Feature: Meeting Eastbourne’s twitter community

Just a few of Eastbourne's active twitterers
Just a few of Eastbourne's active twitterers

IN years gone by the internet was seen as the last bastion of the nerd. A place to wile away hours safe within your own online anonymity.

Then came social networking and millions of people across the UK began uploading photographs from boozy nights and telling anyone who would listen what they had for lunch and what they planned to do after work.

Now though, a group of new media-savvy businessmen and women in Eastbourne are embracing the hugely popular website Twitter – normally the domain of comedians, students, bloggers and Stephen Fry – to advertise their services to the online community.

The Herald sent RICHARD MORRIS along to a recent ‘Tweet-up’ on some of the users.

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I WAS warned about mixing with the online community. As I downed tools and left the office for the relatively short walk to the Afton Hotel more than one colleague stifled a chuckle.

The general consensus, it seemed, was that I would be left stuck in a room with half a dozen, shall we say, socially stifled people.

The reality was far more interesting. Within seconds of meeting organiser David Ruddle (@David_Ruddle) I had been introduced to a paramedic who has recently branched out into providing first aid training (@mtsoloutionsl), a volunteer who helps run a charity which works with the town’s ethnic minorities (@eccn-news) and, most bizarrely, a hypnotherapist (@Hypnogenius).

It was the latter which I first chatted to – possible against my will under some sort of mind-control.

So why would a hypnotherapist use Twitter? “It is a great way to advertise and get in touch with people,” explained the wonderfully named Hypnogenius.

“Everyone has something about themselves they would like to chance, Twitter helps me get in touch with them.” Among his services include helping people quit smoking, reduce stress and ‘installing’ hypnotic gastric bands to aid weight loss.

Twitter even helped him get a famous client – one of the stars of cult TV show The Only Way is Essex.

But it is not all business. Twitter has also helped him get in touch with charities and the Hypnogenius also used the site to rally support for an injured Brit abroad who needed cash to pay for his treatment. “We used Twitter to appeal for money to help, and we found someone willing to pay the £80,000,” he explained.

But can he cure a Twitter addiction? “I can see how that could happen,” he chuckles. “I have even dreamt in Twitter before.” Twitter, for those who have never tried it, is a social networking website which gives people 140 characters or less to post a message. Anyone ‘following’ that person then gets that message sent to their page, allowing people to keep up to date with hundreds of people and their goings on.

Users are tagged under their chose name and the symbol @ (hence the use of it above) and, according to David Ruddle – a self-confessed word of mouth expert – every local business should consider signing up.

“The thing I love about Twitter,” he enthused, “is that is gives you access to people you would never dream of talking to or be able to get in touch with otherwise.

“I used to offer freelance tele-marketing to small businesses but I realised not a lot of people could afford the rates. Twitter is a brilliant way of advertising your company for free.”

David now works for a host of local businesses offering marketing advice and support and says Twitter is something easy everyone can do to promote their work.

“The best way of summing it up is that you never know what the next big thing will be,” he said. “You don’t know that it won’t be Twitter so it can’t hurt getting your business involved.” From the look of things at last week’s meeting, a lot of people are doing just that. Around 30 people turned up the meeting and David expects more next time round.

One of those at the Afton was Will Tompsett (@eccn-news). He helps run Eastbourne Cultural Communities Network and says Twitter has helped the charity get its message out to locals and help recruit helpers for recent fundraisers.

“Twitter is a great way of reaching more people,” said Will. “I would certainly recommend it to other charities. We managed to recruit some bands to play at a festival by posting an appeal.”

And David – who decided to try and link-up all the local users to form an online network – revealed there are a host of free add-ons which can syphon out the ‘I had this for my lunch’ers and focus your account purely on the sort of people you can get valuable information from.

Information like the DIY advice offered by home improvement specialist Russ Deacon (@RussDeacon) who regularly answers followers questions, or the local theatre (@EBTheatres) which gives regular updates on visiting acts and ticket sales and, of course, the Herald itself (@eastbournenews) regularly updates readers on what is happening in Eastbourne.

Twitter, it seems, it here to stay and Eastbourne is well and truly on the bandwagon.

But rest assured, it isn’t all useless information. Photographer and Twitter convert Duncan Lawson summed it up nicely.

“I have always been a networker but I was sceptical of Twitter” he said.

“I thought it was all about people telling other people what they were eating or watching on TV - but I have actually found it very useful. The people who do it properly are definitely worth following.”

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For anyone planning on dipping their toe in the Twitter world, David Ruddle has picked the best five people to follow to get you started.

- @bournebreaks

- @EBTheatres

- @centraleating

- @aftonhotel

- @visiteastbourne

And of course, you should follow the Herald (@eastbournenews) and Richard Morris (@RichardMorris81).