keithjones32by Keith W.R. Jones

2012 Guild Breakthrough Blogger of the Year

Twitter. Don’t you just love it?

Chances are if you don’t you’re probably bemused by its concept and have subscribed to the hearsay that tweeting is little more than frenzied teenagers desperate to know what Justin Bieber had for breakfast. Justin Bieber? Well, he’s... Never mind.

But fear not, for Twitter is much, much more than that. Its flexibility as a facilitator for promoting awareness and debate around products is unparalleled and it offers a potential level of reach that commercial television stations can these days only dream of. Yet it costs those pushing the boundaries of its influence a miniscule amount of outlay compared to traditional media outlets.

Citroen DS3 Diorama

Some manufacturers are embracing social media: this is Citroën's second event for automotive tweeters. Image courtesy of Phil Feather @Camerman_Phil

Tim Hutton’s AutoTweetUp venture came into being back in the late summer of 2011, with the aim of creating social events where influential motoring tweeters from the spheres of writing, public relations and manufacturing could extend their online relationships into even more productive real-life dialogues.

To conclude that AutoTweetUps are essentially vehicles for motoring bloggers to feel like their professional counterparts would be wide of the mark. Sure, the first one I went to I felt very much a wannabe; the proverbial tea boy who’d somehow managed to wangle an invite to an RAC dinner, as life later imitated fiction. But the reality was different. Naturally there’s curiosity as to who you are at first, like being a new villager walking into the local for the first time, but as with every profession and social circumstance, you garner respect by performing at the highest level and by steadfastly avoiding being an arse.

Manufacturers are showing more signs of embracing the economic realities and benefits of social media with events like AutoTweetUps. The Citroen event hosted at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ showroomesque headquarters recently was the marque’s second foray into this brave new world.

Protocols are as straightforward as tweeting itself at these events: the manufacturer showcases a display – in Citroen’s case their latest DS3 Cabrio, a DS3 Racing with a fabulous Kieron Barter designed diorama celebrating Loeb’s nine WRC titles adorning its roof and bonnet, as well as an interactive presentation by DS3 Product Manager Etienne Menant, who ably talked through the Cabrio’s roof mechanism. Naturally, this sounded even more alluring in his eloquent, French-accented English.

Those in attendance, both from Citroen and the invited audience, tweet images and thoughts about the cars and the event, suffixed with the #AutoTweetUp hashtag so that the event’s reach can be measured. Discussions wended from everything from the cars and their detailing via detours of the deliciousness of the canapés (the poached quail eggs with bacon were to die for), to the musings of Citroen’s PR team, condensed into 140 characters or less.

Citroen DS3 Discussion

Events like these allow car makers to connect with customers through social media. Image courtesy of Phil Feather @Camerman_Phil

The days where Twitter will be considered by a minority to be the preserve of wannabes trying to get themselves noticed, the famous seeking yet another outlet for their egos or simply people with too much time on their hands, are short lived.

It’s barely more than two decades since people scoffed at the notion of sending a text-based message over a mobile phone handset yet in 2012 Briton’s sent over a billion of them per day. But the number’s declining due to the increase of social media usage. Tomorrow’s question won’t be “what’s your Twitter handle?” it’ll be “why haven’t you got a Twitter handle?”

Not convinced? I used to say the only person who probably didn’t need to have a mobile to text from was the Pope but the recently retired Benedict XVI was a tweeter too. Though I somehow doubt he’s a #Belieber.

Read Keith's own blog, Petroleum Vitae, at www.keithwrjones.com and follow him on Twitter @keithwrjones

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