More than two dozen Twitter users descended upon Carr Winery (@CarrWinery) on Thursday night for a holiday “tweetup,” turning the normally relaxed after-work atmosphere into a buzzing scene of introductions, reunions and texting.

Organized by registered nurse Carolyn Newstrom (@LuvenRN), the Twitter get-together was the largest yet in Santa Barbara. In attendance were the people behind such familiar local Twitter accounts as Direct Relief International (@directrelief, Jim Prosser); Citrix Online (@GoToMeeting, Kelley Smith); Lazy Acres (@LazyAcresMarket, Rudy Chavez); and Carr Winery’s Christina Mahon (@ecosavvyCM).

Boosted by “Twestival,” September’s Twitter Festival, Twitter has been steadily increasing in prominence in the Santa Barbara community. More businesses are tapping into the free service to connect with customers in a more personal way than traditional methods allow. The 140-character limit of Twitter messages contributes to the informal nature of the medium, and many businesses have found it allows for faster dissemination of information. Citrix Online has accounts for each of its six products to encourage personal interaction with users.

But it’s not just the larger businesses that are seeing benefits from Twitter.

“Twitter has given us the chance to demonstrate who we are on a more personal level,” said Evan Asher, co-founder of TechEase Computer Solutions (@TechEase). “Interacting with the local community on Twitter gives people a chance to experience that we’re not your typical computer guys. At the same time, we learn more about what’s going on around us.”

Kristin Fraser Cotte of The Grapeseed Co. (@grapeseedco) gives her 1,500 followers special discounts on her products. Jennifer Bragg (@jenniferabragg) with Prudential California Realty combats real estate agent stereotypes by giving her followers a glimpse into her personal life. Tweets about the activities she’s participating in, the female entrepreneur group she’s founded, or interactions with fellow twitterers have garnered her more than 2,300 followers. They may not be ready to use her services today, but when they are, her name will be top of mind.

Public speaking coach Lisa Braithwaite (@LisaBraithwaite) uses Twitter to communicate with some 4,000 followers, alerting them to her daily blog updates and sharing useful speaking tips. But Twitter is much more than just a business promotion tool.

“I recently reconnected with a childhood friend on Facebook,” Braithwaite said, “but Twitter, and (the Carr Winery) tweetup, is what actually brought us together in person.”

Tweetups like Thursday’s are a chance for the online community to meet in real life, putting faces to Twitter names — or avatars. “I love making new connections and friends,” said Newstrom, the group’s impromptu organizer. “In doing so, life becomes that much richer and fulfilling.”

“It is great to meet people you enjoy interacting with and see their full-blown personalities expand beyond 140 characters,” said Olivia Uribe (@osum), who brought brownies to share.

“The fact that everybody brings food to the event contributes to the community feel,” Asher said. “When you arrive here, whether we know you from our interactions online or you’re just starting out, this group is very warm and welcoming.”

Join Twitter today and search for the hashtag #sbtweetup to find out when the next one will occur.

— Evan Asher is co-founder of TechEase Computer Solutions.