by By Sarah J.F. Braley | September 01, 2009

We know attendees are using Twitter, and smart planners are tweeting to let attendees know about changes and to spur interaction before, during and after a meeting. But planners also are using this burgeoning social media tool for their own professional development. They're asking questions, learning industry news and meeting new peers via Twitter. Here's how two planners make the service work for them. (For an explanation of terms used, see the glossary, right.)

Jessica LevinThe Veteran
Jessica Levin, CMP (@jessicalevin), is manager of communications and member services for Moore Stevens North America, an association of accounting and consulting firms. She works out of her home in Edison, N.J. At press time, more than 4,500 people were following her, and she was following about 3,700 people.

When did you start tweeting?
July 9, 2008. I just had my twitterversary.

What percentage of your tweets are personal vs. business?
Interesting question, because for me there is a fine line. A lot of it is relationship-building and I've made a lot of friends. I figure 75 percent is content generating or forwarding, where I post something I read that I found interesting, or I retweet something someone else found. About 25 percent is engaging with other people and posting personal observations.

You post a lot. How do you fit it into your day?
In 365 days I've posted about 7,000 times. I use TweetDeck [one of several applications for desktops and mobile devices that allow users to manage messages] -- it's always running in the background on my computer. I check it in the morning when I go over my e-mail and Facebook accounts, and I check it a few times during the day. I spend at least an hour on it a day.
    TweetDeck allows you to create groups and follow certain hashtags. I have a group set up to follow the event professionals hashtag (#eventprofs). I have another one for CPA-related stuff. Those are the ones I try to follow. I'm capturing the things that are really important to my job: CPA- and meetings-related. It's almost like an RSS feed for me, but the information is from people I trust.

How do you use it for planning?
The eventprofs group is a tremendous resource. The people who post are reading a lot of articles. A lot of what they talk about is using technology in meetings, but also about getting buy-in.
    I do crowdsourcing all the time. Restaurant recommendations in cities is a common query. Or, when I participate in the chat, I'll ask a question, ask for more information or ask how something works. It's definitely the first place I go when I'm looking for information, other than Google. Recently, I was evaluating three destination management companies in Florida. I asked who had experience with them, and I used the eventprofs hashtag, because I wanted meeting planners to answer.

When did it really begin to work for you in a planning context?

I remember connecting with someone over a question she asked about event registration systems. I responded and we ended up taking the conversation offline.

How has it changed how you do your job?
For one thing, I've become a resource for my members, helping them learn the power of using Twitter. I taught a webinar to the marketing directors of our member organizations. I did a Twitter 101 program to show them how they can reach prospects and employees. I also spoke with them about social media in general.
I learn something almost every day that helps me do my job.

What are you doing right that most people don't think of?
I engage. I don't just post information. I develop relationships and I take them off­line. There are people who have become my friends and have become business resources. What I see people doing wrong: They say, "I went on, I posted, I did not see the value." But they haven't responded to anyone, they haven't started a conversation. It's a dialog tool.

What else do you love about Twitter?
It's given me access to people I wouldn't have had access to before, some of the best people I've ever met. And it's free. I feel more educated now, because of the information on Twitter, than I ever did before. People I trust are doing the vetting for me.
    And I've met really nice people. I've made friends. My new picture was taken by somebody I met on Twitter. I was commenting on the fact that I needed a new professional headshot. Brad Wilson, who is with the Three Waiters, works in Manhattan and is an amateur photographer. He said come into the city and I'll take a new headshot. 

Do you use Twitter for personal reasons at all? If yes, how?
I use it to create relationships -- many personal friendships are developed through Twitter. A large component of Twitter is connecting with like-minded people, it is natural that personal connections would evolve.

Who is your favorite person to follow?
For business, @mashable has all of the leading social media information. I don't think I have a favorite person. I have met so many great people that share value it would be hard to narrow it down to one.

Vanessa LaClairThe Newbie
Vanessa LaClair, CMP (@vlaclair), serves as membership services and event coordinator for Independent Power Producers of New York in Albany. She plans three major events each year, a golf tournament and two conferences, plus a mixture of fundraisers, board meetings and cocktail receptions. At press time, she was following 125 people and had 135 followers.

When did you start tweeting?
I went to MPI's Chapter Leadership Conference in Texas in May. They talked about how if you're not doing it, you're being left behind. I signed up for an account that day at the airport.

How often do you tweet?
I do about 20 a day. Sometimes none at all. It just depends on what I'm doing. I didn't want to just post, "I'm wandering the streets" or "I'm shopping." I didn't know what I was going to do with it. But I use it for work and for my MPI chapter to let other people know what's going on.

What percentage of your tweets are personal vs. business?
It's about 10 percent personal, 90 percent work. I didn't sign up for it to be personal.

How do you fit it into your day?

It doesn't take very much time. I use TweetDeck. If something catches my eye, I'll look at it. It doesn't really interrupt my work product. It's not cumbersome by any means.
    I like to tweet a lot about meetings and events that are coming up. We advertise upcoming events through the chapter's account. I also retweet for other people, when they're looking for a job, or somebody's looking for help.

How do you use it for planning?

I've been using it to get questions answered. I asked questions while I was at MPI's World Education Congress in Salt Lake City, like "Where is the Long Island Booth?" or "Where are you?"

When did it really begin to work for you in a planning context?
It started being beneficial right away. I forwarded fare sale information from Southwest to my friend. I was following Salt Lake City's Red Rock Brewing Company, and they recommended beers and said if you said a certain catch phrase you would get 15 percent of your bill if you visited during MPI.

How has it changed how you do your job?
I haven't seen any of those effects yet. But I think it will change how I do my job. I've met more people. People are saying, this is where I'm going to be, we're going to have a Tweetup. You wouldn't engage unless you saw those messages coming through.

What are you doing right that most people don't think of?
I don't let it overwhelm me, for one. You can't stare at it all day long. There are some people who tweet 100 times a day. I use a lot of filters, and that narrows down the stream that I see. But I like social media, so it doesn't feel overwhelming. You can't let it take over your life.
    I'm still experimenting with it. It's just going to get bigger and better. Now when I go home, I talk about it. You don't have to use it for personal reasons. That's why I have Facebook. It's not for everybody. But I think for meeting planners it's beneficial because of all the contacts and all the networking we do all day long.

Who do you like to follow?
I like to follow things like the Finger Lakes wine country in upstate New York; they're one of my favorites. And our local newspaper -- they have a capitol confidential political account -- and the newspaper itself. It's good for my job, because I work for a lobbyist.
    There seem to be a lot more people from the supplier side on. I'm trying to get my planner friends involved -- they have accounts, but they haven't started using them.

Do you use it for personal reasons at all? If yes, how?
I don't use it often for personal reasons, but I do enjoy following SouthwestAir for price drop announcements, airfare specials, and WineTwits for local wine info, new wines to try and events, and bradsdeals for savings on just about anything. 
Who is your favorite businessperson to follow?
Bryan Dodge (@bryandodge) for a little inspiration every day. He was the opening speaker at MPI's Chapter Leadership Conference in Fort Worth -- a great motivational speaker for meeting professionals -- and anyone else for that matter.