My people are the ones whose smartphones live in their hands, not their pockets. My people know usernames better than real names. My people have an innate sense of what will fit into 140 characters. My people put jokes in hashtags, because, somehow, they’re funnier that way. My people are the Twitter people.
At the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference this past weekend, I met a lot of my people. As is often the case, I also met a lot more people who spoke that oh-so-familiar refrain: I just don’t get Twitter.
For those of you in the latter category, here’s the secret you don’t know. The people on Facebook are your mom and your best friend from high school and your great-aunt Mary and your break buddy from three jobs ago. The people on Twitter are your tribe.
The people on FB are your mom & your best friend from high school. The people on Twitter are your tribe.
If you’re not on Twitter already, a conference is actually a great time to start. It’s a ready-made community to ease you into the platform. Over the weekend, I jotted down some notes about how to get the most out of Twitter during a writing conference. Here are seven tips for conference attendees, and, as a bonus, four more for organizers and presenters.
Tips for Attendees
- Use the conference tag. Most conferences have one official hashtag to help attendees find each other and follow along. Put it at the end of every conference-related tweet you post, and search for it to find other conference-goers. (The hashtag for this year’s RMFW Colorado Gold conference was #RMFW2014.)
- Retweet and follow other attendees. As soon as you know the conference hashtag, start searching for it. Some users will begin using the tag early as they plan and prepare for the actual event. That’s a great time to begin following your fellow attendees and getting to know them, even before the conference starts. If someone posts something that resonates with you or that you think your followers will enjoy, retweet it. Continue following and retweeting other attendees once the conference gets underway. They will notice and appreciate it.
- Put your Twitter username on your badge. If it’s not on there already, write your Twitter username clearly on your badge. It will help others find and recognize you.
- Find the quotable quotes. When you’re in workshops or keynotes, listen for the speakers’ most direct, concise statements. If the quotes are funny or surprising, all the better. You’ll learn to recognize the gems that fit within the 140-character limit. Those are what you should be tweeting.
- Attribute speakers. When you quote someone, make sure you include their name or Twitter username in your quote. Give credit where credit is due.
- Tweet things that will be useful to people outside the conference. Twitter is great for getting to know people within a conference, but the majority of your followers probably aren’t fellow attendees. Try to keep your tweets interesting and informative, even for people who aren’t at the event with you. It’s better to share a nugget of wisdom from a great presenter than to tweet something like, “Super-awesome talk in the Cottonwood Room. Check it out!”
- Turn off your ringer. This is a given, right? No one wants to hear your key clicks or the notification bings from your retweets.
Tips for Organizers and Presenters
- Promote the conference hashtag. Put your conference hashtag on your website before the event. Put it on the front of your on-site booklets. Put it on a sign at registration. Don’t leave attendees confused about what hashtag to use. Help us help you promote.
- Print usernames on badges by default. Ask for Twitter info during registration and print usernames on badges. Twitter is the best tool out there right now for real-time discussion and interaction, so make it easy for us to use it!
- Offer your username at the start of presentations. When Twitter users share quotes from your workshops or speeches, they’re promoting you. Make sure you get the full benefit of that by providing your username up front. It’ll make it easier for you to look afterward to see what resonated with attendees. It’ll also make it easier for non-attendees to find out more about you.
- Assume smartphone users are engaged, not bored. Once upon a time, if people were fiddling with their phones during your speech, it meant they weren’t interested in what you were saying. That’s not true anymore. Sure, the person typing on their phone in the back row might be texting their friend about lunch, but it’s more likely they’re your biggest promoter. Don’t be offended when the phones come out during your presentation. At RMFW this weekend, I almost invariably saw the mad typing begin only after the most wonderful of lines.
Have you ever tweeted a conference? Tell me about your experiences in the comments! Or, if you want, follow me on Twitter @jhtatroe.