One of my earliest memories is of missing my friend Jospehine’s birthday party, because I was stuck at home with raging earache. My kind big sister spent some of her pocket money on a comic for me, in the hope of cheering me up but, whilst this made enough impact that I still recall it, my disappointment at missing out on some fun is also keenly remembered.
I felt a bit that way this week, my attention caught by the tweets coming out of conferences here in the UK on overdiagnosis (#POCD2014), public health (#PHE2014) and midwifery (#RCMWales). I’m also watching many of my Cochrane colleagues preparing to go to Hyderabad for the Cochrane Colloquium (#CochraneHyd), starting on Monday, leaving me at the UK Cochrane Centre trying to keep the pot plants alive.
Social media means you’re in, not out!
My first thought is that I’m missing out. Yet thanks to social media, I’m joining in and not just with one event but with several. It’s true I’d love to be talking to people face-to-face, though the reality for me, as someone with hearing loss, is that conversation in big, crowded venues is generally difficult. How fantastic, then, that I can be in several places at once and join in the conversations as well as any of you. What’s more, thanks to the democratic nature of social networking, I can talk to anyone who has a presence on the same platforms as me, neatly leaping over the obstacles of access and hierarchy as well as geography, which limit our opportunities for networking in person. Those attending #CochraneHyd in person OR virtually will be able to come together through social media to participate and collaborate. We’re already being invited to post a photo of ourselves on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, with one word summing up what #CochraneHyd means to us. It’s thanks to social media that, for those of us not there in person, that word doesn’t need to be ‘excluded’.
What joining the event community offers
I’ve already blogged here about my early experiences with live tweeting at conferences. If you haven’t yet discovered for yourself the heady mix of people relaying what’s coming from speakers and responding to it, making connections with other work or experiences, sharing links and bouncing round conversation and ideas which may lead to a meet-up at the event or perhaps a new real-life collaboration, I urge you to try it. You’ll be joining a community with shared interests and a vast pool of both different and similar expertise and experience. Together you can
- Share resources. In giving people useful links you’re adding value; this is important and a great reason for people to follow you
- Network, building existing relationships and starting new ones
- Raise your/your organisation’s profile, sharing your priorities and values and offering links to your own relevant work
- Be challenged and stimulated by the insights and information you’re enjoying (and do the same for others!)
Joining in is easy
Your brain and your fingers have to work really fast if you’re tweeting an event but help is at hand. My favourite is http://www.tchat.io which you sign into to follow a hashtag and you’ll then see just those. You can do all the usual things with your tweets and the hashtag is automatically added – very useful. Having organised yourself, what are you going to tweet? If you haven’t seen my checklist for maximizing your event tweets in this earlier blog, here it is.
Just ask yourself #HAVEYOU?
Hashtag – for the event
Attribution – have you made it clear whether you are quoting and whom?
Varied – mix up your tweets, with mood tweets, information, big ideas, challenges (your own or the speaker’s), photos etc
Engaging – is it? Tweet things people will relate to, think about the language you use, keep your followers in mind. Good speakers often hand you great, tweetable soundbites
You – Don’t be afraid to show that you are a real person! Sometimes comment on what you hear. This could also stand for Your organization; share your organization’s values and interests through what and how you tweet
Others – consider adding Twitter handles to target your tweets
Useful – does it add value? Remember to include links etc where appropriate. Being useful makes it more likely that you’ll be retweeted and people will be keen to follow you.
The #HAVEYOU checklist is available here as a PDF HAVEYOU flyers . If you’re attending #CochraneHyd, you might like to join Holly’s workshop on Engaging at Events through Social Media on Tuesday. There’ll be #HAVEYOU cards for you to take away too.
Over to you
Do you join in with conferences or other events through social media? What helped you get started and what would you say to others to encourage them to join in? We’d love to hear!