This post covers the second stage in a simple ABC approach – Announce > Broadcast > Consolidate to using social media to promote your events.
Using social media on the day
If you followed the advice in part one of this series, you will already have created your hashtag for your event and been tweeting it regularly to create a sense of anticipation.
You will also have made sure that your venue has an excellent Wi-Fi connection (at no cost to delegates) and that speakers’ Twitter handles are printed on the programme next to their biographies and the titles of their presentations.
The day before and on the actual morning of the event make sure that you have lined up your presenters and key supporters to tweet that it is happening today and that anyone who can’t make it, can catch up with developments by following the hashtag.
The final decision that you need to make before the day is whether to hire a Twitter wall.
A Twitter wall is a large secondary screen on which scroll the tweets of both event participants and those following online – in fact the tweets of anyone who uses your hashtag.
There are plenty of reasons to use Twitter wall.
The principal one is that it massively extends the reach of your event.
You can structure plenary and other sessions so that people not at the conference can join in the discussion and ask questions remotely.
You can also ask participants in the room to Tweet their questions which saves you having to dash up and down with a poorly functioning hand-held microphone.
You can even ask participants to Tweet their questions earlier in the day than they are needed and say that the questions receiving the most retweets will be the ones that get put to Keynote speakers.
Most Twitter walls will display any photos that participants take with their mobile phones and embed in their tweets which creates a nice sense of positivity and engagement in the event.
Twitter Walls are no longer that expensive.
You need to make sure that there is sufficient interest in your event to warrant the use of Twitter screen and that it’s not just a vanity project was a slightly overdeveloped enthusiasm of your social media person.
However, costs are coming down all the time. One company quoted £700 to brand a screen and set it up so that it can be operated by your organisation on the day with reduced costs for future events. Some organisations provided an app based approach which can cost less than an £100 for a one off event.
Of course, it is possible to try and get this feature sponsored and to have your sponsor’s message on the screen when it’s not actively showing tweets.
The main concern that most people have is how to deal with critical or unpleasant tweets.
I’ve witnessed a couple of these situations.
On one occasion, a speaker was trying to make his point whilst a Tweet which was very critical about both the style and content of his presentation was rolling down a massive flat screen behind him.
Fortunately, almost all the companies who provide the software for Twitter walls include a moderating facility.
This allows you to censor anti-personal tweets, ignore repetitive re-tweets and set the number of tweets on the screen and how long they stay live before refreshing.
It is important to make sure that the Twitter wall isn’t too busy – an unending stream of Tweets can be distracting to everyone.
Overall, your decision on whether to use a Twitter wall may be how well it fits with your event.
The organiser of a recent TED event felt that it would distract from the sort of charismatic, engage with the audience style that characterises TED events.
As well as making tweeting as easy as possible for delegates, it’s worthwhile reminding them at the start of the day of the conference hashtag and formally, if lightheartedly, giving them your blessing to tweet throughout the day.
One note of twitterquette, while many people enjoy the opportunity of following a conference which they can’t attend, some people are driven crazy by an endless stream of tweets covering an event they are not interested in.
If everyone from your organisation is quite naturally focusing on your event and tweeting regular updates, it’s considered polite to let people know in advance so they are at least forewarned.
If you are on the receiving end of conference tweets which you’d rather do without, you can either:
Temporarily unfollow someone.
Or, if you are using a Twitter client like Tweetdeck, you can exclude the conference hashtag from your timeline. [Just click on that triangle at the top right of your timeline column, then click “content”, then “excluding”.]
Why use Twitter at an event?
The primary purpose of using Twitter at an event is the same as the main rationale for using social media anywhere – to move away from a model of broadcasting content and to engage your audience as full participants in a dialogue.
The great thing about using Twitter at an event is that you can engage both participants in the room and a much wider pool of those who can’t attend.
At any large event, it’s usually a small proportion of participants who get to express their views and ask questions.
This is mainly due to time constraints, although it’s also fair to say that some people are not backwards in coming forwards and that , on occasions, their objective can seem to be more about promoting themseleves and their organisations than really learning more about a topic or opening up debate.
Twitter is a great democratic force which empowers many more people to get involved in discussion and debate.
Putting resources online
Another great use of social media at an event was recommended to me by Matt Gleeson, the Australian harm reduction blogger & tweeter (@stonetree_aus) who suggested that speakers or conference organisers might like to post resources online ahead of the conference, either on websites or curated via Scoopit or other online curation tools.
A speaker then only has to tweet a link to these resources including the conference hashtag for participants – both those in the room and those following remotely – to access them and, of course, to share them onwards via a quick re-tweet.
A B C
Last week, we looked at the Announce stage – how to publicise your event via social media.
Now you have some tips on how to Broadcast on the day.
Next week we’ll be looking at how to Consolidate your event by using social media to curate the learning and inviting further learning and discussion.