15Oct

We have already had an extremely heated discussion on this blog about the value of live, real-time, coverage of the many events of interest to the Media140 audience. In a debate which we dubbed “Sifting the News from the Noise” Brian Condon and Steve Jackson, not to mention several engaged commenters, engaged in a lively exchange of views on one of this forum’s busiest days to date.

Media140 regular Caitlin Fitzsimmons has already posted valuable tips about Twitter for bloggers, #FollowFriday and other thorny matters of web etiquette. Here, she suggests some original ways to carry on live covering, without drowning out the rest of “the Conversation” –

If you are going to a conference and you use Twitter, then you may be tempted to tweet about what’s going on at the conference. But if you want to add value and not annoy your followers, then you should think carefully about the why and the how. Personally, I think Twitter can be a fabulous tool for conferences, but most people should think twice before using their own accounts for this purpose.

Live-tweeting is a controversial issue and we’ve heard from two opposing viewpoints on this blog already. Brian Condon (aka @brian_condon) explained why tweeting conferences and live events has value, while Steve Jackson (aka @ourman) argued that a lot of it is just noise and crawling to Twitter powerbrokers.

I think they are both right. I also think there is an easy solution.

There is no doubt in my mind that Twitter can enhance a conference experience and extend its reach. There will generally be a conference hashtag set up for any tweets about the event, so it can provide an immediate camaraderie and means to communicate and collaborate. Tweeting about what is said in sessions can amplify the salient points and spark discussion and debate and further questions. If there is a critical mass of people tweeting then it can help break the ice – after all, one of the biggest reasons to go to many conferences, is the opportunity to network with other attendees.

Hopefully, so the theory goes, the Twitter back channel can also bring the conference to a wider audience. It lets people who are interested but couldn’t attend in person know what is going on and feed back their own thoughts and questions.

The problem is that Twitter is a broadcast medium so it is also reaches a lot of people who are not interested. It’s all very well to say that you can always unfollow someone – this is true, but not very useful advice when any one of your followers may attend a conference and suddenly start tweeting like crazy at any moment in time. You may also want to follow the conference-attending tweeter on any other day of the year, when they are not at a conference. Supposedly the Twitter Snooze tool, which lets you temporarily unfollow someone, can help with this, but it didn’t work the one time I tried it.

One alternative is live-blogging, which is 100% opt-in and offers a permanent record of what happened at the conference. The disadvantage is that it’s not as collaborative and fun as tweeting.

I think setting up a separate Twitter account for the conference is the obvious answer. I’ve done this twice and it works beautifully.

The first time was for FIPP 2009 World Magazine Congress in London in May. I was hired to write news stories for the conference website and I pitched the idea of an official Twitter stream. I did this as @fipp2009 and provided updates, mostly on what was said at the conference but also a few colour updates, such as from the opening party at Kensington Palace. FIPP threw their public relations team behind the effort, promoting the Twitter stream on the website and in communication with attendees, so there was a reasonable following by day one. By the end, we had more than 700 followers, both attendees and people around the world with an interest in the magazine business. We even had a Brazilian guy retweeting me in Portugese! It was a huge success. (More about this on my professional site).

Then in August, I attended the Book Passage Travel Writing and Photography Conference in Marin County near San Francisco. I connect with a lot of travel writers and bloggers on Twitter, and many of them were disappointed they couldn’t go and specifically asked me to tweet. So I did. But again I decided to set up another account. That way, I wouldn’t have to ration my conference tweets – I could give as much volume as I wanted, without alienating those who were not interested.

I tweeted from Book Passage as @niltiac_bp. Unlike with FIPP, I didn’t have a big PR machine to spend months getting the word out about the Twitter account. Not that I wanted this of course – I’m a person, not an organisation, so it would have been kinda weird if I had. Still, since I only decided to do this the day before the conference, I was a bit nervous that I would be talking to an audience of zero and the whole thing would just be a vanity exercise. I remembered how long it took me to build my followers in the early days of Twitter and I assumed it would be similar with a new account. It wasn’t.

At the time, my main @niltiac Twitter account had 1500 followers (it’s now more). I let all my followers know at least once a day that I was tweeting at @niltiac_bp and I also used the #bptravel hashtag to connect with other conference tweeters. Around 100 people followed by the end of the conference. I didn’t tweet constantly – some sessions required my full presence and participation, and some things were said off the record – but I tweeted most of the keynotes and a few reflections and thoughts. A lot of non-attendees thanked me for the updates, and most of the attendees and faculty knew who I was. I was glad that people were interested but I was even more glad that I wasn’t boring my friends like @ourman who weren’t.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. This was just an experiment that worked for me. I urge you to try it and see for yourself as what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for everyone. If you do decide to live-tweet a conference from your own account, please keep the volume light and consider your wider audience, not just your fellow attendees. And don’t be surprised if you do lose followers, even if you gain others.

8 comments
Dominique Jackson
Dominique Jackson

Echoing Chris, the whole "news/noise" debate HAS definitely made me think harder about carpet bombing the stream - a few of us certainly got rather carried away during the #ashes -
The points made about crawling in @ourman's original riposte were also interesting but I can't really believe anyone retweets with such a banal and superficial motive - I only RT information which I feel that - at least a reasonable percentage of my followers - will appreciate. They can choose to click on the link or not - IMHO.
Thanks to all commenters - this is certainly an issue which seems set to run for a while yet!

Dominique Jackson
Dominique Jackson

Echoing Chris, the whole "news/noise" debate HAS definitely made me think harder about carpet bombing the stream - a few of us certainly got rather carried away during the #ashes - The points made about crawling in @ourman's original riposte were also interesting but I can't really believe anyone retweets with such a banal and superficial motive - I only RT information which I feel that - at least a reasonable percentage of my followers - will appreciate. They can choose to click on the link or not - IMHO. Thanks to all commenters - this is certainly an issue which seems set to run for a while yet!

Stef
Stef

A really simple way is to just start all your tweets with @

For instance:

@media140 Interesting question from the floor...

That way, only other people that are also following the @media140 account will see the tweet. You can also add the hashtag on the end, but this reduces number of available characters, this not annoying anyone who doesn't want to hear your conference tweets.

Occasionally tweet 'follow @media140 to hear my conference tweets' to remind them.

This was the principle behind http://twooms.org by the way.

Stef
Stef

A really simple way is to just start all your tweets with @ For instance: @media140 Interesting question from the floor... That way, only other people that are also following the @media140 account will see the tweet. You can also add the hashtag on the end, but this reduces number of available characters, this not annoying anyone who doesn't want to hear your conference tweets. Occasionally tweet 'follow @media140 to hear my conference tweets' to remind them. This was the principle behind http://twooms.org by the way.

cyberdoyle
cyberdoyle

I read this post last week, and have been thinking about it on and off since then. My view is that in order to pick up the right people to follow and the information you seek, you follow your own path.

Yesterday I watched a video presentation by Cameron Neylon, these are his slides: http://tinyurl.com/ylphejn and in it I found the message I wanted to post here. Simply put (he goes into stats and explanations) is that you have to put up with the noise on twitter, in order to find the gems you are looking for. If you are prolifically tweeting at a conf as yourself you may lose followers, but those probably aren't the sort you want to keep anyway. Also your primary account will pick up new people to follow if you stick to your own name.

These days we all have far too many followers to follow back unless they reply to you and you notice them. With the best will in the world (apart from blocking obvious britneys) you can't follow everyone. I don't see the point in blocking anyone who looks harmless in case they are just starting out on twitter and someone good would be lost. I don't see the point in following everyone who follows me, otherwise I would have even more noise to wade through, so I keep it as tight as I can, and put up with any noise my good ones make if they are at a conference and watch the hashtags to see who they reply to and that is they way I have built up my knowledge base.
So yes, tweeting through another account does have its good points and is very suitable for some people, but generally speaking the noise is good, especially if conf hashtags are used.
That's my take on it anyway.
'orses for courses. The beauty of twitter is that we can all make up our own rules? And if folks don't like ours then they gather their own community of kindred spirits.

There is room for everyone. A brilliant post, and it got me thinking, which is a good thing...
...well done. I for one will tweet more carefully at a conf, (or watching an online conf) for having read it. For which my followers will no doubt be immensely relieved. ;)
Also I would like to point out that crawling is not the reason most people retweet conf tweets, they retweet good information to their own followers who aren't following the same conference if that makes any sense.
Basically I suppose I am just agreeing with the original post.
chris

cyberdoyle
cyberdoyle

I read this post last week, and have been thinking about it on and off since then. My view is that in order to pick up the right people to follow and the information you seek, you follow your own path. Yesterday I watched a video presentation by Cameron Neylon, these are his slides: http://tinyurl.com/ylphejn and in it I found the message I wanted to post here. Simply put (he goes into stats and explanations) is that you have to put up with the noise on twitter, in order to find the gems you are looking for. If you are prolifically tweeting at a conf as yourself you may lose followers, but those probably aren't the sort you want to keep anyway. Also your primary account will pick up new people to follow if you stick to your own name. These days we all have far too many followers to follow back unless they reply to you and you notice them. With the best will in the world (apart from blocking obvious britneys) you can't follow everyone. I don't see the point in blocking anyone who looks harmless in case they are just starting out on twitter and someone good would be lost. I don't see the point in following everyone who follows me, otherwise I would have even more noise to wade through, so I keep it as tight as I can, and put up with any noise my good ones make if they are at a conference and watch the hashtags to see who they reply to and that is they way I have built up my knowledge base. So yes, tweeting through another account does have its good points and is very suitable for some people, but generally speaking the noise is good, especially if conf hashtags are used. That's my take on it anyway. 'orses for courses. The beauty of twitter is that we can all make up our own rules? And if folks don't like ours then they gather their own community of kindred spirits. There is room for everyone. A brilliant post, and it got me thinking, which is a good thing... ...well done. I for one will tweet more carefully at a conf, (or watching an online conf) for having read it. For which my followers will no doubt be immensely relieved. ;) Also I would like to point out that crawling is not the reason most people retweet conf tweets, they retweet good information to their own followers who aren't following the same conference if that makes any sense. Basically I suppose I am just agreeing with the original post. chris

Dan Martin
Dan Martin

You can also use Cover It Live and set it up to pull in tweets using the appropriate conference hashtag.

Dan Martin
Editor, BusinessZone.co.uk

Dan Martin
Dan Martin

You can also use Cover It Live and set it up to pull in tweets using the appropriate conference hashtag. Dan Martin Editor, BusinessZone.co.uk