Back in early April, the nonprofit I work for co-hosted a two day conference for college students, and I was the Chief Tweeter (an unofficial title at best). The Food Waste & Hunger Summit was co-hosted by The Campus Kitchens Project, where I work, and Food Recovery Network.
Both organizations work to empower college students to address the issues of food waste and food insecurity in their university communities by recovering food that would have otherwise been thrown away from dining halls, restaurants, farmers markets and more, and distributing this food to the hungry. Needless to say, our Summit attendees were leaders of social change… and pretty intense tweeters.
As the online community engagement manager for The Campus Kitchens Project, it was my job to support our social media efforts before, during and after the Summit. While I’ve live-tweeted events before, I have never done so on behalf of an organization responsible for putting on said event.
I quickly learned that you have very little time to actually experience what is happening in a conference you are live-tweeting to the world because you’re so busy trying to type out the next post. But if I had to put on and cover an event like this again (and I am sure I will next spring!), here’s what I would be sure to do:
- choose an event hashtag. Ours was #HungerSummit – not too abbreviated that outsiders wouldn’t be able to generally understand where the tweets were coming from, but also not too long (#FoodWasteHungerSummit takes up 21 of your precious 140 characters!). Also be sure that no one else is using that hashtag around the time of your event. (A local food bank started using it right after our event ended – perfect timing.) And then don’t forget to hype it up with all of your event participants so they know to use it too!
- create a Twitter list of key tweeters. I created a list of the various speakers, workshop leaders and participating organizations to reference before, during and after the Summit. Not everyone used the hashtag we created, and not all of the relevant tweets mentioned our organization. This list helped me to find relevant tweets about the event I could share with our own followers.
- set up searches to help you find tweets during the event. I use HootSuite to manage our Twitter account, so I created a new tab just for this event. It pulled in tweets from the Twitter list I created, tweets using #HungerSummit and tweets containing “Hunger Summit” in an attempt to find everything anyone was saying about the event.
- choose a streaming service. To encourage conversation on Twitter, we used TweetBeam to stream all tweets using #HungerSummit during the weekend. We displayed the feed before the Summit convened each day and between plenary sessions when possible. Who doesn’t want to see their picture and tweets up on a big screen? No one. So that’s why you put it up on a big screen.
- warn your followers that tweets are coming. Not all of your followers will see each of your tweets, but many are likely to notice a barrage of tweets covering a two day event. Warn your followers multiple times in the week prior to the event to lessen the chance they get annoyed at your (awesome, I am sure) content and unfollow you.
- reference that Twitter list! I often took a quick scroll through the list to see what our participating organizations and presenters were saying about their experiences so I could retweet and reply when possible. This helped create conversation among participants and presenters alike.
- always have your Twitter stream open and ready to display between sessions and during down time. The more opportunities people have to see their tweets, the more likely they are to contribute.
- use something other than your phone (but still bring your phone charger). Using a smart phone is great to tweet pictures. But it’s not so great for keeping up with an awesome speaker who says something worthy of a tweet every 90 seconds. I used a small netbook and was so thankful I did. I was able to type faster because the keys were familiar, and I could have multiple windows open at once: TweetChat to monitor the hashtag, my mentions, and the Summit twitter list.
- employ a service like TweetChat to see the conversation real time. TweetChat makes it easy to see what everyone using a particular hashtag is saying. It loads faster than Twitter and frankly makes retweeting and replying a more timely process.
- don’t just tweet sound bites. Make sure to ask your audience questions about their favorite presentation or experience throughout the conference. Invite them to tweet in questions for presenter Q & A’s. Make your content as interactive as possible.
- thank folks for participating. Seeing tweets about flying home? Wish those people a safe flight. Tell your participants (and presenters, for that matter) you can’t wait to see what they’re going to do with what they learned at your event. This keeps the door wide open for future connections and collaboration.
- retweet any re-caps of the event. Whether from a participant’s personal blog or a presenting organization’s website, share any articles or posts you find covering your event.
- check that Twitter list every once in awhile. Maintain the partnerships you created for the event by sharing cool stories from your presenters or congratulating an organization on a unique accomplishment. The longer you can stay engaged, the longer a conversation can keep flowing.