If you want to get an idea of the value of Twitter, here’s my experience in establishing an ‘unconference‘ and publicising it quickly and cheaply.
Last week, myself and Mick Fealty of Slugger O’Toole launched PICamp. We did it using a free-of-charge Ning website and the whole development took about an hour – soup-to-nuts (as they say in the film industry).
Mick put a couple of posts on Slugger O’Toole to get a bit of interest and within a few days we had over fifty people signed up on the site. On Friday lunchtime, I set up a PICamp Twitter account. I found a handful of key political twitterers in Northern Ireland and followed all of the contacts that they have as followers / followees. Within a short time I had nearly 1,000 people that are likely to be interested finding out about PICamp for the first time in a fairly unobtrusive way.
Over 140 twitterers were following PICamp back within 24 hours and the numbers have grown steadily since.
Anti-spam purists (and by most standards, that description fits me quite well) may find this slighlty objectionable, but by any utilitarian calculation, I’d argue that it’s OK to use a permissive system to market a non-profit conference about how social media can improve politics.
Getting 2-300 people in the door of an unconference in London is fairly easy these days. BarCamp Belfast attracted similar numbers using a template that social media geeks would be waiting for.
Politicos, however, are another matter altogether. If we can pull something like this around, attracting around eighty people for an afternoon of lively debate (on a weekday during a European Election campaign) I think it will demonstrate quite a strong convening power – bearing in mind that the whole of Northern Ireland’s total population is 1.7million – about a quarter of London.