In the past few years, Twitter has become one of the most useful and popular tools for promoting events and conferences. Because Twitter posts (called a “tweet”) are restricted to text messages of 140 characters or less, the tool is perfect for generating headline and small news stories. Combined with links to websites, you can make powerful information about your show available to real and potential attendees in an easy-to-read steady stream. This stream is a great vehicle for generating buzz about your conference.
The first step in making Twitter work effectively for your conference is to choose a great hashtag. A hashtag can be included in the body of each tweet and is a short phrase preceded by a hash (#) symbol. For example, if you are holding ABC Conference, your hashtag might be #abcConf. By making a hashtag that is short and easy, tweets can reference your conference using the tag. Using Twitter search and other tools (like http://www.hashtags.org/) you can then easily monitor what people are saying.
There are a few tricks to choosing an effective hashtag:
• Make it short (less than 10 characters)
• Easy to remember and type
• Relates to your conference
• Not used yet (search Twitter to find out)
• Not so generic that it is confused with something else
• No hyphens
• Does not have a meaning that can be misconstrued (such as a profane text messaging acronym!) – you should use an “urban dictionary” for this
Now that you’ve chosen a great hashtag, you can use Twitter to promote your conference. Here are some key things to keep in mind:
• Mention your hashtag far in advance of the conference and include in all your related publicity – don’t wait until the day the event starts!
• Include hashtag in all print and digital material
• Make sure your Twitter profile has the full name, date, location of your conference and a pitch about the conference
• Encourage your sponsors, exhibitors and speakers to include your hashtag in all their conference-related postings
• Identify and follow key influencers of your conference such as press, bloggers, thought leaders, authors, and so forth
• Interact with everyone who is following you through Twitter Replies and Retweets. For example, if there is an energetic comment about your keynote speaker, respond to that tweet in a similar manner.
• Retweet news stories related to the conference (such as about host city, speakers, sponsors…) with appropriate links
• Share event photos (such as the facility or conference setup). Tools like Twitpic are great for this
• Link to video interviews with speakers
• Schedule your tweets so that they go out throughout the day using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck
• Keep “self-promoting” tweets to less than 10% of your output. Most tweets should be sharing resources or interacting with others
• Make sure to tweet links to all postings of your conference blog (if you don’t have one, then start one!)
• Auto-follow everyone who follows you (software like SocialOomph can do this)
• Have occasional posts that ask your followers a question, such as which speaker or city location is of the most interest
• Use specials or contests to encourage people to follow you (such as a drawing at the conference)
Your use of Twitter does not end when the conference starts. In fact, during and after the conference is the perfect time to further build your brand. Our next article in this series will explore how to effectively use Twitter onsite and afterward.