their company was so smart. Sure, there are models where a company or organization could just make it about themselves but crafting the dialogue around broad topics invited participation from people who might be intimidated by a highly technical discussion.

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