Attending an Industry Conference? How to Find the Right Conference-Twitter Balance

April 29, 2014

Tweeting at conferences

Photo source: S&S Media on flickr.

Note: This post was originally published at LinkedIn.

Introduction

I’m about to give you advice on things I’ve failed miserably at.

You see, I love Twitter. I use it every day. Put me at an industry conference? My love grows into an addiction. Armed with a smartphone, you can become a Twitter rock star at industry conferences. Take this to the extreme, however, and you can miss out on a lot of what the conference has to offer. After all, your goal was to attend a conference and not to spend the entire day on Twitter.

An Acid Test for Twitter Overuse

Here’s the perfect acid test to know whether you’ve overused Twitter at a conference: do you need to re-charge your phone before the conference is over?

It’s happened for me at every conference I’ve attended in 2014 (thank you for those sponsored charging stations!) My use of Twitter has taken away from other things the conference has to offer. I’ll always be able to connect with like-minded people on Twitter. I won’t have the same opportunity to engage with them face-to-face.

Here are six ways to keep your conference Twitter use in check.

1) For every 10 new people you follow, introduce yourself to 1 person at the conference.

I follow the event’s hash tag on Twitter. I like to read attendees’ observations about a session. I even like to hear what sponsors have to say, aside from the invitations to visit them at booth #317. When someone shares an interesting tweet, I follow them.

It’s quite easy to follow 50+ new people in a day. It’s harder to introduce yourself to real people in real life. So make sure you do that.

Photo source: TopRank Online Marketing on flickr.

2) For every 5 tweets, share 1 thought with another attendee.

It’s very easy to quote the keynote speaker and add the event’s hash tag to your tweet. It’s even easier to retweet someone else (yes, those get counted towards the 5). But how about the old fashioned way of communicating: face to face? Sharing your thoughts on Twitter is great. A lot of people can see it. Mix that with the more personal approach of expressing your thoughts to other people. In person.

3) Find and meet 5 people from the Twitter stream.

Once at a highly-tweeted conference, I got into the elevator during a break. I recognized another attendee from her Twitter profile photo. She and I had been tweeting during the same session. I knew her name (from Twitter, of course), so I introduced myself, saying that I recognized her from Twitter. Do this five times.

4) Put the phone down every 5 minutes or every 3 slides.

Photo: these two ought to take breaks to put their phones down. Photo source: Ed Yourdon on flickr.

There are some conference sessions (especially workshop sessions) that are learning-focused. When I’m in such a session, I take a lot of notes. If I’m tweeting every two minutes, I’m not able to take as many notes. And, I’m less likely to have heard all the valuable nuggets shared by the presenter. So force yourself to put the phone down. I recommend an interval of 5 minutes or 3 slides.

5) Collected business cards > number of tweets.

Sometimes, I’ll collect a business card from an attendee and the exchange will be superficial. We bumped into each other while waiting for coffee, but didn’t have a meaningful conversation. That being said, business card collection is a good proxy for the amount of networking and conversations you’ve had. Aim to have your collected business cards exceed the number of your tweets at the conference. To date, I’ve failed miserably on this metric, but hope to achieve this goal in future conferences.

6) Include 1 out of every 4 shared photos in a post-conference blog post.

Photos are becoming an increasing percentage of the tweet streams at events. They also work very well in blog posts about the conference. Write a blog post to share your takeaways from the conference. For every four photos you share on Twitter, pick one of them to include in your post.

Photo source: JD Lasica on flickr. Follow JD on Twitter: @JDLasica.

Conclusion

To get the most out of a conference, set some goals before going. Remind yourself of those goals throughout the day(s) of the conference. Twitter can help you achieve some of those goals, but stop to ask yourself whether (and when) it’s getting in the way. I’ll be sure to do the same for my next conference.



6 Steps to More Effective Content Curation

June 8, 2013

A plan for curating content

Introduction

Whether you’re a corporate brand or a personal brand, it’s important to effectively curate (and share) good content. Effective curation builds influence and authority: share information that enables your audience to learn (and do their job better) and they’ll come back for more. Here’s my six step plan for more effective content curation.

1) Understand your audience.

Keep your captive audience captive

Photo credit: Flickr user Anirudh Koul via photopin cc

Rather than using analytical tools, I build an understanding of my audience less formally. On social media, a portion of my following includes those whom I followed (and they, in turn, followed me back). This segment I know fairly well, since I followed them in the first place.

For others, I develop an understanding based upon interactions: replies to my tweets, comments they add to retweets, etc. In using Twitter over the years, I’ve come to understand that my followers are interested in social media, technology, events and sports. And that’s not surprising, because those are my interests as well!

2) Understand yourself.

You may be saying “of course I understand myself!” And while I’m sure that’s true, this step is really about defining your brand and what it represents. The understanding of your audience is reciprocal: they’re also developing an understanding of what you represent.

Let’s say you’ve been sharing articles on science and technology for the past 12 months and just developed an interest in baking cupcakes. In the past, your tweets were 80% science and technology. Today, it’s 20% science and technology and 70% cupcake recipes.

The shift in interest is fine, but understand that many of your followers “found” you because of your science and technology tweets. This means that you’re less influential (to them) on that topic. If that’s not what you wanted, then you’ll need to re-balance your content sharing back towards useful science and technology.

If cupcakes are indeed your new thing, then I like chocolate peanut butter varieties.

3) Assess title AND content.

Assese both the title and the content

[Make sure both the meat and the gravy are savory.]

The title of an article (or post) is crucial. On Twitter, it’s the only thing your followers may see. I look for a combination of subject matter and compelling headline. Good headlines draw you in, while answering the “what’s in it for me” question at the same time. Of the following two options:

Blogging Tips from an Expert Blogger
10 Tips to Make Your Blog Take off Like a Rocket Ship

I prefer the latter.

Titles: to change or not to change.

Occasionally, I’ll share a worthy piece of content for which the title lacks a bit of punch. In my mind, the title doesn’t do the piece justice. So instead of tweeting the article with the supplied title, I’ll share the essence of the article in the tweet. If I’m short on characters, I’ll delete the original title. Doing this results in a higher likelihood of people clicking on the link.

The content (aka meat)

Now that we’ve covered the title, it’s critical to actually read the content (or at least skim it). If the content doesn’t match the title, or if the content quality isn’t up to par, then don’t share it.

Favor quality over quantity when it comes to curation. Even if you’ve “sold” me on a great title, I avoid sharing these types of content:

  1. Content that was written solely for SEO (you know what I’m referring to, right?).
  2. Blogs that have an imbalance between banner/search ads and content.
  3. Slide show content (i.e. want to read our Top 10 list? Click “Next” nine times).
  4. Content that’s too short (e.g. 1-2 paragraphs in total).
  5. Content that my audience would not value (despite the strong title).

4) Acknowledge the author(s).

On Twitter, list the author’s Twitter handle in the tweet. On Facebook, tag the author – or, tag the Facebook Page of the organization that published the article.

Acknowledging the source is a common courtesy, while linking to their profile sends them a little love. Authors will see that you’ve acknowledged them – and in turn, they may follow you, retweet you and share some of your content.

5) Add a splash of commentary.

When users share my tweets or blog posts, I appreciate it when they add their own thoughts within the tweet. Let’s face it: if you’re “merely” sharing article after article, just listing the title and link, you could be an automaton (rather than a human being). So try this:

For every 5 articles you share, include a comment in 1 of them

Here’s an example where I combine commentary (albeit brief) with acknowledgement:

In addition to commentary, feel free to insert relevant hash tags. For instance, if a tweet about event technology doesn’t already contain it, I often add the #eventprofs hash tag. I then change the “RT” to an “MT,” to indicate that it’s a Modified Tweet.

6) Re-share and re-distribute.

For curated content that you really love, re-share it again later on (but not TOO often). I’d love for my Twitter followers to read the great article I just shared, but the reality is that 90% of them missed my tweet.

In addition to re-sharing, provide additional distribution by publishing the content on other social networks. For instance, for an article you tweet, selectively share it:

  1. On Google+.
  2. On your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Pin an image (from the article) to one of your Pinterest boards.
  4. On Facebook.
  5. Write a blog posting and link to the piece.

Conclusion

Think of yourself like a museum curator. Hundreds (or thousands) of people are coming to your exhibit. Select (and show off) the pieces of fine art that you’ve assembled. Leave the lesser pieces behind the curtain.


What the TV Commercials Tell Us About Twitter

June 14, 2012

Introduction

Twitter launched its first television commercials in conjunction with an event: The 2012 Pocono 400 NASCAR race. The commercials helped publicize the new hashtag pages from Twitter – they created a hashtag page for NASCAR that was promoted within the TV spots.

While I’m not a NASCAR fan, I had my TV tuned to TNT on Sunday afternoon, hoping to catch some of the commercials. Bad timing, combined with the shortness of the ads, prevented me from viewing them live. As a result, I went to YouTube to watch them there (the next day). Here’s one of the commercials:

So what do the commercials tell us about Twitter?

Core Value Proposition

Facebook and Google? They’re well understood by the average consumer. Twitter? Not so much. If you say “share what’s happening in 140 characters or less,” some people will “get it,” while others will get confused.

Judging by this first set of commercials, Twitter is defining its core value proposition around consumption, not sharing and publishing. In other words, you don’t have to tweet in order to find Twitter useful.

And it’s really a two-pronged value proposition:

  1. Consumption: for those who are inclined to “follow.”
  2. Sharing: for those who wish to stay connected with fans and followers.

On the consumption side, Twitter gives you behind the scenes access to your favorite celebrities, whether they’re athletes, actors, actresses, authors or politicians. Just look at the captions used in the six commercials – they’re all about receiving, rather than sharing:

  1. See what he sees.
  2. Follow them past the finish line.
  3. Where off the record is on the record.
  4. Get the POV from a VIP.
  5. What they see is what you get.
  6. See what else he writes.
  7. Put the pieces together.

Never before has the average consumer been able to connect (and even engage) so easily with celebrities. Now, you can journey inside a NASCAR racecar. And you can tweet to @justinbieber and get retweeted by him.

Striving for Mass Adoption, Part 1

Here was Google’s first foray into television commercials:

Notice the stark contrast? Google’s commercial was all about experiencing the product (Google searches), whereas Twitter’s commercials never showed the product (e.g. Twitter.com, Twitter desktop applications or Twitter mobile apps).

This relates directly to the core value proposition (above). The TV commercials show examples of how racing fans can become further engaged in following their sport. But it’s clearly a 50,000 foot view that doesn’t get into the mechanics of Twitter itself.

Twitter is clearly going after mass adoption – and that means our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. I expect subsequent ad campaigns that continue the story to demonstrate how users go about using the product.

Striving for Mass Adoption, Part 2

While this particular campaign targeted a precise audience (fans of NASCAR), it’s interesting that Twitter chose television advertising over online advertising. Television still works, it seems, in its ability to efficiently reach a broad audience at a moment in time (and of course, online afterwards, via YouTube).

I expect Twitter’s TV commercials to address a broader audience going forward. A Super Bowl ad in 2013, perhaps?

Twitter and Events: Perfect Together

Ever since Twitter launched, event professionals (and attendees) found a natural use of the service at events: quoting speakers, sharing insights, generating awareness and following the event’s hash tag. On the NASCAR hash tag page, you’ll see the following:

Next race: Quicken Loans 400, Sun 12pm ET on TNT

Twitter and NASCAR are clearly looking to the hash tag page as the online focal point to NASCAR’s ongoing events. In addition to NASCAR, Twitter has organized some activities around the NBA Finals. In a post titled “Courtside Tweets” on their blog, Twitter shares related hash tags and lists 13 athletes who will provide color commentary (via Twitter) during the Finals.

My expectation: Hash tag pages become available for all types of events, especially in B2B for trade shows, conferences, product launches and more. Before long, every B2B event may get its on hash tag page. And beyond that, I expect to see Twitter roll out additional products and services suited to events. After all, Twitter and events are perfect together.

Conclusion

So what to the TV commercials tell us about Twitter? They tell me that Twitter is focusing on mainstream adoption. On the one hand, they want the mainstream to understand what the service is all about. On the other hand, they’re sending a message to stars and celebrities to use Twitter to connect with fans (rather than a Facebook page, for instance).

And at the same time, they’re making it known to brands (including event brands) that these hashtag pages (with perhaps more products to come) are a great way to connect with your customers, fans and attendees.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


Why Twitter Should Stay at 140 Characters

July 23, 2011

Introduction

I’m selfish. I like Twitter just the way it is, which means that it should retain its 140 character limit on tweets. On Slate.com, Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) wrote a piece titled “The End of 140.” Twitter’s 140 character limit relates to the 160 characters available in SMS messages (text messages), for which the service was originally designed.

Manjoo argues that “very few Twitter users now access the system through SMS” and the 140 characters “prevents meaningful interaction between users.” Manjoo urges Twitter to consider a doubling of the character limit, from 140 to 280 characters. I hereby present my reasons for Twitter to “keep it the way it is.”

Makes Us Better Writers and Sharers

When all you have is 140 characters, you get right to the point. Extraneous details get dropped and you become a “pro at prose.” When tweets are more efficient, you win, and more importantly, your followers win. The world would be a better place if other content (e.g. TV commercials, marketing content, conference calls [ha ha]) were limited to 140 characters!

Of course, as Manjoo rightly points out, it does happen that the 140 character limit “turns otherwise straightforward thoughts into a bewildering jumble of txtese.” But I think 140 characters raises the bar and challenges users to do better. Manjoo cites a sample tweet from Senator @ChuckGrassley:

“Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said ‘time to delvr on health care’ When you are ‘ hammer’ u think everything is NAIL I’m no NAIL.”

Here’s how I would have written the tweet:

“President Obama said: ‘Time to deliver on health care.’ When you’re a hammer, you think everything is a NAIL. I’m no NAIL.”

Eliminated some extraneous details and I’m left with 18 characters to spare. This can work at 140, right?

Link Sharing Works Great As Is

Let’s face it – Twitter is used by many to find and share content. The current system works great. Users post an article title, sprinkle in a few words of commentary and then provide a shortened link to the page. Perhaps they’ll append a hash tag or two. In a world of 280 available characters, tweets become messier and users become lazier.

So I have 140 extra characters? I can keep that long URL unshortened. I can add a few more random thoughts. Yes! I can append another 5 hash tags that are not related. With 140 characters, I can promote a blog posting as such:

In This Era of Digital and Social, The Extended Family is Closer than Ever: http://bit.ly/oySJ18

With 280 characters, it’s too easy for that to become:

In This Era of Digital and Social, The Extended Family is Closer than Ever: https://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/in-this-era-of-digital-and-social-the-extended-family-is-closer-than-ever/

The former is more elegant and easier to parse.

280 Characters Fundamentally Changes Things

And that brings me to perhaps the most important point. Moving from 140 to 280 characters would fundamentally change the entire Twitter experience. It would turn Twitter from micro-blogging to mini-blogging. With 2x the available capacity (per tweet), browsing through your tweetstream takes on a whole new feeling.

Instead of scrolling past short, concrete thoughts, you’d now see short thoughts intermixed with longer thoughts (that could ramble on). With Twitter at 140, I can scan. With Twitter at 280, I’d have to read. And reading through a tweetstream would significantly slow me down and make Twitter less useful for me.

Conclusion

Dear Twitter, I like you (love you?) at 140 characters. Three cheers for the status quo.

Feel free to tweet that. You’ll have 52 extra characters.

Related Content

  1. Why changing Twitter’s 140-character limit is a dumb idea, by Matthew Ingram at GigaOM.

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Webinar Evolution

October 6, 2010

Introduction

Do you attend webinars?  If so, what is your satisfaction level with the experience?

Webinar Q&A

I was attending a highly captivating webinar last week.  The speaker had delivered a great, crisp presentation and was doing a great job answering questions during the Q&A period.  While viewing the webinar, I tweeted the following:

Needed in webinars: tool for producer to dynamically insert Q&A topic on screen – better than seeing static closing-slide image

When presenters complete their presentation and transition to Q&A, the viewer is left with a closing slide.  That slide remains unchanged for the duration of the Q&A session.  Couldn’t the moderator play a role here by generating some updates that appear in the webinar player, adding some context to the presenter’s answer?

That’s one of many ways that the webinar experience can evolve.  About a year ago, in fact, I wrote a posting about applying Web 2.0 features to webinars.  Here’s a link to that posting:

https://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/from-web-2-0-to-webinar-2-0/

Let us know your thoughts – how can webinars evolve?


It’s All Shareable (Tweet Highlights, June 2010)

June 8, 2010

Because tweets are temporal, while blog postings are permalinked…

Selected musings and sharings, all done in 140 characters or less – for a full subscription (at absolutely no cost), follow me at @dshiao.

It’s All Shareable: June 2010

Virtual Events

  1. My 2010 Virtual Event Predictions: http://bit.ly/84yTKt (2010 almost half over, time to grade myself!)
  2. @SecondLife tries for a second coming (from @EntMagazine): http://bit.ly/dck524 (w/quote from @EricaDriver)
  3. RT @mike_arias: 10 Conversion rate optimisation tips for #virtual events http://is.gd/cpFDn
  4. Gaming and #virtual events – read about strategy & tactics from @CiscoLive: http://bit.ly/dfaRYq (by @dveale) #eventprofs
  5. For virtual events, users tweet first, email your support team later (so make sure you’re monitoring)
  6. A mid-year report card on my 2010 #virtual events predictions: http://bit.ly/a1p0o7 #eventprofs

Social Media

  1. Twitter: Is Marketing Doing It Wrong?: http://bit.ly/cUbSZs (agreed on all 3 points, @aprildunford)
  2. How @Houlihans used a @Ning social network & email mkting to connect w/customers: http://bit.ly/d9fUFx (by @AnnaMariaVirzi of @ClickZ)
  3. (Makes sense) RT @OpenTable: RT @Yelp: No reservations about it: Yelp integrates OpenTable reservations http://bit.ly/yelpopentable
  4. RT @iandavmcg: 9 Anti-Social Behaviors: Oscar’s Guide to Social Networking at Events http://bit.ly/c1zGtH http://bit.ly/cNhnB6
  5. From @WashingtonPost: What sites such as Facebook and Google know and whom they tell: http://bit.ly/cB5dub

Product Ideas

  1. If your app supports multi language, use a “Switch back to ..” link and render it in the “switched from” language
  2. Idea: in Outlook, support tabs (like browsers do) so I can keep multiple folders open – wonder if that’s already in Office 2010
  3. Idea: in “wall discussions”, allow a “flag for follow-up” (signal others). Users login & check wall posts they were flagged in
  4. Idea: Social game for @dictionarycom – when using site, share word (but not defn) w/FB friends – one w/closest definition recvs “points”

General

  1. “Know what you don’t know”, says @CiscoSystems CEO Chambers in @Newsweek interview: http://bit.ly/cXSJl4
  2. What’s your favorite single-letter-single-number conference: f8, D8, E3, G7? Other?
  3. (Excellent preso on V1 products!) RT @danolsen: Posted slides from my #SVPMA #prodmgmt talk: http://bit.ly/V1-PM
  4. Webinars w/o webinar platform? Office 2010 has support (in PowerPoint) for broadcasting over web – can’t view animations, though
  5. Neat: Toolbox: A Workshop for Startups (June 12, Palo Alto, CA): http://toolbox.eventbrite.com/ #prodmgmt #prodmktg
  6. RT @jowyang: Do It Right: How To Successfully Produce A Webinar: Follow the “Ten P’s” http://bit.ly/9DkTBD
  7. Healing by 2-Way Video – The Rise of Telemedicine: http://nyti.ms/9unn0C

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