I love following hashtags for events I can’t attend. So when I was asked to be the ‘official’ tweep at an upcoming workshop (Science, Misinformation & Alternative Facts at Macquarie University) I was in. I wanted to make sure that people not in the room would be able to benefit from the great content being discussed. It’s surprising how much I learnt in the process – particularly from the mistakes that I made or things I could have done better.
So thought I’d compile my top 10 tips for being the official tweep:
Prior to event
1) Create a new account
The main event organiser, Jon Brock, suggested (and I’m so glad he did), that we create a new account for the event. @mqscicomm wasn’t yet taken, so we were able to create it. This matched with the hashtag we had decided for the day (#mqscicomm). This worked well because my twitter followers are quite a diverse bunch – as twitter networks should be – with other academic parents, women in science, science communicators, PhD students, and other just interesting people. Not all of whom are interested in science communication, and if I were to dramatically increase my output of tweets, many would no doubt unfollow me! Creating an account allowed for people who were interested to follow along, and for me to just retweet from my personal one occasionally to draw attention to the workshop. Once created, follow all the speakers at the event.
2) Set up Tweetdeck
I had used tweetdeck before for conferences, but not with two accounts. It makes it easy to choose whichever account you want to tweet from. I set-up the columns to be following #mqscicomm as well as to being notifications for @mqscicomm, a third column was for notifications for @rebeccagelding. To be honest, I didn’t have much time to follow that one. I scheduled tweets for the start of each session including topic of that session and all the handles or names of speakers; although I found myself editing these times as we went as sessions don’t always begin at the exact minute on the schedule!
3) Get familiar with speakers names
Double check the spelling of all the speakers, especially those not on twitter, whose names you will need to tweet. The worst part of the whole day was reading a direct message from a friend – sent 10 minutes prior to me seeing it – that gently pointed out that the Dean of the Faculty whom had just finished his presentation was Simon *Handley* with a n, not Hadley. Eek! Tweets can’t be edited, only deleted so be extra sure you are spelling people’s names correctly.
4) Advertise the event
This thread tweet by Jon Brock perfectly summed up each session, included the handles of relevant speakers and linked to program. It made it easy for individual speakers to retweet to their followers and raise profile for the event. It also allowed people interested in the event to follow the relevant speakers. I wished we’d thought to set up the twitter account earlier and could have tried to advertise the event and get some more followers before the event.
On the day
5) Get there early to get a good position
I knew my laptop wouldn’t last the whole day without power so I arrived 15 mins early to find a spot close enough to the front that I could take a photo, but also where I could plug in my laptop to charge while I sat down.
6) Add value by including links & handles of others
If the speaker makes a reference to something that they or someone else had written, I tried to quickly find the link and include that in the tweet. Or if a famous person or someone whom I knew was on twitter were mentioned, I included their handles in the tweet. What have you got to lose? The third party might just retweet your tweet and increase exposure to the event even more.
7) Watch the hashtag & notifications for audience tweets
There was never a dull moment, as I was constantly either listening for something that could fit in 140 characters, or watching the columns on tweetdeck for other people’s tweets to retweet. But I knew we must be doing something right when we got the notification that the hashtag was trending in Sydney!
With that, brings a few bogus tweeters, so be sure that you don’t just retweet anything that is posted.
8) Try to include photos in tweets
Capturing the summary slide or a great shot of a panel discussion can be a great way to summarise a moment for those outside the room. I found it hard to take a photo and use tweetdeck on my phone to upload it from @mqscicomm, and I’m sure there would be easier ways to do it. In the end, I relied mainly on others to take the photos and I just retweeted.
After the event
9) Storify in reverse
This is another thing I wish I’d done differently. Storify after an event is a great way to summarise all tweets in one place. When you include tweets, you can either have them in chronological order (last first) or the order they are on twitter (first last). I imported the tweets then spent a bunch of time re-arranging tweets so they flowed in order – as some tweeters will take longer than others to put their thoughts or images into a tweet. But I had done this in twitter order, and the final product didn’t really make sense if you are reading it from your phone; going backwards through the day. So we decided to flip it to chronological order – but that means all my work in reshuffling was gone. Lesson learnt: make sure if you want to do a chronological storify, that you set-it up that way at the start before reshuffling!
Take home message
10) Don’t take yourself too seriously
The morning of the event I was taking my kids to school. As is custom for my Mr5, he asked what I had on that day – he loves to wish me luck depending on my plans: “hope you have good participants”, or “do good writing”, or “have a good meeting”. I explained that I would be the official tweeter at a workshop and I’d be doing lots of tweeting. He suggested I might like to dress up as tweety bird for the occasion….. hmmm.… maybe not, but appreciate the enthusiasm. In the end, have fun. Social media is a great tool to capture an event and broadcast it to a wider audience. Don’t take yourself or your tweets too seriously – but don’t necessarily dress up for the occasion either!
If you are interested in reading more about science communication in the age of misinformation then check out the storify of the event. One of the panelists, Ketan Joshi, was also inspired to write for the Guardian about something he saw in the presentation by Prof Lesley Hughes. There are a bunch of other great outcomes from the day, which I’ll be sure to keep you posted about!