By Anshuman Joshi www.khaleejtimes.com
A tweet for a tweet and the whole world sounds sweet.Or, at least that’s what the Tweeple in Dubai would want us to believe.
And why shouldn’t they?
They have the numbers to stack their claims that social networking is working overtime not only to bring online identities into the real domain, but helping people globalise social causes and drive businesses forward.
That optimism will be on display when about 500 of the region’s most prominent tweetizens will come together for the first of their biannual meet-ups for 2010, the Dubai Twestival Global at the InterContinetal Hotel in the city later this evening.
Part of a global fund-raising campaign to help millions of children who don’t have the opportunity to go to school, this event will align Dubai with 175 other cities worldwide who are having similar events to raise money towards the effort.
“The idea behind the event is simple – tweet, meet and give,” says PR Gulati, the co-organiser and one of the major driving forces behind the Twestival.
“Whilst last year’s event was held in support of Charity: Water, 2010’s Twestival Global turns its focus to education and the 72 million children in the world who are not able to attend school due to extreme poverty. And so we’re very proud to be part of it, as it supports Concern Worldwide,” Gulati said.
“Apart from that the Twestival also gives tweeters a chance to meet people that they only know by their handles on Twitter. Over the two previous twestivals that have been organised people have become good friends, and their collaborative approach towards doing things has worked very well, for instance the Twitter Book Club is now very popular,” he added.
For someone who has been associated with the event since its inception in the early part of 2009, Gulati admits to being completely mind-boggled by the growth of the medium.
“When we first organised Twestival in February last year there were barely 1,000 people tweeting from the region, of which about 150 made it to the event. The next time around, six months later, the number of users had grown to 5000-7000, and we had 300 people attending,” Gulati added.
“This time around, we have close to 15,000-20,000 microbloggers in the UAE, and that is a significant portion of the 40,000-odd numbers who are using the medium in the Middle East. So the growth has been exponential. We expect 500-600 people to be there at the event this time around.”
What according to him is also surprising is the diversity of people on Twitter.
“Not only do we have students, but professionals from all walks of life who are playing an active part in its growth as a medium of instant communication. We have been able to use these numbers very effectively. Last year it was the combined efforts of all the tweeters in the region that helped us make the launch of Dubai Metro and the inauguration of Burj Khalifa as the most trending topics on the website,” Gulati said.
Explaining the spurt in numbers, he ascribes it to the fact that businesses seem to discovering the marketing potential of the medium.
“Marketing professionals are exploring the medium to understand the sort of tangible and intangible benefits they can accrue by being there,” he said.
Dell actually came out with numbers to prove that it has worked rather effectively for them. They said that they made $3 million last year on Twitter-based events, which helped them sell their machines to the masses.
In the Middle East, du’s success with their tweets is an example worth emulating if you want to gauge the impact that medium has on the mindsets of consumers.
When they started tweeting, they ran a risk of people coming back to them with only complaints.
That did happen, but what also did happen was that it created a bond between the service provider and the consumer. They were able to redress problems, offer, newer, better deals and it worked for them. They have a lot of tweets commending them for services that others are too busy to tweet about.
So businesses are using different ways to reach out to clients, in fact some of them are using it to get new ones, like InterContinental hotel at Dubai Festival City.
They are active on the Internet and twitter and they found out it was effective to reach out to diners by creating special deals around their culinary desires.”
Great Marketing Tool
“As a social marketing tool, it works wonders from start-ups and medium to small enterprises, because they find it easier to perpetuate their sales, marketing and social objectives online.
“Bigger businesses on the other hand have to make a conscious decision if they want to use the services as a marketing or a customer services channel. The good thing about Twitter is that it is more engaging than a broadcast medium because it not only can they communicate with consumers from a one-to-many point of view, but on a strictly one-to-one basis as well. I think consumer-led organisations can reap a lot of benefit by being on networking sites like Twitter.” – Narain Jashanmal, General Manager, Jashanmal Book Stores
“People in this city have a very busy lives and it’s social events like this that enables them to meet people that they have only corresponded with virtually. It also allows them to explore the use of medium as a business opportunity so it works very well.” – Carrington Malin, Managing Director, Spot On PR.