Her Twitter followers often envision her sitting at her computer dressed to the nines with a tiara perched atop her head, which might be fitting for Amy Lupold Bair, who wears the Twitter Party crown. To the tech and media industry types who think they know everything about Twitter culture, the Twitter Party conjures images of ritzy New York or San Francisco cocktail schmoozers rather than what they really are: a digital marketing phenomenon connecting moms (and sometimes dads) to brands targeting them and their kids.
The basic Twitter Party template involves a scheduled time slot – say an hour or two – during which followers of a Twitter Party host interact on the platform in conversations that tie back to a sponsor’s product, service, or message. For instance, a recent @ResourcefulMom Twitter Party promoted a picture book themed website and iPad app called Magic Town. The virtual celebration kicked off at 1 p.m. and attracted parents who used the #MagicTown hashtag to tweet about their children’s favorite story books, and respond to questions from @ResourcefulMom. As with many social media marketing efforts, questions help keep Twitter Parties rolling.
In 2008 Lupold Bair, owner of Resourceful Mommy Media, hosted her first Twitter Party, which she claims to have been the first-ever Twitter Party. She wanted to promote the launch of her Resourceful Mommy blog and hoped to make a splash by soliciting donations for prize giveaways.
“I was looking for a way to promote the blog with some sort of event or contest,” she told ClickZ earlier this month. “What I was noticing was that people were announcing marketing events on Twitter but the events were not on Twitter.” Instead the virtual get-togethers were held in forums or elsewhere online. “We’d just left 500 Twitter followers and we’d gone to another site and only 15 other people had logged in,” she said, describing her reaction to the off-site conventions.
“Nobody was doing giveaways on Twitter at that time,” the stay-at-home mom turned entrepreneur said. By the time the launch party got started, she managed to solicit $2,000 worth of prizes such as books and consulting services. Playskool offered up the grand prize. “That night three people came to me and said, ‘Your hashtag is the top trending topic worldwide…can I pay you to do it for me?'” Lupold Bair agreed to take those three jobs, one from a blogger, another from someone who ran an Etsy store, and another from a company launching a family site.
Similar work has been steady ever since for Lupold Bair, a former English teacher. “Now hundreds of people host these.” Indeed, earlier this month while observing the Twitter Party-sphere, ClickZ stumbled upon three Twitter Parties that were held within a matter of hours including the Magic Town party and others sponsored by Hasbro’s My Little Pony and Verizon.
“There was a backlash when I started Twitter Parties,” she said. “Social media purists called it noise.” With Twitter becoming a bastion of social media branding campaigns and the company itself monetizing through ad products, sponsored events seem to fit right in today.
Lupold Bair has hosted between 600 and 700 Twitter Parties over the past four years, and has hired a full-time independent contractor to pull together results metrics for sponsor clients. Sponsors have used her services to promote things like time-saving kitchen products or baby items. Norelco sponsored a Twitter event to promote shaving kits as gifts during the holiday season, and Campbell’s Chunky Soup was a sponsor in conjunction with its NFL campaign. Deli meat brand Boar’s Head sponsored a Twitter Party she held earlier this month.
“The vast majority are aimed to the mom consumer,” said Lupold Bair. “Even when we’re looking at toys or products for back-to-school, certainly mom is making that decision.” According to surveys she has conducted, people who attend her virtual soirees are “your typical person living in middle America…It would be a mom who is in her mid-20s to mid-30s with some college education, often times using her home computer to participate.” Lupold Bair is 34 and has two kids, ages eight and six.
Nonprofits such as the American Heart Association have also sponsored events to raise awareness. Even U.S. government organizations have used @ResourcefulMom to get out the word to parents. Yesterday the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service held a Twitter Food Safety chat with Lupold Bair during which participants won food safety magnets for their refrigerators.
Lupold Bair charges a flat fee to promote and host the Twitter parties. “We know exactly how many hours we’re going to put into an event like this,” she said, noting she uses a sliding scale for nonprofits and charity organizations. Each year she donates a certain number of parties to charity groups, she said. Nowadays she works with PR firms rather than directly with the brand marketers who used to use her services directly.
So, why hasn’t this virtual branded party phenomenon taken off on Facebook? For one thing, Facebook is far more strict about promotional accounts. “It is very different because Facebook is very much on top of people monetizing,” she said. “If you’re doing something promotional, you’ve got to be using a third party app.”
It may come as no surprise however, that Lupold Bair, owner of the TwitterParties.com domain, has also purchased PinningParties.com and registered the “Pinning Parties” trademark. Careful to respect users who resist the commercialization of Pinterest, she is developing a new type of virtual sponsored shindig that will combine Twitter and Pinterest. An example of a Pinning Party theme might be “Favorite Kids Meal.” Participants could go to a web page featuring a variety of kids recipes, pin their favorites, then jump back into the Twitter conversation.