So, if you know me, you know I’m kind of a conference junkie. I love the professional development, I love the networking and I LOVE to help plan or volunteer at them (I blame my event coordination side of me for this part of my life and for @alainawiens for training me so well 🙂 ).
Over the past year while in various roles, I’ve had a couple of conversations on hashtags and their uses/usefulness at conferences. So, after my latest foray into this topic, I thought I’d pull together a few suggestions and things to consider when deciding about hashtag usage at your next event or conference.
Who are your participants?
Not all organizations live and breath social media. Unlike Student Affairs, some fields may not have weekly hashtag conversations, or rely on social media to distribute information or to engage their community. Consider who are the members of the organization and who may attend the event. Then figure out whether or not they interact heavily on social media whether in the field or at events. Once you decide whether or not your participants will engage on social media, it will help decide if you should drive a hashtag at your event.
Do you have the manpower to engage your participants?
Once you decide if you have a large enough pool of active participants for social media engagement at your event, your next key decision is do you have enough volunteers or staff to really engage with your participants on your handle or hashtag? Having a primary or event hashtag is fun, but can fall flat especially at conferences, if the host of the conference is not engaging as well. As the host, engaging with the participants through your handle and/or on the hashtag you provide will do several things:
1) Set the tone for the event/conference and for the hashtag (especially if it is a primary one that is utilized outside of the event)
2) Allows the participants to engage with the host and to find a rapport which they will continue on with after the event, hopefully resulting in more engagement.
3) Allows the host to drive conversations on social media, hopefully resulting in richer conversations in sessions.
4) Provides a great avenue for disseminating information such as last minute session changes and room changes (which we all know happens at EVERY conference), to an audience that will be paying attention to this form of communication.
Annual/infrequent events don’t always need a separate hashtag
Most organizations already have a handle and a primary hashtag they utilize. And when planning an event, whether you are a state, regional or national organization sometimes it is almost counterproductive to create a new hashtag for your annual or infrequent event. Some conferences can sustain a new hashtag for each event, however most either can’t or shouldn’t because of their size (i.e.. state or regional) or the amount of engagement their members undertake on social media. Therefore utilizing your handle and primary hashtag is the best practice.Additionally, doing this will do several things:
1) Reinforce your organization’s handle and primary hashtag throughout the event or conference.
2) Allow users to share more content from the event rather than trying to fit in every hashtag you request them to use.
3) Tracking and assessing the usage of your handle and primary hashtag is easier rather than multiple ones. It also allows for a better breadth of information and overview of the event and the social media usage.
Not every session at a conference needs a hashtag
If you are hosting a conference, don’t create a hashtag for each of your sessions. Too many can get confusing and it can defeat the purpose of social media at a conference.It is not easy to follow content being shared with just one hashtag, let alone 15 different ones, especially at large conferences. Encouraging participants to utilize just one hashtag (be it the primary or one created for your event) will do several things:
1) It allows easier ability and access to those who may not be in attendance and are backchanneling the event to follow single hashtag rather than multiple ones.
2) It allows the practice of the truest sense of social media, by opening it up to everyone and allowing them to engage whether they are in the same session, in the session next door or seven states away.
3) And again, as mentioned before, having one hashtag, be it the primary or one created specifically for the event, allows easier tracking, assessing and observing of your overall event.
I hope some of these will help you as you plan your next conference or event. Good luck!
Until next time!
Peace, Love and Pandas!