As this was my first Tweetup I only had the invitation guidance to prepare me; this gave use the discussion topic and more importantly the promise of a first drink, courtesy of sponsors Stage9.
The topic, ‘How can online communities strengthen offline communities?’ was a little tough to get into. The benefits of a community operating in any medium would naturally be shared, and the common social media tools are well established. I was fortunate to find myself on a table with a diverse range of people: A marketing director, another web developer, a General Manager from a local hotel chain, his colleague the Managing Director of a local web/systems development house Magma Digital.
Aside from lots of off-topic developer talk (it had to happen!) the topic still managed to engage all participants in debate on social media in general; use of Twitter for building and sustaining community and the importance (for companies looking to use social networks) of having real people behind the account, not a brand.
While adherence to the topic waxed and waned, there was no doubting the value that the topic, and Preston Tweetup itself brought to its varied participants. Some attendees had notched up thousands of tweets over a number of years, while others were new to consuming or participating in network-mediated communities, some posting their first Tweet on the night.
Evidence of how offline communities may be strengthened by on-line ones? I heard of and signed up for Preston Tweetup online; engrossed in conversation on the night I posted few tweets but gained new friends online from those around me, and was pleased to meet in-the-flesh one person I’d known of (for a number of years) solely from the online developer community.
All told it was a great night, at a great venue. I hope Preston Tweetup’s fourth incarnation is not too long coming.