Sri Lanka held its first Twitter meetup, a physical manifestation of an online community. At least 70 people gathered at the Coco Veranda coffee house, itself a prominent social media presence. Twitter is a real-time information network where people post short messages view computer and phone. It has millions of users worldwide and thousands in Sri Lanka.
Commenting on meeting some online friends for the first time, Twitter user Lasantha David said. “It’s weird cause you’re not sure if you’re meeting the same person.”
Another Twitter user Shafraz Thawfeek commented on the preponderance of mobile devices at the event saying “When we’re offline face to face, why are we still communicating via tweets?”
Twitter, besides being for personal communication has also been used by celebrities, businesses and even governments. In Sri Lanka Twitter is used by celebrity and business magnate Otara Gunawardena, the mobile phone company Dialog Axiata and the government of the Northern Province.
Sarath Sathiamoorthy of Coco Veranda said that his company now used on social media exclusively for marketing with most customers coming to the coffeeshop via word of mouth on Facebook.
“We thought a long time before developing our social media strategy. We decided to make Coco Veranda a person,” he said.
This personal identity has led to a relationship with customers with some chatting to and even confiding in the company.
Shihara Bin Saddon of Coco Veranda added that they attempt to maintain a personal relationship, responding to comments and queries on Facebook and Twitter and even giving personalized birthday greetings.
“People like that they’re acknowledged,” she said.
Dialog Axiata is a much larger company which co-sponsored the event and which also maintains a Twitter presence. “We’re doing promos on it and getting sales out of it slowly and surely,” said Milinda Tillekeratne. “It’s also a customer service channel.”
Most of the ‘Tweeps’, however, were there simply to meet and be met. The event included games, prize giveaways, and the first physical manifestation of a rapidly growing online community in Sri Lanka.