On Oct. 20, I attended the Live Tweeting for Academic Conferences workshop hosted by CUNY Graduate Social Media Fellows in anthropology, earth and environmental science, English, music, philosophy, and urban education. One might say that “Tweeting? We all know how to do that”. Yet, personal tweeting is different than tweeting for a particular event. Simply, the latter requires a basic planning, in parallel to the conference.
Live tweeting is a documentation of an event by Twitter users, and it includes sharing quotations, images, and external links. Tweets from different users are usually interlinked to each other by an event based hashtag. Today, live tweeting is quite essential, since it provides a wider audience to the conference. Especially for those who can not attend, it presents an opportunity for contribution; they can comment, ask questions, or just retweet the content. At this point, it is possible to consider live tweeting as a creation of a communication platform for those who are interested in the same topic, either they are in or out of the event venue. As Social Media Fellows highlighted, live tweeting should be planned as a particular session of the conference, and according to them its organization is divided in three periods; before, during, after.
The first step in the “before the event” phase is creating a hashtag, and its promotion. It could be an abbreviation of the event name, or refer directly to the conference theme. It’s important to check the availability of the hashtag on Twitter, in order to eliminate confusion with other causes. It is also useful to check the hashtags of the previous events. For instance, if it is an annual event, it’s helpful to mark the year. Moreover, conference hashtag should be mentioned on print materials such as posters, booklets, flyers, etc. It is also an effective way to remind official hashtag during welcoming talk, and also by panel moderators.
The following step is setting up a tweeting team, and CUNY Social Media Fellows suggest four basic roles: Preparatory Researcher (compiles pre-drafted tweets beforehand, and makes an archive of Twitter handles and hashtags they can use throughout the conference), Master Tweeter (the person designated to write/craft tweets), Designated Retweeter (retweeting using the hashtag), Post-Conference Curator (curating/showcasing highlights after the event). Having multiple tweeters help to avoid overwhelmness of live tweeting, because it is very exhausting to try quote and/or rephrase speakers’ statements in 140 characters, including hashtag. Another very important issue to always remember is the knowledge of tweeters about the conference theme. Being familiar to topic would provide a certain filter to select what to tweet. At this point, it is important also to consider the risk of tweeting too much, which might cause unfollows.
The third job in before the event organization is making a preliminary research on speakers, their institutions and previous works, and their relevant tweets, handles, external links. It is called master document,and it is very helpful to find quickly needed information. It is also a practical way to schedule some tweets of particular announcement; such as, the 2nd panel will be starting after lunch. But it is important to be on alert in case of any changes in the event program.
The final step is about technological infrastructure; controlling wifi connection, power connections, computers and mobile devices, taking some photos before the conference in order to share during live tweeting, etc. Fellows highly recommend laptops, which facilitates writing quickly.
After setting everything up, it’s time for live tweeting, and there are issues that tweeters should pay attention during the event. First of all, tweeters should be always on alert during the talks, and use their own judgment to take out important parts and tweet. The fellows suggests writing speech on a notepad simultaneously, and paraphrase the content in 140 characters. Furthermore, attribution is also quite important during live tweeting in order to connect tweets through handles and hashtags with other Twitter users. Another tip from the fellows is using images as much as possible. In my opinion, it would be also helpful to set an image library, including images of speakers, books of speakers, flyers, conference team, event venue, etc. During live tweeting session, usually follower number increases, and it is essential to follow them back . But controlling the accounts is a must. It could be a Twitter robot, or an irrelevant person to your event. On the other hand, it is also very effective to promote your hashtag during live tweets via retweets. The fellows suggest planning also some re-tweeters among scholars, conference team, and speakers. Before the event you can ask for their support by retweeting, and inform them about your tweets. The retweeters are mostly the people who also tweet often during an event.
The final phase of live tweeting is after the event. Curating all the tweets, and writing history of the event with tweets. My interpretation is that it is possible to call it a conference report on Twitter. For instance, Storify is a digital tool that you can create, and present this curation.
Workshop provided a certain look at Twitter vocabulary, some abbreviations that accelerate the communication among tweeters by connecting them via hashtags. If you are new on Twitter you can use Twittionary to get tweeting language.
Above all, the fellows gave some advices on certain applications which helps to moderate the account easily and quickly; such as Hootsuite, and Tweetdeck. In both of them you can follow multiple accounts in particular feeds; newsfeed, mention, direct messages, etc. Furthermore, these applications allow you to control your other social media accounts; such as Facebook and Instagram.
Live Tweeting workshop was very fruitful for me; it provided me a framework on developing a social media session for a conference by focusing on key concepts of tweeting, which is beyond creating interesting content, more about organizational issues to increase the impact of hashtag. Because there are millions of hashtags everyday, and if you do not outreach sufficiently, there is always a risk of not being noticed.
This post has been published in #dhpraxis16 blog.