The historic neighbourhood of Ealing was rocking last night as 250 bloggers joined together to celebrate the latest Ealing Tweetup - better known as #ealingtu to users of the social networking service.
I started the Ealing Tweetup three years ago as a meeting where a few local neighbours, who all used Twitter, got together to talk about their online experiences - it was initially no more than a single table of people chatting together. For the event this week, even the Mayor of London was sending an apology explaining that the only reason he was not coming was because of his commitments for the London Olympic games.
I left London and moved to São Paulo just over a year ago, but thanks to @haydens30 the event lived on and grew bigger. The event now features branded sponsorship, but in a subtle way that retains the neighbourhood quality of the event. Global customer service giant Teleperformance were the main sponsor last night ensuring the bar kept serving and the band were paid, but they had no visible presence - no banners and no sales literature in the venue.
This is important to me personally. The event started out as a neighbourhood meeting place and morphed into something bigger because of the strategic location. Ealing is stuck between the BBC and Sky and there are many industry analysts and media professionals living in the area - the neighbourhood event was soon attracting people from the media with enormous online profiles.
This meant it was easier to grow the event and gain sponsorship, but it has always been done in a way that doesn't detract from the content of the event itself.
On his blog, the UK CEO of Teleperformance, Alistair Niederer, explains why he supported the Tweetup: "The important thing for Teleperformance is having access to these social media power users. Most of them are not going to be clients of ours, or even future clients, but they are people using advanced social media tools. That's useful for us because social media is becoming an important part of how customer service operates - we can innovate and see the future by interacting with people at events like this."
Teleperformance chose to work with the bloggers to get exposure. They announced that the best photo of the event takem during the evening and uploaded to Twitter would receive a £200 voucher for Amazon.com. The prize was eventually awarded to Rupa Huq, an academic and the former deputy mayor of Ealing, who had only recently joined Twitter - and she only joined because of the Tweetup!
The Fuller's brewery, owners of the Rose and Crown pub, were also supportive. Rose and Crown manager, Tom Tucker, offered free food from the garden BBQ to anyone attending the pub because of the Tweetup and 200 pints of free London Pride beer to get the party started.
Fullers also offered an Amazon Kindle for the best photo of one of their products taken during the event, helping to promote their own use of Twitter - the manager of the pub regularly uses the service to promote special events at the venue.
Even the band was taking advantage of having such a connected audience. The BibleCode Sundays were showcasing material from their new album and they asked the audience to upload a photo to their Facebook fan page, promising a new Kindle Touch for the fan photo with the most 'likes' by the end of July.
All these competitions and promotions are more valuable than any event featuring banners and posters. In London, Fullers is a normal brand. Where I live in São Paulo, I can find Fullers beer, but it is a super premium product, costing about £8 a bottle. When they run a promotion like this - reaching out to people via Twitter - the promotion extends far beyond the pub in Ealing and can even make someone in Brazil go for a pint of London Pride.
Even before the Tweetup started last night, the invitation page had been visited over 13,000 times and mentioned on Twitter over 700 times. It's clear that brands like Teleperformance can cleverly amplify their support of an event by ensuring that many of the participants are active on social networks - in addition to having access to these people during the event, allowing them to gather ideas for their own business.
The next Ealing Tweetup is scheduled during the global Social Media Week at the end of September. After the success of this one, I doubt they will have any trouble finding a brand to support the next, but if you are interested then why not reach out to @MGreer_PR - the new organiser of the Tweetup...
Follow Mark Hillary on Twitter: www.twitter.com/markhillary