For those who have yet to experience Twitter.com, here's a quick primer. Twittering is another name for microblogging -- meaning it consists of very short posts, often called "tweets." Twitter activity during events that have an active blogging audience can be likened to the news headlines that crawl across the bottom of cable news broadcasts -- a constant stream of small morsels of information. Except in addition to news, Twitter content is full of observations, commentary, questions, invitations and anecdotes. During Blogworld (right) and New Media Expo, held last fall in Las Vegas, for example, there were more than 1,500 posts per day on Twitter -- so much material that just reading the posts would give a distant, desk-bound reader a good feel for what was happening on the ground in Vegas.
At first, the Twitter syntax can seem confusing. Here's a sample post from Blogworld:
perfectporridge: @mattdickman What are long-term implications of micromedia on events? There is digital backchannel wherever you go now. Just like here #bwe08
In this example, perfectporridge is the Twitter user name of the author. @mattdickman refers to another Twitter user (or Twitterer). Using the @ symbol with the user name (called an @reply) accomplishes two things: it makes this post visible on mattdickman's Twitter profile, and, specifically, by placing the @reply at the beginning of the line, the post will appear in a special "reply" portion of mattdickman's profile that collects all responses to his posts.
The example ends with a "hashtag," #bwe08, short for Blogworld Expo 2008, which attendees of Blogworld collectively and voluntarily agreed to include as a way to make sure their tweets about Blogworld would be easily searchable or picked up by feeds looking for the #bwe08 keyword. If Twitterers didn't include #bwe08, and if their posts didn't happen to include the word Blogworld, their comments would be hard to find when searching for Blogworld-related content.
Why do meeting planners need to know all of this? The answer lies in the following additional tweets from attendees of Blogworld, posted during the conference. (All posts are published with time stamps, which have been omitted here.) Some of the posts summarize points made in education sessions, serving as mini-news updates to the Twitter community. Other posts are complaints about specific aspects of the meeting, while still others are personal messages or questions inviting discussion. Granted, the opinions of Twitterers might not reflect those of attendees as a whole, but for planners, in aggregate, the feedback to be gleaned from Twitter posts about the content and logistics of the meeting is invaluable, and the chance to join the conversation is a unique opportunity for customer service.
TWEETS ABOUT LOGISTICS
Shannonyelland: hmmn where the coffee sitting at #bwe08 and it's not out yet!
dan360man: Kind of wishing there were some coffee for the early folks at #bwe08!
regator: No laptop power in e&e room. :( I'm nearly out #bwe08
RealTweeter: Is anyone else having problems with the #bwe08 website?
klaus2go: I wish the wireless at #bwe08 would work and I wouldn't have to use my iPhone. Slows me down a little.
THE TAKEAWAY: Some tweets identify problems in real time, such as the lack of coffee or electricity, a bug in the event website or a weak Wi-Fi signal. These alerts give organizers a chance to respond quickly, if something can or should be fixed. And if, for example, coffee wasn't being offered, planners might realize there's sufficient demand to provide it next time.
TWEETS ABOUT SPEAKERS
Whatleydude: "Blogging is simply, Storytelling..." –Dave Taylor, Keynote @ #bwe08
dan360man: Ouch. Did @davetaylor just bash the Web 2.0 Expo? #bwe08
sradick: #bwe08 @davetaylor – Twitter isn't killing blogs, Twitter is simply an evolution of a blogging culture
regator: Dave Taylor at #bwe08 State of blogging: amazing, informative, lame, infuriating, drowning in spam.
pjrodriguez: #bwe08 Just got to keynote. Dave Taylor preaching for blogs in corporate environment. Amen, brother.
Whatleydude: Feeling frustrated in the keynote @ #bwe08
DonnaFox: @CoachDeb rocking the house in the first two minutes at #bwe08
rabeidoh: #bwe08 @coachdeb made an excellent point that many ignore. Consumers are in control. Companies need to realize that ASAP.
klaus2go: Listening to @don_crowther at #bwe08 he is very energetic and doesn't waste ANY time. Starting off with some nice charts.
the_rich_brooks: @don_crowther ‘s presentation is worth the price of admission of the entire Blogworld. Just wish I could type as fast as he talks. #bwe08
THE TAKEAWAY: Planners can gauge reaction to speakers by the quantity and tone of posts. Many of the tweets about Blogworld keynotes by Dave Taylor, Deborah "Coach Deb" Micek and Don Crowther were quotes or paraphrases of their insights, indicating that these bloggers found their talks informative and worth blasting to the Twitter community. Planners could conclude that asking these speakers back next year should be a top priority.
TWEETS WITH SUGGESTIONS
EmmaJoan: Don crowther is a huge contrast to coach deb! Marketing vs seduction. Maybe its bc im a woman i notice... #bwe08
EmmaJoan: @coachdeb and @don_crowther debate would be quite interesting! #bwe08
pjrodriguez: #bwe08 Crowther is highly recommending Camtasia Studio or ScreenFlow to create screencasts. Might be useful for our conference site.
fittorrent: For anyone traveling to Blogworld, here is a great RSS traffic feed for Las Vegas #bwe08 http://tinyurl.com/4wdr5w
THE TAKEAWAY: These tweets make wading through the irrelevant posts worthwhile. User EmmaJoan's suggestion that two speakers, Coach Deb and Don Crowther, jointly run a session might be a great idea that organizers never considered. User pjrodriguez picked up on a comment about software providers during a session and had the insight that his conference's website could be improved with those tools. Planners might decide to look into those software tools, too. User fittorrent found a site with traffic updates, useful for attendees on the road. Planners might decide to add a link to that site directly from the conference website for a future meeting.
DivaMom: At the blogworld conference and so far I'm impressed. Very relevant and informative.
THE TAKEAWAY: Some posts capture the general mood of attendees, and planners keeping an eye on Twitter can observe if and when dissatisfaction surfaces.
Praized: Please stop by and visit Praized at BlogWorld Expo! http://tinyurl.com/4g3xqw
THE TAKEAWAY: Some tech-savvy exhibitors, like Praized, communicate with attendees on Twitter and can advertise their booth, product demonstrations or other activities during the conference. (Be warned that some marketing pitches might be considered spam by Twitterers.) Planners versed in Twitter can help exhibitors take advantage of this communication channel.
waltribeiro: Airline lost my luggage. Arriving at @Blogworld with just my carry-on and my PASSION and DRIVE! #bwe08
seeking_balance: #bwe08 in rm 222 4th table from the front on the right, by the aisle.
SpiritCoach: Morning Twitterville! : ) Everyone here in Vegas for #BWE08 – remember TWEETUP at 7pm TONIGHT at HILTON Hotel/TEMPO Lounge! Meet yr Tweeps!
THE TAKEAWAY: Twitter is a forum for personal expression, and that means people will post updates on their whereabouts or activities that will be irrelevant to planners or even most general users. But Twitter is an online conversation, and people may forge connections based on personal posts. If attendees had been interested in the posts by user seeking_balance but didn't know the blogger's identity, they could introduce themselves once they knew where seeking_balance was sitting in Room 222. Furthermore, Twitterers at conventions tend to be a friendly bunch and often will post invitations to informal or impromptu gatherings, which help attendees meet new people. Planners could send similar reminders about official events throughout the conference this way, too.
TWEETS WITH QUESTIONS
almacy: Panel @BlogWorld this afternoon. Topic: How to build credibility in social media world. What do you think? Suggestions? Advice? #bwe08
dbrazeal: #bwe08 Blogworld gang, anyone know a place relatively near the convention center to get good sushi? Or at least average sushi?
THE TAKEAWAY: Twitter users aren't shy about voicing their opinions. Thus, Twitter can be a great place to solicit feedback or throw out questions to see what responses you get. Planners might want to have a representative monitoring Twitter to help out with local destination inquiries, such as where to find sushi. Alternatively, Twitter can be a place for planners to post requests for feedback about certain topics.
blogworld: be sure to tag your Blogworld related tweets #bwe08.blog posts, photos and everything else tag blogworld08 to be picked up in feed
blogworld: #bwe08@coachdeb's session is jam packed. About 75 percent of the room is already on twitter
blogworld: @regator go to the south hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. be sure to tell your cabie to drop you at south hall #bwe08
THE TAKEAWAY: Blogworld had a representative posting official comments or reminders on Twitter to the community and responding to posts by other users. This can be a great way to provide personal customer service or, for example, alert attendees to last-minute changes in the schedule or room assignments. Chances are that only a small percentage of attendees are on Twitter at any given event, but the opportunity to reach a small mass of networking attendees could have far-reaching benefits.