Does our twitter community feel elitist?

One area where baby boomers might be convinced to use Twitter is at a professional education conference. Using technology to expand the reach of your event, your community can participate virtually. Adding a virtual element to your physical event makes it a hybrid event. Social media tools, such as twitter are used as a medium for both the physical audience and the virtual audience to interact. As a virtual attendee, you could be viewing a live stream of a presentation and tweeting nuggets of information, analysis, or conversations with other attendees as if you were present at the live event. Not only are these conversations seen by anyone following the event’s hashtag, but they are seen by anyone following you in their home feed. This expands the reach of your event even further.

However, many people are new to it or still learning. What they are viewing on the Twitter feed at their conference is much different than what it was two years ago. At MPI's WEC last year, some comments in sessions and in the hallways were made that the posts they saw on the Twitter walls in sessions did not seem useful. I suspect part of the motivation behind these comments comes from the reluctance to have to add one more project to their everyday lives. We always hear, “it’s all just a bunch of garbage, i.e. people talking about what they just had to eat”. Instead of spending some time with the platform to test it out for yourself, it is easier to disregard it.

Here’s the truth. If you were not already part of that community, it would feel a bit elitist, not as welcoming, as the most prolific tweeters have now gotten to know each other “in real life” and use the platform as a means to socialize as well as share content. In fact, the sharing of content seemed different, too. How many people actually use it for learning? I like adding education to the content presented by finding the link the speaker is referring to or finding one that is similar. (Instead of just reporting.) However, this has taken me years of practice to get to the level of live tweeting ability that I have. When I started learning Twitter at this same conference two years earlier, it was o.k. to make mistakes. Now, there are very specific rules and it can seem much more daunting to jump in at this point.

As conference organizers, do we create a new hashtag for the fun stuff or socializing? Most of this type of tweeting is done from mobile devices so it would be great to view multiple hashtags in one stream if you wanted to. That way, we could have multiple hashtags at a conference (one for feedback for the organizers or venue, one for each session, one for each topic, one for socializing, one for sponsors or suppliers to promote specials, etc.) On the other hand, do more hashtags feel like more information overload? In theory, we already have all of those types of tweets in one stream (or multiple streams) and so it would not increase the number of tweets. This would simply give us the ability to filter further if we wanted to.

All of this new technology has created a need for the human element to manage it. New jobs like Virtual Emcee, Live Tweeters and Social Media Strategists can be used to enhance the experience for the audience and make sure the organization hosting the event is delivering the brand message. The organization may have people who can act as social media reporters or social media ambassadors, but you need someone to manage the process and make sure the message is reported – and monitored. Just like many companies are using social media platforms as tools for customer service, so must you monitor what is being said at your meeting or event to deal with issues the user may be having. This is unsolicited feedback – which is invaluable because it is so hard to get attendees to fill out evaluation forms after an event. It is an exciting time for the meetings and events industry.

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