I have been using Twitter as a communications tool for a little over a year now. My friends and family, most of whom aren’t involved in any sort of social media, just don’t get it. They echo the sentiments of traditional journalists – “Why would I care what a bunch of people had for breakfast?”
Now, I almost never tweet about what I had for breakfast, but I understand the general sentiment – for many people, Twitter seems like a jumbled, collective stream of conscious. And in many ways it is. But this past weekend I attended Blissdom, a conference aimed at female bloggers (with a number of brave men interspersed throughout) and it reminded me what I love about Twitter and about social media in general.
Twitter impacted my conference experience long before I boarded the plane to Nashville. As I was looking for a roommate, I met Amy from Click Clack Mom on Twitter and we agreed to share a room. Amy and I had never spoken – or tweeted – prior to that point, so it was a leap of faith for both of us. It turned out to be one of the highlights of my conference experience and I hope she and I will stay friends for a long time to come.
During my flight to Nashville, I had a layover in Atlanta. And as I sat waiting to board the plane, I heard someone a woman exclaim, “I overheard you talking about Twitter!” to another pair of women who were in the waiting area. After eavesdropping for a few more minutes, I felt pretty confident that they were on their way to Blissdom as well and introduced myself. It turns out that I followed a couple of the women on Twitter and had chatted with them on occasion. Upon arriving in Nashville, I learned that I had missed an opportunity to have a prearranged car pickup, but these lovely women advocated for me and brought me along in their car.
Blissdom took place at the Gaylord Opryland hotel which, if you’ve never experienced it, is rather like living in a biodome. The massive hotel has fountains, waterfalls, a river, restaurants, clubs, shopping plazas and a permanent 72 degree climate. I had some trouble finding my room (which is another story entirely) and was able to commiserate with others via Twitter who had the same experience.
I considered taking a nap, but shortly after I arrived, I saw a tweet from a friend that she and another Twitter friend were about to arrive at the airport. “I’m coming down to see you!” I tweeted and ran back through the hotel. It was fun to serve as the “welcome party” to a friend I had met at a prior conference and a new friend who I had never met in person. Since it was her first conference, she told me how nice it was to have someone come and greet her. And I looked back to my first big blogging conference where Anissa and Amy took me under their wings. (Thanks again for that, ladies!)
Throughout the conference, we used Twitter to share notes from the workshops, gather impromptu meetups for lunch and dinner and just keep tabs on each other. Those who weren’t able to join us were kept in touch and follow along from home.
My biggest Twitter moment came on the last day of the conference. I had misplaced a sweater on my first day and had no luck finding it via the hotel’s lost and found system. I was kind of upset as I had only purchased it the day before flying out so I decided to send out a last minute tweet to find out if anyone had seen it. Not long after, I got an email with a direct message. A friend of mine in NY (the fab Melissa), who wasn’t attending the conference, had retweeted my message to her followers. It so happened that one of her followers was the childcare agency in Nashville that was doing the onsite care for Blissdom. My sweater was in the childcare room! I’m still amazed by how that worked out.
For those that use Twitter, none of this will come as a surprise, but for those who wonder at the allure, this is just a small example of what a powerful tool it is. We’ve already seen it used for massive mobilizations of support, fundraising, and information sharing. And, if you’re lucky, those who tweet what they’re having for breakfast will supply a recipe as well.