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Tweeters meet and connect with real-time truck crash

September 20th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Jakob Asplund

LOGAN—As members of the Social Media Club of Cache Valley got together for a “Tweet-Up” last week, the lights flickered and urgent tweets about a semi-truck crash and fire down the road in Providence started hitting dozens of smart phones around the room.

This is one of the strengths of social networking—instantaneous messages about breaking news, as well as less critical announcements, all in 140 characters or fewer.

The Social Media Club of Cache Valley (SMCCV) is part of a worldwide social media organization called the Social Media Club, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco. Cache Valley’s group started in 2009.

“We want to be a voice of social media,” SMCCV administrator Nancy Williams said. “Most people interested want to know how to use social media for their businesses, but we welcome everyone.”

Preston Parker, who helped launch the group, called it a network of likeminded individuals who get together and talk about things like why people are addicted to playing games on Facebook.

Aside from constant Tweets that keep the members connected, the group organizes monthly meetings at local restaurants.

“We are usually 15 to 25 people at these meetings,” Williams said. “We would like to be able to fill up Border’s, but it’s a long way to get there.”

To an outsider, the “tweet-up” at Café Sabor in Logan could have seemed like more of a social gathering of friends than a chapter meeting of a worldwide social network. People shared anecdotes and discussed everything from comments made on a blog run by Loralee Choate, a group administrator and professional blogger, to their cellphone apps.

“We don’t have lectures,” Williams said. “We sometimes have panels that consist of up to three people but there is never a lecture.”

The talk at the meeting was a little geeky as members threw slang around, sometimes making it hard for newcomers to follow. New faces turned into confused faces as a Web Solutions expert and group administrator Jason Williams explained how to link a Twitter account to a Facebook page and make the email notification from that Facebook page send out a text to a cellphone.

Williams said companies already have the tools to be successful in using social media for promotions and to connect potential customers, but in many cases they lack the skills to use these tools properly.

Williams’ cellphone makes it easier for her to keep updated on Twitter. “I get a text so my phone beeps when someone DMs me,” she said. “Twitter is the greatest tool in social media.”

Williams said Twitter also helps users get to the point efficiently, as “tweets” can be no longer than 140 characters, including spaces. She said people who follow organizations and people on Twitter and start to post their own comments learn to get the message out more succinctly.

During the group’s dinner-meeting at Café Sabor last week, Tweeters circulated, socialized and compared Twitter news updates on their cellphones. Updates on the semi-truck crash in Providence, which resulted in a fireball and injuries to 10 people, reached these connected social media professionals within four minutes. For the next 15 minutes, they walked around, receiving and sending tweets, texts and phone calls to find out what had happened.

“Four minutes was actually slower than I expected,” Williams said later, remembering other news stories that had reached her in under a minute. When USAirways flight 1549 was forced to ditch into the Hudson River in January 2009, the first news circulated on Twitter within seconds.

Williams said the latest SMCCV meeting, coinciding with the breaking news of a traffic crash, provided a great illustration of the value and power of social media.

“We were crowd-sourcing using Twitter,” she said.

The club meets on the second Tuesday of every month from September through April. For information, check the group’s blog at http://smccv.blogspot.com/, or send a Tweet.


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