A group of 160, many clad in dark blue T-shirts declaring "If you tweet it they will come," gathered around the rooftop pool at the East Palo Alto Four Seasons Hotel last week to sip "Twitter-tinis," make professional connections and bounce ideas around at what event-organizer David Peck called a "Tweet Up."
"It's an event where people network. That's really what it is," said Peck, who works for a marketing and advertising agency that helps its clients use social-networking sites to generate business.
All around him, people wore nametags -- some with their Twitter "handles."
"Sure, Twitter is the common ground, but we have people looking for jobs, we have CEOs, we have mom-and-pop operations."
While he said that his Four Seasons function was no different than any other professional networking party, he chose to promote it through Twitter and Facebook.
That sole difference may have made all the difference. Peck has about 17,600 individuals from around the world following his "tweets" -- a verb in technological vernacular for posting on Twitter.
"I don't think Dave could have got this many people in one place if he didn't have so many followers on Twitter," said Elyse Tager, who works for an Alameda-based marketing agency.
Tager chatted with Leslie Sutherland, a marketing specialist from Los Gatos, about the merits of Twitter and other social-networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace. Sutherland thinks Twitter has work to do on some of its user options, but said she liked the immediacy of the service.
"The main benefit of Twitter is that it's real time," Sutherland said. She likes the idea of advertisers being able to let followers know something is happening as it is actually happening.
Much of the night's conversation -- among old friends and new acquaintances alike -- revolved around the power of social-networking websites and how to most effectively use them.
Jason Mancebo of Half Moon Bay and Sanjeev Sisodiya of Sunnyvale, who hadn't seen each other since 2001, laughed over drinks about the serendipity of their reunion. Mancebo is a blogger with a "serious photography hobby," who juggles Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to keep people updated on his blog posts, keep in touch with old friends and stay tuned in to professional connections. Both men heard about the event through Twitter.
Sisodiya chuckled as he explained how he uses Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
"They all have different purposes" -- Twitter for social networking and a bit of professional connectivity, Facebook for mostly fun stuff, and LinkedIn for strictly business, he said.
"I like Twitter for personal news aggregation," Mancebo added.
Sisodiya also uses the service for this purpose. "I heard about Michael Jackson -- an hour before it was confirmed -- on Twitter," he said.
The future of social-networking software was also a hot topic of conversation. Dave Mathews works for the website peoplebrowsr.com, which has created a computer "dashboard widget," which shows information from a multitude of sites -- Twitter, Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn and others -- within one window.
It is exactly this kind of software that will allow people like Mancebo and Sisodiya to negotiate all of their social-networking tools more efficiently.
"Typically if you are involved in one social network, you have ties in others," Mathews said. "The Internet has become a platform for communication. It has evolved to become the great communication tool."
He foresees a strong future in the development of social-networking tools.
The event was free. According to Kelly Nelson, the director of marketing at the hotel, Twitter has proven to be a great tool for marketing the Four Seasons. Simply hosting the event was a good business decision, she said.
"It allows us to be a part of the community in another way," Nelson explained. Through Twitter, the Four Seasons can advertise special events, post healthy eating tips from their restaurant's chef and respond to questions and concerns posted by hotel visitors.
Peck said he was very pleased with his second Tweet Up. He is hoping to hold one each month if turnouts remain the same. His first event drew 115 attendees. Peck said the tumultuous job market surely helped his turnout, as people are actively searching for jobs or the best talent to hire on a limited budget.
"Some people think it's a geek fest," he said of his meetings. "It's not. We're normal people. And getting people face-to-face is more powerful than anything online. It's still irreplaceable in this day and age."