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Let’s Face It-Real Conversations Require More than 140 Characters

Guest Post: Jenn Whinnem

While we can forge and foster some strong bonds over social networks, nothing can quite replace face-to-face interaction. Moving from Twitter to the tweet-up is a great solution.  A tweet-up–a mash-up of the words “tweet” and “meet-up”–is simply a physical meet-up of people who know each other over Twitter.  It serves as an antidote to the irony of social media: for all of the opportunities it provides for connection with others on an unprecedented scale, it is essentially a lonely activity. It’s you and your screen of choice. Whether you’re in front of your computer monitor, bending over your tablet or thumbing furiously on your phone, you have to block out the world around you to interact with others. A tweet-up affords the opportunity to meet the person behind the avatar and to deepen the connection.

At last year’s annual Communications Network in Boston I had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth Miller, communications associate at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, during a break-out session. We quickly realized we had similar job responsibilities, and I made sure that I got her Twitter handle before I left the conference so that I could foster the connection I’d made during the conference.

Later that year, I got to thinking about tweet-ups and my social media peers in philanthropy. With all of us spread across the country, that would seem to rule out the idea of a monthly tweet-up. But wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if the social media managers of philanthropy could have a telephone tweet-up once a month and pick each other’s brains? A conference call, after all, is voices in real time – much more personal than being alone with your screen.We know that we can learn a lot from our peers. It’s one of the reasons the Communications Network brings us all together once a year in person, and throughout the rest of the year, virtually through the blog and the listserv and webinars. We are more effective in our work when we have the opportunity to share our knowledge and experiences and think through challenges.

And thus the concept of a monthly “virtual tweet-up”  was born. The Social Media Managers in Philanthropy Virtual Tweet-up (wanted: a new name) has been meeting monthly via teleconference since January. We started small, to test how effective this format could be.  Elizabeth and I recruited other social media managers of varying capacity and started to create the camaraderie necessary for such an endeavor to work.  In fact, Elizabeth and I laid out a few ground rules to guide us:

  • It is a safe space. What happens in the virtual tweet-up stays in the virtual tweet-up. We trust each other to share our challenges and not have them show up on Facebook the next day and we certainly don’t judge each other. Learning from challenges and mistakes can be just as important as learning from social media successes.
  • The only requirement for participation is a spirit of generosity and that social media is an integral part of your work. Communications professionals from all sizes of foundations are welcome. Capacity is not a factor. We wanted people to bring their ideas, challenges, experience and curiosity to the table.
  • We can continue the work outside of the phone call. We can use Google Docs (now Google Drive) to surface topic ideas, share resources, and ask questions in between phone calls.
  • It is flexible and will shape-shift to fit the needs of its participants. Sometimes we discuss the tools of the trade. Other times we brainstorm or problem-solve for each other. We do try to plan ahead for topics but often adapt in real time to fill a specific need.

Now, here’s where you come in.  We’re looking to expand and we want you to join! So, to find out how this group can help you be more effective in your work, join us for a real in-person tweet-up this year in Seattle at the Fall Conference. Find us at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 12 during the breakfast roundtables slot. Come ask Elizabeth, me, and other participants how our tweet-up can help you.

If you won’t be in Seattle or can’t attend the roundtable but are interested in participating, please reach out to either of us on Twitter. We can be found at @jennwhinnem and @ElzbthMllr.

Jenn Whinnem is the communications officer for the Connecticut Health Foundation.

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