In May 2009 I had noticed that quite a few of my virtual Twitter friends seemed to be living or working quite close to me in Ealing, west London. This was not as strange as it might seem, there were a lot of media people in the area with the BBC and Sky close by plus quite a few advertising and PR firms in the area.
But I still found it intriguing so I tweeted a message suggesting that any other Twitter users from the area come and join me in the Rose and Crown pub on a Friday evening. And so on Friday May 29th 2009, the Ealing Tweeting – better known as #ealingtu – was born.
If you Google “Ealing Tweetup” now, it gets mentioned around 8,000 times. That’s because it grew into a regular gathering of people in west London with an interest in social media up to the point that when I left the UK, the last tweetup I managed to attend had about 250 people attending, a couple of live bands playing and free drinks from the bar!
On that first occasion in May 2009, there was no sponsorship or free drinks or live music. However, there was around a dozen people who randomly came together to have a chat with some strangers just because of a tweet. And the nice thing was that they were not all from the media or PR or advertising businesses.
There were local politicians, teachers, journalists, photographers, actors, charity workers, and business consultants. It was a real mix of professions and everyone was drawn together because of where they lived and the use of Twitter.
The event was never formal or organised. Sometimes people complained that they wanted it to be more structured, with name badges and a list of attendees, but I never really saw it that way. Even when I convinced some companies to shell out so we could have free drinks, what they got for their money was very much up to them.
If you had a pub full of bloggers then what would you do? I think the very last thing would be a hard sell on your products or asking people to tweet in return for a pint. The companies who supported the event could see the value in it and the event has persisted.
I have managed to attend a couple of tweetups since I left London, but it’s clearly not easy being a very long flight away – they need to coincide with one of my business trips back to London. And so unfortunately I am going to miss the next one on February 26th.
This one will be special because Tom Tucker – the boss at the Rose and Crown – supported the idea from the start and he helped it to grow and now he is leaving the Rose. He promoted the events when many customers would ask what on earth a tweetup is all about and he had the good fortune to see it grow and become one of the biggest social media gatherings in London – right there in his pub.
Tom is off to a new challenge in Brighton, but the next tweetup is going to be themed as his leaving party so if you are in London I urge you, go along and see what it’s all about. It is possible to have a social media gathering that is not dominated by people talking about sentiment analysis and how their client reacted to a negative tweet. This is normal people who use social media getting together to have a chat about how it works in their life.