Creating and using a dedicated event Twitter account brings some particular logistical issues for the professional event planner. As with every other aspect of event planning, attention to detail is king, so knowing how to design a robust strategy to incorporate Twitter into your event in a way that's reliable and useful to your audience is vital.
Here are the Top Seven Tips any obsessive compulsive event planner should consider when using Twitter as part of their event:
1. Manage Expectations
You need to be really clear what your event Twitter account is for if you want to manage your audience's expectations effectively. Is it for support and logistical information? Will it be providing a live commentary of the event? Spend time writing your account bio so that it's really clear what the account is going to tweet about and make sure you include an appropriate link to your event website so followers can find out more.
2. Designate More Than One Person to Tweet
If only one person knows the password to your event Twitter account, if anything prevents that person from being at the event then you're stuck. If Twitter is to play an important role in your event, make sure someone is prepared to act as a back up and knows the appropriate login details. If several people are sharing the responsibility for tweeting, make sure they can communicate with each other outside of Twitter in case something goes wrong or they need to discuss how best to handle a difficult tweet.
3. Have a Fallback Plan
If you're using Twitter for either audience support or a live commentary, you need to ensure that the people using it have a fallback option to keep them online if the venue's wifi goes down. They might need a wired Internet connection, a mobile broadband dongle or a smartphone with an appropriate app installed already on hand so they can transition smoothly and quickly in the event of a wifi failure. Don't be fooled into thinking that your audience will not be able to tweet either if the wifi goes down. You can tweet from any mobile phone, so there will still be comments that will require your attention. However, it's harder to monitor a Twitter stream and tweet rapidly without wifi, so you'll be on the back foot if you don't have a fallback plan.
4. Check the Mobile Signal Strength at Your Venue
If the mobile signal strength is low and the wifi at the venue is slow or nonexistent, few people are going to be able to tweet successfully, and even if they do they'll find the experience quite frustrating. If your venue is really not suitable, you may need to reconsider your strategy regarding Twitter, or change the venue if your audience is going to demand good connectivity.
5. Find Out Who Tweets
Make sure you add a question to your event sign-up form asking for delegates' Twitter IDs. You can use this to get an idea of how many of your audience might tweet during the event and allow you to take a sneak peak at what they tend to tweet about. Make sure you follow these people from your event account and create a Twitter list of participants and speakers who tweet, which you can share to encourage online networking before the event.
6. Back Up Your Event Tweets
An event Twitter stream is a fantastic source of genuine feedback about your event. Unlike traditional event feedback forms, which are often rushed and lack sufficient detail, Twitter allows you to get realtime feedback to help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your event. However, with the best will in the world, you won't pick up on everything as the event unfolds and when you sit down to debrief a week or so later your event tweets may have dropped off the Twitter search results. Use a tool like Twapperkeeper to keep an archive of all the tweets that use your event hashtag and you'll be able to go back whenever you want to analyse the audience reaction to your event.
7. Set Up Your Account as Early as Possible
If your account is brand new and you tweet prolifically on your conference hashtag you run the risk of being identified as a hashtag spammer, which means your tweets will not show up in the hashtag search. Make sure you set your account up at least a week in advance and tweet from it (both with the hashtag and without) in the run up to the event itself. It is definitely worth reading the Twitter Search Best Practice Guidelines to make sure you're not doing anything that might jeopardize your appearance in the search results for your event hash tag.
What have you done to make your event's Twitter account and hashtag effective in engaging your audience? Comment and share you tips.
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