As social media continues to weave itself into the conference experience, organizers are searching for ways to join the conversation. Over the last several months, our firm has begun using Twitter to create instant conference news channels for meetings. It’s still early, but we think we may have come up with a roadmap for anyone who wants to bring the news of the meeting into the social space, alongside the rich variety of opinions and observations that participants generate.

Social media represents a huge opportunity for organizations that want to reach a wider audience or welcome a broader range of opinions on conference content. Dozens or hundreds of participants can blog or live-tweet a conference, making the online dialogue at least as dynamic as the actual session.

That idea doesn’t always sit well with conference decision-makers who see an organization’s meeting as part of its overall communication strategy. But increasingly, anyone who tries to limit social-media access can expect pushback from participants who want and expect to be heard.

Dedicated social-media practitioners argue that if you open the doors to many voices, the community will take care of any distortions or inaccuracies that creep into the Twitter stream. But that may not be good enough for organizations that—for whatever reason, rightly or wrongly—obsess over every word written about them.

News tweets address the problem by adding independent reporting to the opinions and spot reactions that are Twitter’s strength. At MPI’s World Education Congress in July, we tagged our news tweets as “#wec10 news” to signpost our material within the general Twitter stream. At EventCamp Twin Cities last month, the news tweets were a separate stream. Either way, we tried for the same balance you would find in any daily newspaper—readers look to the front page for balanced, accurate news reporting before turning to the letters and op eds for opinions.

Jamie McDonough, knowledge architect at Fusion Productions, said the news tweets at WEC sparked dialogue around general session topics, and “we noticed many people retweeting the material and adding their own views to the conversation.”

“Many live and virtual attendees commented that they appreciated the live tweet highlights,” said EventCamp Co-Chair Samuel J. Smith. The 265 news tweets were retweeted more than 100 times, signalling that “the ideas we shared under the twitter id were valued by attendees and shared again. We hope it helped us introduce more people to the ideas and thinking from our event.”

News tweets are a work in progress. We’re still learning how to draw a clear line between news (our tweets) and opinion (everyone else’s), and a successful project depends on a client contact who can review our material and make snap judgments on what should or shouldn’t be published.

So while I’m excited about the concept, I think it still cries out for discussion and refinement. What have you done to build social media into your meetings, and would you see news tweets as a useful option on site?

Mitchell Beer, CMM, is president of The Conference Publishers Inc., Ottawa, Ontario, a leading specialist in capturing and repurposing conference content. Beer blogs at http://theconferencepublishers.com/blog. Send comments, facts, arguments, or column ideas to mitchell@theconferencepublishers.com.