Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 2012

Working Smarter: Beyond the Hashtag

Barbara Palmer
Matching your  Twitter  strategy  to your  attendees.

At the  2011 Dublin Web Summit, held at the  Royal  Dublin Society in October,  energy company Electric  Ireland  created  a  buzz —  both at the  conference  and  in the  blogosphere  —  with its Twitter-powered  Tweet  Café.  Attendees  could  choose  from  one  of 24  treat  options,  which were  displayed  behind clear  plastic  doors  labeled  with numbers.  To order something, attendees tweeted the hashtag #tweetcafe, along with the number of the  treat  they wanted; their Twitter handle was  then displayed  on  a  screen  when  their  order  was  ready.

“The whole  principle was  to engage tech-based  people on  their  own terms  by using  Twitter,” Electric  Ireland’s  Edel  McCarthy  told  a  reporter  from  The Next Web

"It was a great idea," Trevor Roald, mobile-technology evangelist at Quick-mobile in Vancouver, told   Convene. But what  really  made  it  work  wasn't  just  that  it  was  imaginative,  but  that it was  a  good  fit for  the  conference.  “It  worked very well  for  that  audience,  but some audiences could  be  turned off  by it,  or even  be intimidated,”  Roald  said. "The advice  I  would  have  for meeting planners  —  get  a  sense  of who your  audience  is.” 

That said, it’s  not  always easy to judge  attendees’  interest  in Twitter  by  their current  or past behavior. “I think  that  more  people are  understanding  how  to use  Twitter,  and  we  are  seeing greater use  of it  at meetings,”  said  Jessica  Levin,  president  of Seven  Degrees Communication  and  a  frequent  speaker  about social  media. “People are getting used  to seeking  out  the  conference  hashtag and  joining  the  conversation  on their  own and  before they arrive.

"We  are  seeing  that  a  lot  of people have  already  created  Twitter  accounts,  even if  they have never  used them,  so there is  one  less  step  in the  on-boarding  process. However,  there  is still  a  learning  curve,  and  many  people still  need assistance in getting started.” 
Social-media strategist Jenise Fryatt is a proponent of taking a proactive approach to engaging attendees with Twitter. At a  corporate  meeting  for 8,000 attendees  held in Las  Vegas  in March, Fryatt  was  part  of a  team  of “social-media  concierges” who,  armed with  iPads,  stationed themselves  at strategic  intersections  throughout the meeting. “And  we  just  talked  to people,” Fryatt  said, “asking  them  if  they used Twitter, or were  interested  in learning more about  it.” 

The  goal  was  not  just  to get  attendees to be  active  in social-media  channels  at the conference, but  also  to provide them  with a  service.  It  was  a  different  approach than trumpeting the conference  hashtag  and  urging  people to  use  it. As  Fryatt  explained  to attendees:  “Facebook  and  LinkedIn are  great for connecting  with people you  know, but Twitter is  for  connecting  with people  you  don’t  already  know.” 

“Once [attendees] understood that,” Fryatt said, “they were really keen to use Twitter.”  The  team made  it  easy for new  users  to get  started  right  away, offering small  rewards  such as food certificates  to attendees  who engaged in  social  media  by  tweeting  with the conference hashtag  or posting  a  picture to  Facebook.  “When  I  talked  to them  about how  it  could  help with career advancement  and  business  opportunities,” Fryatt  said, “you should have seen their eyes light up.”

Breakout

Sharing Tweets – or Not


At  this  point,  “most  planners have figured  out  that  having the tweets  behind  the  presenter is distracting,”  social-media expert  Jessica  Levin  said, “but that  there  are  other  ways  to display them  so  that  everyone can  view  the  conversation.”  On her to-try list are Twitterfall, Wiffiti, Visible Tweets, and TodaysMeet, which creates a backchannel similar to Twitter, but is private.  “This solution  is perfect for  meetings  that  have sensitive  or confidential  content,” Levin said, “but can be  enhanced with  additional conversation.”

More Resources

Hashcaster, a  platform  that organizes the  “fire hose”  of event-based Twitter  streams,  has published a  white  paper  about Twitter and  event  marketing, available  at convn.org/hashcaster.

Working Smarter is sponsored by The Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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