UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

“I Want To Use Twitter For My Conference”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 Nov 2009

I’ve received a number of emails recently from people who wish to make use of Twitter to support an event. Rather than sending an individual reply I thought I’d publish my suggestions here and then send a link to this post. This open approach will allow others to give additional thoughts or comment on my suggestions.

My suggestions:

Agree an event hashtag and publicise it:
As described in a blog post entitled Twitter Event Hashtagging Strategies you should first agree on a tag (known in Twitter as a hashtag as the tag is prefixed with a ‘#’) for the event. This should ideally be short (Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters) and memorable. For an annual event the year (either 2009 or 09) is often appended to a short code for the event (such as readeast09 or iwmw2009). Note that it is advisable to avoid non-alpha-numeric characters if hashtags.

Note that you should agree on the hashtag well in advance of the event and promote it widely. This will ensure that alternative hashtags aren’t used and will allow the hashtag to be used in Twitter posts in advance of the event (e.g. when event organisers announce a call for papers or when attendees share with others their intention to attend the event).

Have an event Twitter account:
Although not essential, event organisers may wish to create a Twitter account to support the event. UKOLN’s IWMW (Institutional Web Management Workshop) event has made use of the ‘iwmw’ Twitter account for the past two years. We use this as an official channel for information about the event: announcements of calls for talks, opening of bookings, etc. It can also be used to provide announcement of changes or unexpected events (for example, last year we used Twitter to report that a set of keys had been found). Use of Twitter provides benefits over email, as users can choose to opt-in to Twitter and Twitter is more easily integrated with mobile phones. Note that it might also be helpful to provide a brief summary of the intended use of Twitter, such as the guidelines and policy developed for the IWMW event.

Have an event liveblog account:
Again although not essential you may chose to have a Twitter account dedicated to summarising the talks. This may be particularly useful if you are providing a live video stream of talks at the event, as it will ensure there is an official channel for supporting the video stream. The iwmwlive Twitter account was used for this purpose at the IWMW 2009 event (the live suffix is gaining some popularity for use in live blogging at events).

Archive the event tweets:
You may find it useful to keep a record of the Twitter posts (tweets) associated with an event. A blog post entitled I Wonder What They Thought About My Session? describes how this can help to provide feedback on the speaker’s talks or a more general analysis of the Twitter stream for an event might provide valuable feedback. Example of tools which can be used to keep an archive of an event’s Twitter stream is described in a summary of the IWMW 2009 event.

Consider use of a Twitter wall:
You may wish to consider use of a “Twitter wall”: a live public display of Twitter posts for an event. A blog post entitled “(TwitterFall) You’re My Wonder Wall” summarises use of the TwitterFall software at the Museums and the Web 2009 conference and a post on “The Back Channels for the Science Online 2009 Conference” provides statistical evidence on use of a conference back channel. However Danah Boyd’s experience at the Web 2.0 expo illustrates potential dangers in a public display of twitter posts at a conference. In my experience a Twitter wall has been useful at the start and end of events, as it can provide a means for participants to introduce themselves and share their thoughts on the event in a public forum. However I would be inclined to avoid forcing a public display of tweets without getting the agreement of the speakers and without considering the implications of how it might be misused.

As an example of how the forthcoming DCC (Digital Curation Centre) conference is advertising its event amplification you can read the blog post on “DCC 2009 Amplified!“. Do others, with experiences of use af Twitter at events, have any comments on my suggestions or any additional suggestions to make?

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

21 Responses to ““I Want To Use Twitter For My Conference””

  1. Christopher Gutteridge said

    Avoid a tag-per-session. This fell apart in small sessions in IWMW because nobody advertised them and people didn’t care enough to go to a webpage to check.

    At Dev8D2010, at the end of February, I plan an experiment of assigning each location a hashtag, then publishing an electronic form of the schedule so the twitter can be merged into each session via location+program data.

    Another more crazy idea is to put qrcodes of the location tags on the walls so that they show up in the background of pictures.

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kate Lindsay: RT @briankelly: Some thoughts on using Twitter at events:

  3. Good suggestions.

    One other thing… for people who happen to stumble across the hashtag, moving from the hashtag to the event website can sometimes be difficult. Make sure that your event website lists the hashtag and is well indexed by Google in advance of the event so that anyone who sees the hashtag in their Twitter client can easily Google it to find out more info. (Embedding the hashtag – without the # – into the event page URL probably helps with this).

    Aside… having experimented with live-blogging using a dedicated Twitter account, I still think that using a dedicated live-blogging tool like CoveritLive gives better results overall – though there are some amplification benefits to using Twitter.

  4. Also worth considering getting presenters to tweet as they present using something like the free powerpoint twitter tools ( or equivalent functionality in Keynote on the Mac.

  5. Keep the hashtag short. Very short. You’re cutting into 140 chars as it is.

    InterWebLibrarian2009 – no
    IWL2009 – still no (are you planning on twitter being around for at least a millenium?)
    IWL09 – better

  6. Emma said

    John said:
    “IWL2009 – still no (are you planning on twitter being around for at least a millenium?)”

    … be fair, John, you only need to hang round for 100 years for ILW09 to crop up again … though I agree it’s pretty unlikely :)

  7. jobadge said

    Agree with John : tags – often a good idea to crwodsource the tag before an event. There was considerable disquiet at ALT-C this year over the ‘official’ tag, similarly at the HEA annual conference, where the official tag 14 chrs long (10& of a tweet is rather bonkers!).

    hashtag publicity/ understanding what’s going on from outside: I use to set up tweets that contain the hashtag and the URL to the conference programme or a blog post explaining the event at regular intervals through the day. It’s easy to get carried away with the content of the conference and forget that people outside the room may wonder what you are doing. You can get really fancy and set these up to tweet links to each presentation, but watch the timings carefully (BST/GMT casuses problems!!)

  8. Ian Brodie said

    Michelle Riggen-Ransom of Batchblue also blogged about the Web 2.0 Expo experience with a twitter wall behind the presenter here

    Sobering stuff.


  9. Following on from Andy’s suggestion, I find a combination of Twitter plus CoverItLive works best. CoverItLive is archived long after the event is over, tweets are no longer searchable after a few weeks. You can use a separate tool to archive tweets, but CoverItLive from the start is simpler.

    CoverItLive integrates with Twitter so that you can pull in all tweets with a specified hashtag or all tweets from a specified Twitter account. I have a separate Twitter account that I use mainly for conference tweeting so that I don’t flood the followers of my personal protected account. You can also embed live UStream channels in the same CoverItLive stream.

  10. Can I suggest that all hashtags used are registered with ?
    Means that people can check what they are, and that there can be a really nice transcript of tweets produced afterwards.

    Anne Marie

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  17. Steve said

    We just added the ability for the public to “guest tweet” to a single Twitter account (with editorial control) within our TweetFunnel app, as we have gotten this as a casual request a few times in the past. Would be interested in getting feedback on the usefulness of this for conferences.

  18. […] at events and the communication of such names to participants at such events.  Chris Gutteridge described the approaches he planned to take at the Dev8D […]

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  20. Mike said

    Hi Brian, thanks for this. We are doing this for the first time next week, I have to say it’s a little bit nerveracking preparing for it in advance. Kathryn’s suggestion of using Coveritlive is a good one, we used this recently to do a live blog for the football transfer window deadline and it worked quite well.

  21. […] follow-up post on “I Want To Use Twitter For My Conference” provided suggestions on use of Twitter to support events but avoided mentioning use of session […]

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