Anyone looking for proof of the power of social media needed to look no further than the third Westchester TweetUp, at the Jacob Burns Film Center’s Media Arts Lab in Pleasantville on Jan. 21.
The event brought together more than 80 people interested in learning more about how to communicate their message through various forms of new media. It also featured a keynote address by “Be the Media” author David Mathison as well as networking opportunities for guests. This was the third event organized by Westchester140, a group of six Westchester residents that promotes community through social media in Westchester.
The event, which was fully booked within six days of being announced, raised more than $1,300 for ShelterBoxUSA, a non-profit organization assisting in the relief efforts in Haiti.
More than a dozen of the attendees live or work in Pleasantville, but guests from all over Westchester and beyond comprised the attendee list. Tim Massie traveled from Poughkeepsie to attend the event with hopes of meeting others who share his view of social media’s usefulness and potential.
“It’s important to meet others who are using social media so I can learn from them,” said Massi, the chief public affairs officer and an adjunct professor at Marist College. “I’m teaching future communicators, and [my students] need to know how to get their messages across and break through the clutter. Traditional forms of media will still be around, but as we learned Thursday night, each person has the potential to be his or her own medium.”
Other attendees included communications professionals, small business owners, representatives from local non-profits, students and attorneys. They heard Mathison speak about ways they can employ social media to amplify their message through Twitter, Facebook and blogs without additional expenditures.
Mathison, an internationally recognized media consultant, speaker, publisher, radio host and hi-tech entrepreneur, has more than 25 years of experience in content distribution. More than 5,000 copies of “Be the Media” sold in just 11 days via his Web site, blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Mathison is also a former vice president at Reuters, the world’s largest news agency, The event was widely discussed throughout Westchester, both in face-to-face conversations and online, via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook.
“This event was a success; people are still talking about it,” said Sarah O’Grady, a founding member of Westchester140. “Immediately following (the event), people wanted to know when the next one would be. Our TweetUps provide a comfortable, non-intimidating environment for people to discover, explore and share their social media experiences and practices.”
The selection of ShelterBoxUSA as the recipient of the event’s proceeds was another example of the power of social media. The organizers were looking for a way to help in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, and they had gotten to know ShelterBox team member Yi Shun Lai at the first two TweetUps held last year. Lai used social media extensively as a way to amplify her communications efforts.
“ShelterBox has been using social media to its advantage during this highly important time,” said Lai. “Since social media is now regarded as a place to get quick news, it makes sense that our home office would use this medium to quickly and easily document the moment our boxes hit the ground, for instance, and that we would use another account to quickly update our followers on what our teams are doing in the field.”
“And, of course, when I’ve had a great fundraising day and multiple folks or companies are responsible for it, well, I get to thank them quickly and publicly,” Lai added.
Denise Treco, the Jacob Burns Film Center’s director of marketing and owner of Flour & Sun Bakery in Pleasantville, was enthusiastic about the event. She said she was pleased that the film center was able to bring the Twitter community together to meet face-to-face, and visit the media arts lab as well.
“The key to successful marketing has always been about [building] relationships, Treco said. “Social media allows you to do just that in a meaningful way.”
The venue was donated by the Jacob Burns Film Center, Mathison donated his speaking services, and food and drink was provided by the sponsors, POUR Café and Wine Bar, Sundance Deli, Flour & Sun Cupcake Bakery, and Captain Lawrence Brewery. Attendees also went home with gift bags, overflowing with goodies donated by local businesses.
Westchester140 consists of Andy Barovick, Anthony Colasacco, Chris S. Cornell, Chris Dessi, Sarah O’Grady, and Adam Stone. This article was written by Chris S. Cornell and appeared in the January 26, 2010 issue of The Examiner.