One of the things that I suppose we take for granted now is the use of twitter hashtags for conferences and events. It’s almost an assumption if you go to any HE library-related event that there will be a hashtag, some ‘back-channel’ discussion about the event before, during and after, whether you are physically attending the event or not. So we were using #irm10 for our Innovations in Reference Management event earlier in the week.

But it wasn’t until I was asked by someone from outside the sector for some thoughts about using twitter from conferences that I actually took the time to unpick the mechanics of what you need to do to use twitter with conferences. So it seemed like an idea to write up what turned out to be a list of ten tips for using twitter with your conference:

  1. Decide on an appropriate hash tag , essentially anything starting with # – so you could use #irm10 for Innovations in Reference Management 2010 for example.
  2. Don’t make the tag too long – it uses up your 140 characters after all
  3. Search for the tag you choose to make sure no one else is using it already – it’s not an absolute guide as you can’t stop someone else picking the tag you’ve decided on – but at least you stops you picking a tag that is in regular (or unfortunate) use for something else – potentially confusing your audience with irrelevant tweets
  4. Publicise the hashtag in your conference literature and on email so people can use it before the event as well as during it – you might need to explain what it is ‘If you are going to tweet about the event please use our hashtag #…’
  5. Send messages out yourself using the hashtag about the conference in the run up to the event – through a recognized twitter account associated with the organization maybe?
  6. Twitter should be used in addition to the normal communication means as many people don’t use it and it isn’t a formal channel
  7. See if you can get some people who are attending to use the hashtag before, during and after the conference to tweet about the conference, about the individual conference sessions and impressions
  8. You can keep the tweets using a tool like http://twapperkeeper.com
  9. As organizers keep an eye on what is being said on twitter about the conference – and respond with direct messages to people
  10. You can often get good feedback about the conference via twitter – people who write blog posts often publicise them via twitter so keep an eye on the twitter stream with that hastag for a few days after the conference

From a personal point of view in terms of experience of using twitter at conferences if you follow a hashtag for a conference you can often find other interesting people to follow. Often you’ll come across people you follow on twitter at conferences and sometimes end up having a twitter ‘conversation’ with them during the conference about something that is said. That ‘back-channel’ discussion is often useful in clarifying, explaining or developing discussions about what is said at the conference.

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