As the Washington, D.C.–based American Geophysical Union considered ways to use social media tools to build community online, they decided to conduct an experiment. The association set up a Twitter account a few weeks before their Joint Assembly that took place in May. Some of their goals for the experiment were to find out who uses Twitter within their community, to help members get to know staff, to explore two-way communication, and to extend the event’s reach.

AGU staff—many of whom were new to Twitter—discussed the possibilities for the Twitter account. As a team they chose people who would post during the conference, and several others who would be monitoring the Twitter stream. Here are the steps they took:

• AGU set up a Twitter account specifically for the Joint Assembly.

• They established a hashtag (#ja09) that would identify all tweets related to the meeting and started using it in conjunction with Joint Assembly tweets. (Hash tags are a way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic. The pound sign (#) is called a hash symbol.)

• The organization let attendees know about the Twitter account through e-mail, its Web site, and face-to-face conversations on site.

• AGU staff on site tweeted both logistics updates and interesting content that was coming out of the conference.

They identified a few attendees who were using the hashtag and made contact with them through Twitter.

Even with light adoption by members, the AGU succeeded in setting up systems and giving its staff the confidence to succeed on a larger scale at its fall meeting. —Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer

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