Most consider Twitter a marketing tool, or probably more accurate is that most consider Twitter a tool for blathering about what you are watching on television or eating for lunch, but I believe it is one of the best learning and post conference accountability tools I have seen.
I recently spoke at a marketing conference that did not set up a hashtag for the conference. As soon as the conference was over… it was over. I did get messages from individuals with questions and some just wanting to share their excitement for implementing new techniques learned at the conference, but what was sad, was the fact that these messages were just between the two of us. There was not a system set up to allow everyone to share their new knowledge and continue learning from each other.
By contrast there are conferences that create a knowledge sharing community before the event even begins and it helps to connect people, allow them to share information with other attendees during the conference (both physical and remote attendees) and once connected, the community continues to share and learn well beyond the event.
So what is the best way to set up your conference community?
1. Create a short tag (# Hashtag) that you and attendees will use to group all tweets. The shorter the tag, the better since it has to fit within the 140 character tweet. To check availability of a certain tag go to http://Search.Twitter.com and type in your desired tag to see if anyone is already using it. Many use initials combined with the year (example #NSA10 or #Devlearn10) but keep it short.
2. Register your hashtag. By registering your tag, people can learn more about your event, the producers of the event and how they can participate. Go to Twubs (https://twubs.com/p/register-hashtag) and fill in as much info as possible.
3. Inform your group of the hashtag and encourage them to use it in every tweet that relates to the event or that they want to share with people from the event. You may want to create a short video explaining this. You may also want to share tips on using sites like TweetChat to pull only your tagged tweets, or how to set up TweetDeck or Hootsuite with a column for your event tweets.
4. Facilitate the discussion but don't take over. You can start with some great questions to initiate conversation or post helpful information that attendees will find useful and then let the community continue.
Remember, you are creating a learning and sharing community that should go beyond the one day event. Here's to BIG ON-GOING learning!