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Conference Twitter – It’s All About Timing

I’ve been doing network analysis of Twitter and Facebook messaging for several years. It’s amazing how much structure you can see in these networks and how much they can tell you about your success in spreading a message and creating connections and dialogue.

Two conferences were held back-to-back in Atlanta in 2016: the Impact Convergence, or IMPCON, and the AEA annual conference in an effort to bring together people involved in impact-oriented investment and evaluation. It was hoped that ideas would be shared and contacts made. Mapping the Twitter conversations generated by the events was one way to evaluate the success of this effort. We found interesting things about the structure of the Twitter network, including the existence of high prestige and broker individuals and structural attributes supporting good communications. Here, however, we’ll talk about our observations on the timing of tweets during the events, and lessons learned for planning future communications strategies.

First, while it was not surprising that tweets accumulated over time, it was surprising that the structure of the network remained stable over the duration of the conferences. For event communications planning, this means that you can potentially identify active and interacting individuals and groups early on, and begin focusing on them to help you spread your messages.

Secondly, we found a pattern in the daily volume of tweets. There was a pattern of Twitter use in the mid-afternoons and early evenings, corresponding to major events and coffee breaks. This indicates that there are predictable times when your Twitter audience is more active and engaged and therefore open to your messages.

Thirdly, we saw how important it is to establish an official hashtag that most will use. In this image, you see prominently the pattern for tweets using the two official conference hashtags. Note however the multiplicity of ad-hoc and erroneous hashtags. These were recorded because the messages also included one of the expected hashtags or handles. But many more may not have and therefore did not reach much of the crowd. Make sure people are aware of and using the official tags along with their specific tags in order to maximize spread of information.

A summary of tactics to help spread your conference Twitter messaging:

• Start mapping the Twitter (and Facebook) messaging early. You may identify key players and clusters of Twitter users who’ll help you spread your messages.

• Establish an official, short, memorable hashtag early and promote it to encourage use in all messages and to prevent erroneous versions that will cause missed messages.

• Promote the use of Twitter/other social media in commenting on the event by presenting, at the opening, an example of a mapping and how it is used to improve the quality of events. Include a reminder of how to use Twitter. Ensure people know they can go to the official event hashtag on Twitter to see what others are saying and to join in.

• Send out “seed” tweets about upcoming key events or emerging issues.