This afternoon on Twitter (a micro-blogging social network populated by many people here in Des Moines) a massive discussion erupted surrounding the nature of how our local tweetups are organized. Feel free to follow the conversation by tracking the #dmtweetup hashtag here.
First, let's start with some definitions. Tweetups, simply put, are meetups for Twitter users. These events happen in cities all over the world, and are meant to be decentralized and self-organizing. By that definition, anybody on Twitter can call for a tweetup, and there is no clear "leader." Common themes are: meeting new friends, cocktails, good conversation, and a little bit of networking on the side.
The definition of sponsorship is that these companies provided booze, food, a venue, or all three things.
Some facts: Tweetups were born from discussions between myself, Andy Brudtkuhl
, and a couple of others in the fall of 2007 as a way to connect Des Moines' talented (but at the time disconnected) creative class. As things evolved, Andy and I were seen as "heads" of this Twitter community. When a local business showed interest in getting involved, they often reached out to us first, and we helped steer them on how to best engage the community.
Today, Andy and I were criticized
for serving as a "chokepoint" for businesses trying to connect with the Des Moines Twitter community, and legitimizing companies who might approach it in the wrong way. A monetization discussion also came up: whether or not we profited from organizing any of these events.
IowaBiz.com is not a channel for the emotion and personal biases of today's debate. We'll leave that on Twitter. So let's just focus on othe core theme that came up today: Can tweetups - a self-organizing event by nature - still be a tweetup with a sponsor?
The opinions differ wildly, and I wanted to share a few of them below:
@aroger my 2 cents, #dmtweetup should be inspired, organized, and promoted by the community, THEN a sponser can add value
@scottrocketship Businesses should come to us, the community, not someone or someone's in particular. Let us disagree WITH them, publicly.
@amyraelle for what it's worth, i appreciate anyone who plans events for me .... sponsors or no.
@paragonitpros We had a blast at the #dmtweetup we sponsored (as in bought a round) in September. No agenda, other than to meet tweeps.
@clairecelsi I've always been of the mind that Tweetup sponsors are just trying to contribute to the success of the event, not hard sell.
@jensenrf sure you (businesses) got to go to someone but this is dmtweetup.org and not lavarow. Community should feel cheated if not in the loop. Perception.
One of the better suggestions to come out of today's debate was Neil Roberts' idea of disclosing exactly who is calling for the tweetup within the event details on Upcoming.org. Was it a member of the Twitter community, or a business? There's another idea floating around of a video interview with multiple Des Moines tweeps containing their practical advice on what makes a successful sponsored tweetup. This would serve as an educational "howto" for local businesses.
Now it's your turn to chime in below, if you haven't already. Your perspective is always welcome here at IowaBiz.com.