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Over 150 social networkers attend Twestival in Dubai

Afshan Ahmed (Staff Reporter)
Filed on February 15, 2009

Dubai It was the birdie call of the @s that brought together a group of around 150 online 'followers' to the Twitterers' festival. Dubai joined 175 cities world over for Twestival 2009 on Thursday, giving online social networkers a chance to meet the real persons behind the funky names and extend support to a global cause: Water.

The end of the festival saw the UAE emerge second in running to the biggest donating country to the cause.

The new face to an old habit, Twitter is a social networking site that enables members to spread messages like wildfire and create a community of like minds. Twestival 2009 was an event organised in the virtual world by Twitter's followers, where members greeted one another by snazzy IDs.

Twestival 2009 saw its debut at Barasti, Meridien Mina Seyahi in Dubai's physical world. 'The entire event was organised via Twitter. The tweet was spread to inform people and that's how we got Meridien Mina Seyahi and Virgin Megastore Middle East to sponsor (the festival),' said @carringtonmalin aka Carrington Malin, key organiser of the event.

Despite being a relatively younger community in the UAE, thanks to the recent unblocking of the site, Twitter has managed to gain above 500 devotees who update their status at least four-five times a day. 'Facebook is for old friends and Twitter to find new ones,' said Reuven P.

Putting faces to the names that provided a comment on an ongoing issue, a feedback of a product or a random message to make your day formed the crux of the occasion. 'I was hoping to meet a lot of people who respond to my tweets on the site. It's interesting to meet them in person,' said @drbaher aka Baher Al Hakim who has 1,725 followers, the highest in the room.

'I talk about the stuff I do and I constantly interact with people.'

His current posting on the recently opened modelling agency has been a hot topic of discussion. 'I talk about all the models who come and go and that has brought in quite a few funny comments.'

Tweeting the New PR Tool

With Twitter and Facebook taking a major portion of the credit for Barack Obama's sweeping victory, social networking sites are now being deemed the 'in'-PR tool. Public relations professionals consider them the quickest way to gauge the market perception of their clients.

So when companies go online, opening up channels of communication with the public, it creates more loyalists. 'If the client is open to feedback and complaints and immediately addresses the customer's needs, they feel more attuned with the brand,' said Carrington Malin, managing director, Spot On-Public Relations.

It's also a quick way for crisis management and dialogue. 'Companies can use these sites to convert 'badvocates' into advocates for their brands,' said Andreas Keller, regional PR director, Weber Shandwick.

However, the UAE business has not completely opened up to the idea of exposing themselves in the digital world. 'When companies go online, they lose control of their message,' said Keller.

The use of a social networking site for business activities comes with certain ground rules. 'We need a protocol and policies to deal with the customer online. It's a fast medium and needs certain regulations. Having said that, Obama's campaign has proved it to be a success in PR,' said Malin.

Many global companies like Qatar Airways, Virgin Megastores and Starbucks have opted for this new mode of communication. 'We are trying to put forth this concept with our clients giving them an insight to its benefits. It will catch up here as well,' added Keller.

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