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]