Creating a Conference Twitter Community

This year at EclipseCon we decided to use Twitter to create an online community for the conference. Twitter is still relatively new to most people so I thought it might be interesting to write a report about our experiences.  Hopefully other conference organizers can use some of these ideas and results for their events.

Goals

  1. Encourage more people in the Eclipse community to use twitter and follow people in the Eclipse community. The Eclipse community is gradually embracing twitter but it is far from mainstream.  EclipseCon seemed like a great opportunity to encourage more people to start using twitter.
  2. How can we promote EclipseCon to a wider audience than just the on-site attendees? Lots of people can’t make it to EclipseCon but thru blogs and now twitter they can get a feel for the conference. Hopefully this will encourage them to attend in the future.
  3. Can we use twitter to make it easier to connect with conference
    attendees and speakers?.
    Close to 1000 people attend EclipseCon, can twitter be used to communicate with the session attendees and make it easier to connect.
  4. General promotion of the Eclipse community. I am the Eclipse marketing guy, so I am always looking to raise the awareness of Eclipse with the general developer community.

What Did We Do?

  1. Hashtag #eclipsecon. Well before the conference we identified a conference hashtag, in our case #eclipsecon. For those that are new to twitter, a hashtag is something that everyone adds to their tweets to be identified with the conference. This allows you to use twitter search to create a conference stream of tweets. More on this later.
  2. @eclipsecon twitter id. Thanks to Chantal Yang at PageOne, who created the @eclipsecon twitter ID early in the process. This gave the conference an identity on twitter.  It also became the means to join the EclipseCon twitter community.
  3. EclipseCon Birds Nest. We wanted a way to visualize the EclipseCon twitter community, so we created the EclipseCon Birds Nest. This is a web page that shows the avatars of all the people following the @eclipsecon twitter id. It provided a way to find other people in the Eclipse twitter community.   However, we also used the Birds Nest to encourage people to tweet about EclipseCon and their participation.  People were encouraged to tweet if they were a speaker, attendee, exhibitor or follower. We supplied hyperlinks on the Birds Nest to make it easy for people to self identify. We also used special hastags that allowed us to visualize each individual’s participation on the Birds Nest.
  4. EclipseCon Twitter Stream. Using the twitter search api, we were able to create a stream of EclipseCon related tweets. We showed the stream on the EclipseCon home page and the Birds Nest. We also installed a large monitor at the conference site, so on-site attendees could see the tweets.
  5. Updating conference attendees. The @eclipsecon twitter id was used to send out tweets about the daily EclipseCon events, reminders about keynotes, receptions etc.
  6. Final Q&A via Twitter. Twitter was used to submit questions to the panelist at the closing plenary. The EclipseCon Twitter Stream was displayed on a big screen so everyone could see the live questions and banter.
  7. Marketing. We took a very low key approach to marketing the EclipseCon twitter community. The only communications was done via my blog, my twitter id, @eclipsecon twitter id and the EclipseCon web site. We made the decision to not promote it on the eclipse.org web site, since we weren’t really sure if the Birds Nest technology could handle the traffic. We also did not promote the twitter community to the conference attendees via regular conference e-mails or during keynote sessions. Frankly, we just didn’t have time or think about it.

The Results

  1. 250+ people joined the EclipseCon Birds Nest. We set a goal of 200 people, which was achieved by the start of the conference. 50+ people identified themselves as speakers, 14 as attendees and 4 exhibitors. I believe we succeeded with the speakers since they were able to promote their session. They could see value in participating.   I was disappointed that we had a small number of exhibitors and attendees. However, we never actually sent them an e-mail or formal communication asking them to participate.   They needed to find it via my blog or on twitter. Next time I more actively encourage attendees and exhibitors to participate much earlier in the lead up to the conference.
  2. Thanks to Rob Konigsberg we have an analysis of the EclipseCon Twitter Stream. 265 people used the #eclipsecon hashtag and generated a total of 2174 tweets. 50% of the tweets were done by the top 20 people. I am pleased with the results and hopefully they will serve as a benchmark.  Btw, EclipseCon had around 1000 people attending.
  3. We were trending. The ultimate for any twitter campaign is to hit the top 10 twitter trending list. This is the list of most popular terms on twitter at a point in time. The list shows up on twitter search and the twitter web client.

eclipsecon trendingFor any marketing geek, this is the ultimate in reaching a broader audience, since lots of twitter users will see you term, in this case “eclipsecon”. The time eclipsecon started to trend was during the closing plenary session. Obviously the opportunity to see you tweets up on a big screen, in front of hundreds of people, are pretty inviting. The obvious lesson learned is if you want lots of tweets make them very public.

Improvements

  1. Next year I would do more marketing to encourage more of the
    attendees to participate.
  2. Look for ways to incorporate twitter into the Q&A for more sessions.
  3. Incorporate more value into the Birds Nest to encourage a larger
    Eclipse twitter community.
  4. Spend more time thinking how the @eclipsecon id can be used to
    communicate to the attendees during the conference.

Overall

I think we achieved our goals.  More Eclipse people are now on twitter.  I personally have found lots more people to follow and more Eclipse people are following me.  It seemed that people not attending were watching the #eclipsecon and enjoyed the live news.  Finally to have reach the top 10 trending list hopefully exposed Eclipse and EclipseCon to a wider community.

We can do better next year and I am sure we will.  Next up though is how can we use twitter to create awareness for the Galileo release.  Let me know if you have any ideas.

Kudos

Lots of people helped make this happen.  Most everything I have learnt about twitter is by following James Governor at Redmonk.  He innately gets this stuff because he lives it.  Chantal Yang from PageOne had the foresight to setup the @eclipsecon twitter id early in the process and provide most of the content.  Nathan Gervais is the web guy at the Eclipse Foundation.  He took my half-baked idea for the Birds Nest and got it up and running in about 48 hours. Finally, thanks to everyone for participating in the EclipseCon twitter community.

8 Responses to Creating a Conference Twitter Community

  1. Randy Ksar says:

    Great job Ian. We (@motodev) had tons of fun at Eclipsecon tweeting.

    Here is a video interview about Twitter-vision with myself and Nathan Gervais: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5ZDZGco-Sk

  2. Donald Smith says:

    And also a big thanks to Sun for sponsoring the on-site twitter vision monitor!

  3. Thanks Ian for doing this.

    I’d also like to remind people to put their twitter account on the Eclipse wiki if they haven’t already:

    http://wiki.eclipse.org/Twitter

  4. jrep says:

    I was disappointed in the placement of the Twitterstream monitor (in the registration area). I went out of my way, once, to see it, but mostly it was … well … out of my way😉 Maybe next time, something more central? PowerUp Lounge would be good.

  5. Patrick says:

    I really liked the way Twitter was used at the conference and look forward to more in the future. Great job!

    I agree with jrep about the placement of the Twitterstream monitor. I’d suggest having it projected onto big screens, one in the PowerUp Lounge and one in the exhibit hall.

    — Patrick

  6. Ian Skerrett says:

    I agree we need to improve the placement of the monitor next year. Something to improve upon for next year.

  7. […] and ideas from BlogWorld 08.   Ian Skerritt, Marketing Director at EclipseCon in his blog posting Creating a Conference Twitter Community  provides an excellent case study and tips covering everything from setting objectives to […]

  8. Was anyone tweeting from inside Eclipse? (See http://wiki.bioclipse.net/index.php?title=Twitter_Manager)

    More seriously… did you do any live analysis or visualization of the stream? To let people see what was hot at the conference, right there, right then🙂 ?

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