13 Tips for Using Social Media at Your Next Conference

March 13, 2012

A few people are asking me about larger events and conferences coming up. Different departments would like to know how to incorporate social media to enhance the conference experience and help to reach goals they have for their events. I always say figure out your goals before your tactics. The below are some tactics (ideas for action) to help you carry out your overall strategy and achieve your goals. Enjoy!

1. Wi-Fi.

Make sure there is good, strong, free Wi-Fi available in all locations of the conference and that your participants know how to access it. Some people have their own data cards or phones, but others will rely on Wi-Fi.

2. Platforms.

Cover the event on multiple platforms. Twitter is usually easiest to get conversation going at a quick-paced conference, but you will have participants that use several different platforms such as Facebook, blogs, Tumblr, etc.

3. Facebook page and/or event.

Well before the conference set up a conference-specific Facebook page and email participants about its existence. You can post useful links, updates, and news on the page. Give the participants a chance to like that page. Also consider a Facebook event. It may be more useful to set your conference up as an event, especially if you don't plan on having a stream of news and updates, but just want to get everyone connected.

4. Hashtags.

Before the event you will also want to determine a good hashtag. If you don't know what a hashtag is, read my post on the subject. Do your research: make sure the hashtag isn't being used for something else. Crossing conversations can get confusing. Once you've determined this, don't just start using it on your own feed and expect that it will catch on. Make sure participants know to use the hashtag. Advertise the hashtag on posters, screens, and the program, and have speakers mention it as well. Benefits: you can follow the hashtag and see what participants are finding most interesting. The greater public can get involved and watch, and hopefully be influenced to attend next year!

5. Audio and video.

If you have the resources, record the audio and video and make these available online. If you have been watching the use of hashtags on Twitter throughout the conference, you might have noticed what moments in the speakers' talks got the most buzz. From the longer audio files, take out these popular snippets and post them on your Soundcloud account, for example.

6. Linkedin group.

If this is an annual or repeating conference, consider creating a Linkedin group for the conference within which participants can connect with each other and continue the conversation.

7. Visual displays.

For larger conferences, you can display tweets, updates, the hashtag, QR codes, etc. on a screen. Display your account usernames and the hashtag at the front on a board or screen near the speaker so participants are reminded.

8. Printed and online programs.

Do not assume that people will go looking for conference-related social media accounts. They may even be heavy tweeters but not consider hunting for information. List all links, feeds, hashtags, etc. in the program, on the website, and in any other conference materials. Refer to the Facebook page in a Twitter post. Post the website URL on the Facebook page.

9. Social media staff.

For larger conferences, consider having one person focus on monitoring the social media activity during the conference. Watch the hashtag as participants use it. Post on the conference social media accounts during the conference making sure to mention (@) the speakers and participants. Retweet participants as they tweet about the conference. Share posts on other platforms. Reply to and engage participants on different platforms. Schedule pre-curated posts through an automation software such as Hootsuite for events whose times and speakers are already determined.

10. Have speakers take a question from Twitter.

Do not announce this at the end of the talk, however. Announce it at the beginning to give people time to login to their accounts if on a laptop, or type the question out using their thumbs on a phone. Give them time! If you do take questions from Twitter, you should require their question to include a hashtag, perhaps the conference hashtag with a 'q' on the end.

11. QR codes. 

(What is a QR code?) At your conference, make it easy. It is less likely someone will see a long URL on a poster or program and type it out character for character into their browser, especially on a phone. Use QR codes to entice participants to visit certain web pages with more ease. Include a QR code next to each speaker's bio on the program to lead participants to their twitter profile. Include a QR code to your Facebook page on a poster. Shorten the link with bit.ly before you make it into a QR code so you can track how many people actually scanned the code to see if it was worth it.

12. Twitter lists.

Create a Twitter list of all participants, speakers, conference board members, and conference sponsors before the conference. This will make it easy for you to find someone quickly if you want to refer to them.

13. Follow up.

After the conference, your social media efforts can augment the experience. Take all the tweets with the conference hashtag and post them in one document to share. Have participants write blog posts on what they learned. Follow up with participants via Twitter and invite them to join the Linkedin group. If this year your social media preparation, live efforts, and followup are stellar, people will come prepared to engage on social platforms even more the next year. Use your next conference as an experiment; get creative!

Posted By
Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Former MIT Social Media Strategist

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