Aug 042009

I’ve been asked by a couple of people involved in organising conferences why they should have a conference Twitter account, so I figure it’s a general enough question to be worth blogging. Basically, it’s all about starting or continuing your conversation with those who attend, or might attend, or have attended, or are interested in the subjects your conference covers.

If we take that as a starting point, then that answers the “why”, and Twitter itself answers the “how”, so we’re more or less left with the “what” (as in, what to tweet). Of course it depends on what sort of conference you’re running. One way to look at them is pre-, during, and post-conference.

Pre-conference: use twitter as an adjunct to the conference web site, to remind people of impending deadlines, tell them of the new speakers who are signed up, or the new tracks that have been added. Even the fact that you’re getting the planning committee together is tweet-worthy, as it tells people the conference is being planned, even if the web site doesn’t show it yet (and we all know how long it often takes to update the conference web site). If the hotel is about to sell out, let people know. If fun swag has arrived for the attendees, let them know that too.

This is also the right time to tweet about articles or blog posts the speakers have written (pointing out they’re speaking, of course), or news items related to the subject of the conference.

During the conference: you can remind people about today’s social events, tell them of changes to the schedule, remind them where the exhibits are if you have an exhibit hall. Point to people who are live-blogging the event, if any. Remind people which tag to use for photos. I’d advise against tweeting so much information that people are paying more attention to the conference tweets than the speakers; contests and the like can be dangerous for this reason (unless it’s a conference based on twitter).

Post-conference: point to blogs, write-ups, and photo pools from the event, let people know when planning for the next one starts, ask for suggestions for speakers and topics for the next one.

A couple of tips about followers: follow people who follow you, except for obvious spammers or marketers. Consider following all the speakers you can. Don’t worry too much about how many followers the conference account has; if every speaker retweets only the tweets about them, you’ll still pass the word around to people who by definition should be interested in the conference content.I’m sure there are other ideas for content, but these will at least get you started.

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