Today's guest post is from Jenn Deering Davis, co-founder and chief customer officer at Union Metrics, the makers of TweetReach.
Twitter is the perfect social channel for conferences. It provides a real-time, public and searchable record of tweets about a conference that organizers, speakers and attendees can follow. Twitter even allows people who can’t attend in person to read along as conference events unfold. And Twitter gives conference planners an archive of participant comments, as well as measurable data they can report back to sponsors.
If you’re a conference organizer or producer, here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most out of Twitter during your next event.
Using an official conference hashtag
1. Select a unique official hashtag. Make sure no other events are using this hashtag and that it’s separate from general topical conversation. Keep it short and easy to remember. A good conference hashtag will include the conference name or abbreviation, and sometimes the year or location. If you can, avoid using underscores or other punctuation in your hashtag to keep it simple (and to be sure the hashtag works in every Twitter client). Some we like include #BWENY (BlogWorld Expo) and #ica12 (International Communication Association).
2. Communicate the official hashtag. Try to make the official hashtag easy to find. Post the official conference hashtag on presentation slides, as well as signs and posters around the conference venue, list it on the conference website, and use it in official tweets from your own and other organizers’ Twitter accounts. Encourage speakers and sponsors to use the hashtag.
3. Track mentions of the official and unofficial hashtags. In addition to the main official hashtag, attendees may adopt track- or interest group-specific hashtags or mistakenly use an incorrect hashtag. Try to keep track of all relevant hashtags, even if they’re not officially endorsed.
Surfacing interesting conference topics
4. Follow conversation as it unfolds. Keep track of attendee tweets about the conference, both to monitor conversation during the event, as well to create an archive for future access. It’s very simple to follow the use of a hashtag in real time with any number of Twitter clients and applications, so pick your favorite. If you want to share these tweets, consider displaying them live on a monitor at the conference or on the conference website.
5. Pay attention to retweets. Use retweet counts to keep track of which tweets are getting the most traction on Twitter. What speakers, presentations, or topics are being retweeted? You can use this information to make your next conference even better.
6. Use official handle to ask questions. Twitter is great for real-time interactions, so use the official conference account to ask attendees how things are going. Get live feedback on presentations, the venue, conference logistics and more.
7. Find problems quickly. Monitor conversation about the conference throughout to detect problems. Is the wifi not working? Are participants unable to find certain rooms? If something is going wrong and you’re actively monitoring conference tweets, you can fix small problems before they become big problems.
Sharing important conference content
8. Use official handle to post announcements and schedule changes. Give participants a central and reliable channel on Twitter where they can access important conference information. If there are any important announcements or changes to the conference schedule, post them to the official Twitter account so attendees can find and share them.
9. Distribute speaker slides. Use Twitter to make it easy for attendees to find speakers’ presentation slides. Encourage speakers to share their slides through their own Twitter accounts, and retweet those slides from the official account. Also share links back to the conference website where participants can access and download conference slides and other documents.
10. Answer attendee questions. Throughout the conference, use Twitter to answer audience questions, direct attendees to the appropriate resources and make sure everyone is getting the most out of the event.
Tracking audience engagement
11. Measure total Twitter audience size. With the spread of conference content onlike Twitter, the size of the audience can grow well beyond the number of attendees physically present. Measure the total reach and exposure for conference tweets, as well as the number of total tweets and unique contributors.
12. Determine popular speakers and presentations. Analyze conference Twitter engagement by tracking metrics like retweets, replies, favorites and impressions to learn which topics are generating buzz. Search for speaker and panel names, presentation topics and track titles to see which ones are most talked about. Find out which images are being shared the most to determine attendees’ favorite moments, and track shared URLs to see which websites and pages have been most useful to participants.
13. Share metrics with sponsors. Report this information back to conference sponsors to demonstrate the value of their sponsorship. Showing sponsors how many more people their brands reached beyond in-person conference attendance can be very valuable to securing future sponsorships. When possible, share specific examples of effective tweets about or from conference sponsors.
Gathering feedback for your next conference
14. Tweet links to conference feedback survey. In addition to sending a post-conference email asking attendees for feedback, also post a link to the feedback survey on the official Twitter account. Some attendees may be more likely to respond on Twitter, so this gives them another opportunity to respond.
15. Compare this conference to other events. How did this conference compare to recent or related conferences? If you have Twitter metrics for previous years’ conferences or other similar conferences in your industry, use them to see how this year’s event measured up. Look specifically for changes in engagement and participation, as well as reach and exposure. If this event’s metrics were lower, try to figure out why and how you can improve next time. If they were higher, that’s great, but try to learn more about why your numbers were up.
16. Analyze qualitative tweet content. In addition to quantitative audience and engagement metrics, tweets are a great source of qualitative data about the conference. Read through a tweet transcript after the event is over to see what attendees liked and didn’t like. Mine this transcript for any feedback you can use to improve for next time. In some cases, an in-depth content or sentiment analysis might be useful.
Jenn Deering Davis is co-founder and chief customer officer at Union Metrics, the makers of TweetReach. She is primarily responsible for the company's communications and customer development. She holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Communication & Technology from the University of Texas at Austin, where her research focused on the communicative and workplace impacts of social and mobile technologies. Jenn has more than a decade of corporate communications experience at companies like UPS, All Kinds of Minds, and zUniversity.com and has taught college communication courses at UT Austin and North Carolina State University. You can follow Jenn at @jdeeringdavis.
Photo credit: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid at laughingsquid.com