How to make your conference social part 1: what’s your hashtag?

Angela Dunn

Digital / Social Pharma Analyst

The hashtag (# sign and acronym) is now a ubiquitous form of branding. What started as a way to organize conversations by topic on Twitter has evolved into a cultural shorthand that has gone mainstream. Hashtags are now used on television shows, in emails, advertising and real life encounters. Virgin America has “taken the hashtag to new heights”— with a first-of-its-kind hashtag branded plane— the #nerdbird.

Figure 1: The Nerdbird1

There is even a valuable hashtag resource for healthcare and pharma, “The Healthcare Hashtag Project”, organized by Fox ePractice that aggregates hundreds of hashtags used for Twitter conversations, Twitter Chats (i.e., #hcsmeu, #socpharm) and conferences.

However, many conference organizers are still not savvy enough to employ a hashtag for an event. Here are five tips for conference hashtag success.

“Select an identifiable hashtag and make sure it is communicated to the community before, during and after an event.”

1. Select an identifiable hashtag and make sure it is communicated to the community before, during and after an event.

A relevant hashtag is part of your brand for those attending physically as well as those following virtually. Whether or not you have a consistent and relevant hashtag can make or break the identity of an event and the buzz surrounding it. A hashtag for your event also allows Twitter “sound bites” for recaps about the event via curation services such as Storify and Scoop.it.

In this day and age, there is no excuse for an event not to identify a short, recognizable hashtag as soon as it releases any form of marketing information for the event (i.e. conference website, registration materials, etc.) Do not wait until the start of the event or leave it up to attendees.

2. What makes a good hashtag? Short and simple (6 characters max), and recognizable (easily associated with your group):

# + association or organizer’s acronym should suffice &gt, #ABCD

Another acceptable form is :

# + association or organizer’s acronym + year, only two digits (11 not 2011) &gt, #ABCD11

Some organizations host several conferences a year and like to distinguish them by different cities:

# + association or organizer’s acronym + city “abbreviation” (NY, SF) &gt, #ABCDNY

“Twitter does not provide search results on a hashtag for more than a few days”

It is not necessary to add the city for an annual conference, and even adding the city for multiple cities is becoming passe in our world of real-time communication. Twitter does not provide search results on hashtags for more than a few days although research services that have access to the Twitter fire hose, i.e., Research.ly and Topsy, can produce tweets going back a few years.

3. Organizers and speakers should market key points in prepared 120-character sound bites. The audience will tweet speaker’s key points and others will retweet them throughout the Twitterverse’s virtual community. If you are a presenter, spend some time copywriting 8–10 key points from your presentation in 120-characters (140 minus the characters it takes to be retweeted.) By enhancing your “retweetability”, it is also likely that your tweets will show up in social search. Post these well thought out takeaways on your slides during your presentation and watch them spread virally.

4. Conferences should provide multiple screens throughout the conference that display the Twitter stream. Use a third-party services like Tweetchat.com or Twitterfall that will allow you to display the flow of the tweets for the event in real-time as well as providing a way to block spammers who try to take over the hashtag.

Figure 3: Live twitter chat at conference

5. Don’t forget to extend your brand by offering a transcript of all the tweets referencing your hashtag and event. Fox ePractice also provides a nice service to produce transcripts for conferences. However, make sure you add your conference hashtag to Foxepractice.com well in advance of your event.

Part two of this series can be viewed here.

References:

1. http://www.facebook.com/notes/virgin-america/meet-nerdbird-our-new-plane/10150211151442106

About the author:

Angela Dunn, aka @blogbrevity on Twitter, is a digital/social pharma analyst and contractor for Nexus News &amp, Reports, @NexusNR. Her latest research is “Keys for Pharma Success: Integrating Social.” She is also a speaker who recently presented at the #RLTM conference in NYC on “Curating Content for Thought Leadership” and she provides advice for digital thought leadership via her subscription newsletter, The ThoughtLeader Letterly. A conference social reporter, Angela was invited to cover the World Innovation Forum and will also be covering The Business Innovation Factory Summit this September. She is founder of the #ideachat Twitter Chat on Twitter. The views presented here are her own and do not reflect any companies with whom she has affiliations. You can also connect with Angela Dunn on LinkedIn.

What’s your hashtag?