I recently attended a blended conference (both onsite and online) called MoodleMoot Canada 2011. Actually, I attended two of four days of the conference, and followed along on Twitter during the days that I was not able to attend. It was my first opportunity to use Twitter as a source of information and be a contributor of information. Similar efforts have taken place during recent music therapy conferences, both national and regional in the U.S. and during the Online Conference for Music Therapy (OCMT2011). In fact, it seems like TweetUps (a meeting of individuals on Twitter at a conference) have become increasingly popular.
That’s great but how does it affect me?
1. You should join Twitter and begin exploring
Twitter is a “microblogging” format. Basically it means that you can provide small insights or announcements. (Generally, on Twitter, you are limited to 140 characters). I personally use Twitter to share professional developments, make professional announcements and share resources that I have found that I believe might be of interest.
2. What should my username be?
You can make your username anything you wish but remember, you are trying to attract followers. Some people use their name (e.g. @RachelleNorman, @michelleerfurt or @KnightMTBC), some people use their business name (@listnlearnmusic) and some people use a pseudynym (@victimorious)
3. Another use of Twitter – getting feedback or seeking out “experts” on a particular issue that you are facing.
As a recent blog posting highlights, you can send a “shoutout” to either your own followers or Twitter users in general to get an answer to a question, or make a business related announcement. When you do so, expect quick feedback.
4. Posting conference updates/presentation highlights.
Like I said, I was able to attend 2 of 4 days of MoodleMoot Canada 2011. Still, it turns out that I was one of the most active Twitter users, resulting in a place on the top 10 individuals “tweeting” about insights that I was having. How do I do this? – using a “hashtag”. Whenever you see a “#” sign, it means that someone has created/is marking a way of following a particular subject or idea (e.g. To follow tweets by music therapists you might use the hashag #musictherapy). It is now routine for conference to post an “official” hashtag, that conference attendees can use to post updates (e.g. #mootca11 or #ocmt2011).
5. This sounds great, but I want to follow more than one topic/area of interest?
It’s true – the Twitter website is a poor excuse for an interface. It is VERY “clunky” and not very user-friendly. The good news – you can use Twitter feed aggregators (software that allows you to follow multiple Twitter feeds). One of the best, and the one that I use is called Tweetdeck. Actually, Tweetdeck has recently been purchased by Twitter itself, so maybe their website/interface will be improving shortly. They are many others (e.g. Hootsuite) – just Google “Twitter feed aggregators”
6. What is a “retweet (RT)?
A “retweet” is the reposting, either word-for-word or edited, of a previous “tweet” (post) by someone else. This can be a way to further your message, or have a new business development shared with a wider audience because something that someone retweets is shared with your network of followers AND the their network of followers.
7. Can I send private messages to one or more of my followers?
Yes you can! As long as that person is following you, you can use the format “D: _______” rather than “@_______” to send a private message to one or more individuals. Another way of more publicly sharing with a group of individuals involves the use of a Twitter tool called “Tweetchat“. This tool allows you to follow 1 hashtag and carry on a conversation/chat with individuals also following that hashtag. I also recently discovered another Twitter tool called GroupTweet. (The use of GroupTweet is well described on their website).
8. I’m a conference organizer – is there a way to employ Twitter to engage participants?
YES, YES, and YES! First, set up a conference #hashtag and publicize its’ existence on any literature, website, blog posts, etc. at least 2 weeks prior to the conference and encourage Twitter users to use it throughout the conference. This allows for a consistent identity/brand and helps to prevent misdirection of tweets. Secondly, use Tweetchat or GroupTweet to follow “What is being said/posted”. At the MoodleMoot Canada conference, individuals tweets were highlighted during presentations on a large screen using another Twitter tool called Visible Tweets. You can also store any tweets about the conference, for later review, using a tool called TwapperKeeper. Finally, after the conference is over, you can present summaries of posts using tools like Twitter SteamGraphs.
Are you on Twitter right now. Feel free to send me a message @JLisaMT. Are you joining Twitter (after reading this article) but not sure where to start/find followers? – send a message to @JLisaMT and I will be happy to share your username/account name with people in my Twitter network.
See you on Twitter!