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Tweet-Ups with a Conscience

Tweet-Ups with a Conscience

If charity begins at home, and your home on the web is virtual, then where do you find it? Charity, not home. Twestival will be the largest social media charity event to date, and will be held on Thursday, February 12th. While the name sounds like a fictional holiday from the Seinfeld TV show, it is real, it is social and it is huge.

Twitter + festival = Twestival.

Sure, it has a fun name, but it has a serious goal: raise money and awareness for a major cause with thousands of Twitter users gathering (in person) in more than 185 cities, including Boston, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Sydney, and Beijing.

Tweet-ups, or gatherings of users of the microblogging social media site Twitter, have become more common as their communities mature. Many ad hoc tweet-ups have focused on social and mostly local issues.

The first Twestival was held last September when a London-based group focused on helping a local homeless charity. This core group became the force behind this global event.

Culturally, this is continuing a movement of online social media not only crossing into ‘off-line’ life, but improving it. The trend is growing and will have interesting and potentially exciting long term results.

charity:water, a New York-based non-profit organization that brings clean drinking water to the populations of developing nations will be the beneficiary of the event. One in six people do not have access to safe water, resulting in 42,000 weekly deaths around the world.

“We’re already blown away by the global reception and how keen people are to invest their time and energy for free to the Twestival and get behind charity: water,” according to Amanda Rose, one of the organizers. “Social Tweet-ups like this are a great way to meet the faces behind those avatars while raising a lot of money for a fantastic cause. Twestival is organized 100 percent by volunteers and 100 percent of all event proceeds will go directly to support charity: water projects in developing countries, which will positively impact the lives of thousands.”

In Boston, a team of ten volunteers had a less than a month to bring everything together. “Social media is changing the face of fundraising forever by allowing groups of people from around the world to join together in support of a cause they are passionate about,” according to Boston Twestival volunteer organizer Justin Whitaker. “The hardest part was finding the location.”

The flagship event will be held in London while simultaneous events happen in major Twitter cities around the world. (Check for a location near you.)

As you would expect, technology will be a key element to the event. Numerous companies have stepped up, including Live Earth to livestream the events. As Europe winds up their events, the U.S. East coast will begin theirs. It will be a interesting synergy to see it all unfold, especially as the sites interact.

Twitter was quietly offering guidance to help the organizers develop an event that appears to keep growing. Local sponsors are continuing to grow as well.

Many Twitter users found it interesting that the U.K.-based organizers selected a U.S.-based charity, and just one organization at that. While admitting the complications of exchange rates, the organizers believed the positives far outweighs the negatives, especially when just looking at the awareness that Twestival can bring. A single organization with a simple message simplifies it all: Provide clean, safe drinking water is a simple concept. One charity offers a simple message.

It’s a great answer: Make it simple to effectively communicate and to relate to the need.

There are potentially a lot of things the organizers did right, and a lot of lessons that will need to be shared after the event. The first year is always the hardest. There is a web infrastructure in place using WordPress mu, the multiuser flavor of the popular WordPress online publishing platform. The private and public areas can be used to leverage best practices and measure results. The teams are in place around the world and thousands have signed up (and paid their donation). This is a sustainable event.

This could be a model for growing large not-for-profit and possibly for-profit events. The case study potential from the event should be very interesting, and I look forward to the wrap up.

Meanwhile, if you can’t make a Twestival, check it out online. I’ll wave to you on the video stream.

Wayne Kurtzman is a senior marketing analyst who loves the shiny toys of technology and online communities. He has led knowledge management and web analytics practices for startups and larger companies including Intel. Wayne also is active at the international level of Destination ImagiNation, a not-for-profit organization that fosters teamwork, innovation, and creative problem solving skills in students from kindergarten through college.

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