Local Arts Agency Tweetup: A New Approach to Networking
In late February, we at the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County hosted our first-ever #CreativeMoCo Tweetup for creatives in and around Montgomery County, MD.
Why did we, a local arts council, host a tweetup?
- Our constituents asked for it. They wanted the opportunity meet others in a casual, laidback, unstructured setting. (We’re fans of speed networking, but had to put those impulses aside for this particular event.)
- While we’re active on social media, we‘ve never had the chance to meet most of our followers and fans face to face. And isn’t eventually creating real, genuine interactions the whole point of social media?
- We saw this as an amazing opportunity to not only meet and introduce creatives to each other, but to mobilize them and take them to the next step of becoming self-identified arts advocates.
The tweetup was first announced on Facebook and Twitter, which generated over 40 registrations in two days. As I saw the number climb, I was amazed at the number of people registering that we didn’t know.
Since we used the term “creative community” instead of “cultural community” in marketing the tweetup, we had everyone from magazine editors to restaurant owners to DJs in attendance.
Based on our experience hosting our tweetup, here are some tips I can share with you on hosting your own, especially one that is advocacy-based:
Get your staff on the same page. Without buy-in from our staff, this event would have never gotten off the ground. It’s also important to clarify your goals and expectations so everyone’s on the same page. What kind of vibe do you want the room to have? What role do staff play in creating that vibe? What is the impact you’re hoping to make? What are some measurable outcomes?
Find an awesome partner. To make the tweetup happen, we partnered with The Fillmore Silver Spring, a Live Nation venue that had just opened around the corner, looking to gain a foothold in the community. In addition to letting us use their VIP Vertigo Lounge, they offered drink specials and even gave attendees tickets to that night’s show, the Pink Floyd Experience. Great group of creatives + great venue = killer event.
Help people engage IRL (In Real Life). Being on Twitter wasn’t a requirement to attend, and we were careful to create an environment that made people put down their phones and connect with others in the room.
We knew this would be the first time that many people would come in contact with our organization, so we prepared handouts that summarized what we do and how attendees can get involved.
On the back side of the handout, we created a sort of scavenger hunt where they could check off the kinds of people they met that evening: “someone who lives in the same city/neighborhood as I do,” “a fellow artist in the same discipline,” “someone who doesn’t own a smartphone.” In addition to that list, we included a “Things To Do” list: “follow @creativemoco,” “sign up for the Take Action newsletter,” “pat myself on the back.”
We also set up a “Tweets in Real Life” board asking the question: “What makes Montgomery County creative?” Attendees were encouraged to answer the questions on post-its scattered around on tables and at the bar, then post their answer on the board. Now that’s real live-tweeting.
Give them that “ah-ha!” moment. We wanted our attendees to know that yes, their voice does make a difference, and that “advocacy” is a totally doable thing that fits into their lifestyles.
Our CEO, Suzan Jenkins, gave a rousing five-minute talk on the role of the arts in a community and what it means to be an arts advocate: “If you have told your friends about a great performance, event, or class you went to, you are an arts advocate.”
This is my favorite tweet from the evening:
It was so cool to see the lightbulbs come on around the room, and that was the exact outcome we wanted.
Continue the conversation online. With the #creativemoco hashtag, the conversation can be continued online between attendees. We can also let our “tweeps” know what events we have coming up, what opportunities they can take advantage of and what we need help with.
It was an amazing event, and one we may repeat! You can read tweets from the tweetup on Storify.
Have you hosted a tweetup? What did you find most successful?