If you’ve been to a conference lately, it’s hard to miss the “hashtags” such as #SXSW that are announced in introductory remarks and embedded in conference programs. Since the establishment of the microblogging service Twitter in 2006, it has become very popular for conference attendees to use them to provide live descriptions and comments on talks and related events. There are a number of web articles that describe best practices, e.g. A Complete Guide For Event Planners To Using Twitter At A Conference, and these have been taken to heart by conference organizers who want to promote conversations and engagement amongst attendees.
Nevertheless, what usually seems to be missing is some way to quickly get more information about the conference if you aren't attending it yourself and it’s not a high-profile event. I can't count the number of times that I've seen interesting tweets by one or more people that I'm following, but which are accompanied by an obscure Twitter hashtag, e.g. #dlfLAC. I click on the hashtag to find out more and I find myself scrolling backward through scores of tweets, never finding a reference to the conference web site or to the sponsoring organization unless I'm very lucky or very persistent. The 140-character limit of tweets encourages assumed knowledge and also short acronymic tags (although sometimes 4 valuable characters are wasted on the year, which is unnecessary given the short-term visibility of tweets).
I therefore propose a solution to this blind spot, the Twitter Event Stamp, which provides basic information about the conference, announces the tweeter’s attendance, and can be easily retweeted to provide enough weight to promote the stamp to the top of the hashtag search.
I’m attending #jsgeo!
The basic format of the event stamp is:
I’m attending #<Tag>!
If you aren't actually attending the conference but rather monitoring it from afar, you can change the first line to
I’m watching #<Tag>!
which will also help bring attention to the conference.
Much as a hyperlink can be complex underneath but with a single click lead to a web page of useful human-readable information, an event stamp leverages the power of social media to focus attention on the basics of an event and provide context for all of the related tweets. Want to read the abstract of that presentation that looks so cool? The event stamp should lead you to it, and perhaps also to an online PowerPoint or video if it’s been made available.
To get the ball rolling, one conference organizer should compose the event stamp and tweet it before the beginning of the conference, and then provide a link to the tweet to other organizers and attendees and ask them to retweet it. Those tweets will also become a record of attendees using Twitter.
Even if the conference organizers don't think to create an event stamp, attendees can do it themselves, and encourage others to retweet it. Or ask that remote person you're following to do so, so that you can learn about what you're missing (thanks, @RhoBott!).
Conferences are collaborative activities, and by participating with a Twitter Event Stamp we can all help raise the profile of our favorite conferences. Once the event stamp becomes common enough, tweeters will get a feel for it and retweet when they see it, making it a useful “standard practice” in the Twitterverse. So I hope you’ll adopt the stamp!