Gather ‘round, children and listen to the story of Twestival…
Funny how things still so new, seem as if they’ve been around forever. Facebook is only seven years old, Twitter is five, and Foursquare is a mere toddler at just two years old. Twestival is another of those “old favorites” that is here once again, Thursday, March 24th. This “Twitter Festival” began with Amanda Rose and a few of her pals sitting in a London pub in 2008, and has since expanded to over 200 cities worldwide, and has raised over 1.2 million dollars – every penny going to charity.
For the third Twestival, over 150 communities are hosting their own local event. “Local” being the key word this year. While in the past, Twestival held local events in support of one global charity, this year each city selected a local charity to receive all money raised at their event. So the energy (and marketing tools) of a multi-national event are combined with the passion for a local cause – whether local means small town USA or big city China. Organizers have no doubt that this will be the best Twestival ever.
WhatGives!? spoke with several of those organizers and came away – as always – impressed with the dedication and unbridled enthusiasm they have for the event. Lead Organizer for Twestival Honolulu, Ryan Ozawa, says, “I’ve been obsessed with and an evangelist for Twitter since joining in 2006, but have always heard the complaints that it’s pointless or silly. Which it is. But when the opportunity presented itself to participate in something global to harness Twitter (and other platforms) to do some real good, I absolutely wanted to be involved.”
Renda Lutz from the Des Moines, IA, organizing committee believed from the beginning that Twitter was a great way to promote an event and a charity. “I know the impact that Twitter has in the community. I’ve seen businesses grow just by using Twitter as their primary – or only – social media outlet.” She added, “Twitter can help philanthropies be wiser in what they do and wiser in who they reach.”
Austin, TX, Lead Organizer Wesley Faulkner is also a member of the South by Southwest Advisory Board. Many believe Twitter was basically “born” at SxSW in March of 2007 when its usage exploded at the conference. This year’s SxSW just wrapped and Faulkner made sure Twestival supporters and sponsors noticed the power of social media at that event. “We can use that awareness and get people to engage locally,” he said. Faulkner and his team will keep the momentum going after the event by having best photo and best blog post contests. A great idea that is sure to keep donations going afterwards as well.
One aspect that has definitely expanded this year is how the message has been spread. Although Twitter will always be the force behind Twestival, organizers are using every tool in their social media utility belt as well as a few old-school methods to build the buzz. Facebook, texting, blogs, email, radio, webcasts, local television, and, dare we say it, newspapers have all played a part in promoting the event. In Rochester, NY, organizer Rich Pulvino points out that as old media becomes more interested in social media, it becomes more open to reporting social media events. “Local reporters are more interested, and we can gauge their interest better because we get to know their personalities on social media.” Plus, “old media” isn’t old anymore when “people are getting their news through social networks, but the source of the information is the newspaper,” says Pulvino.
The causes for Twestival Local are as diverse as the cities that support them. The YWCA, an inner-city preschool, a blood bank, and Meals on Wheels will benefit from the events we’ve mentioned here. All are organizations that resonate with their specific communities and generate a real desire to give. There’s also the added bonus of bringing new supporters to a local organization. Faulkner points out that their benefiting charity also uses social media so “they can leverage what we’re doing to support their fundraising campaign.”
Oh, and did we mention how much FUN a Twestival event is? There is food and drink and music and raffles and contests and all the general fun-ness that happens when great people get together. Honolulu’s Ozawa points out one of the best parts of their event is the way it reflects the incredible diversity of the Hawai’ian Islands. “Our first Twestival had a mix of rock and soul musicians, our second emphasized women artists, and this year we’ve probably got the most eclectic mix yet, from a soulful singer songwriter to a beatboxer, giving us a sound ranging from traditional Hawaiian to rap!”
Pulvino is convinced that there will be Twestival events in every city in the US within the next couple of years. “We get to do something that’s going on around the world that also has an impact on our community.” Lutz adds, “Twestival takes people off-line and brings them together for local philanthropy and to make a difference.”