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Conference puts #Aspen in Twittersphere spotlight

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The 250 or so attendees at a public relations conference at the St. Regis Aspen Resort this week aren’t just learning about the effective use of social media tools like Twitter. They’re tweeting.A nearly continuous stream of tweets has been flowing from the conference since it began on Tuesday. It’s the first time the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has brought its annual Travel & Tourism Conference to Aspen, and it’s apparently the first time many of the attendees have visited the resort, according to Jeanette Darnauer of local PR firm Darnauer Group Communications, an attendee.Attendance is up nearly 25 percent from last year, according to – what else? – a tweet.Early on, one conference attendee tweeted: Aspen is a great destination! The PRSA conference is off to great start.Offered another: Whoa. In the first hour #travelprsa has set a new standard. Champaign, prizes, flawless service, amazing views in #Aspen(For those who aren’t Tweeps, the hash (#) mark symbol is a way for users to search for tweets that share a common topic – #Aspen – for example.)From a “Tweetup” at a local watering hole (where people who use Twitter come together to meet in person) to keynote addresses like Wednesday’s “What’s Next in Innovation: Social Media in 2010 and Beyond” and Friday’s “Taking Twitter to the Next Level,” attendees are getting a healthy dose of social networking strategy, and tweeting what they learn.The economic impact of 250 visitors wining, dining and shopping in Aspen during a slow offseason week aside, the resort is getting a complimentary plug courtesy of the attendees.”It’s not just that people are tweeting. What it’s doing is generating conversation – keeping Aspen top of mind for people,” said Sarah Evans, presenter of the “Social Media in 2010 and Beyond” talk and president of Sevans Strategy.Evans has posted photos from the conference to flickr, a website that hosts photos and videos, and other attendees are posting photos of Aspen to their Facebook pages.It may be difficult to draw a direct correlation from the online chatter to future business in Aspen, but it can’t hurt, she said.”It is so great for awareness, but it’s so hard to pin down a bottom-line impact,” said Evans, who has 43,000-plus followers on Twitter.”If you look at a lot of the tweets – a lot of us are tweeting about how beautiful Aspen is, how great the weather is … you get a lot of people putting out a lot of very positive messages about Aspen that are out there for anyone else to see,” agreed Sarah Skerik of PR Newswire, who spoke Wednesday on “Optimized PR: SEO (search engine optimization) and Social Media Strategy.”The conference, which concludes Friday afternoon, continues Thursday with talks on such subjects as “Thinking Globally: Perspectives on International Travel and Hospitality,” “Luxury Still Matters: How to Promote High-End Properties to Media” and “Reaching Key Influencers Where They Live (Online).”janet@aspentimes.com