All a Twitter

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A message flashes across the screen; it is a local chef detailing what is on tonight’s menu.

The special will be “diver scallops seared and served over orzo w/pancetta and sautéed shallots finished w/a saffron citronette …”

The next message is an announcement from a local car dealership with a friendly message.

Shortly thereafter, the local newspaper sends out a message giving the details of a recent house fire. Next comes a message from the city announcing the closure of a local road because of construction; and so on and so on.

The messages or notices that were once included in your local news broadcast or published in the morning newspaper are now turning into real-time updates, thanks to the increased availability of social media tools.

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have given Suffolk-based companies, individuals and organizations the opportunity to share their information with thousands of readers at the speed of a mouse click.

“It [Twitter] gives us the opportunity to really expand our reach beyond Suffolk and beyond Virginia,” local restaurateur Stephen Gellas said. “It has really become something I take a lot of enjoyment doing every day.”

Gellas – better known as the Surfing Chef on Twitter (twitter.com/surfingchef) – has grown an online following of more than 1,400 readers who look forward to his updated “tweets” on dinner preparations for meals at either Primo 116 or Pisces in downtown, as well as updates on the wind and surf conditions on Virginia Beach.

“I have one guy in Hawaii who started following me and asked for information on some of my recipes,” Gellas said. “I usually don’t give away that kind of information, but it’s cool to have that kind of reach with my information.”

Gellas takes pride in knowing world-renowned surfers such as Laird Hamilton and culinary stars such as Gordon Ramsey – of Hell’s Kitchen fame – now follow his tweets every day.

“To me that’s pretty amazing,” Gellas said. “I never would have thought such a thing when I started.”

As for getting started, local advertising and marketing expert Tom Powell (twitter.com/addisongroup), said he tells his clients to know what their goal is when they beginning using Twitter or other social media outlets.

“I have given presentations about the use of social media, and it is important to remember what your ultimate goal is before going out,” Powell said. “To use it best, you need to know if you’re using it to expand your brand or to bring in business.”

For Paul Laskow, director at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts (twitter.com/suffolkcenter), using social media is important to getting out the center’s information.

“I would say that Facebook is better for us than Twitter, allowing us to post links, provide more content,” Laskow said. “But both allow us to make our members and our fans feel like they are an important part of our family.”

Eley Duke, with Duke Automotive (twitter.com/dukechevy), said his efforts on Twitter and Facebook are not to sell anything, but rather to build relationships with past customers, friends and residents.

“I would hate for anyone to come across some of our tweets and drop us because they think all we want to do is sell something,” Duke said. “We use it to further brand our business and have some fun.”