What Are the Five Best Practices for Tweeting From Conferences?

04/15/2015 04:07 pm ET | Updated Jun 14, 2015

Co-authored by Monica McLemore, PhD, MPH, RN, assistant professor at the University of California San Francisco, and Candace W. Burton, PhD, RN, AFN-BC, AGN-BC, assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Dr. McLemore's good friend and colleague, Steph Herold, Deputy Director for The Sea Change Program developed a set of best practices for use of social media at professional meetings and conferences. She shared these with Dr. McLemore, who then shared them with Dr. Burton and me. These practices now guide how we use Twitter during professional conferences.

We are nurse academics and as such, we travel to numerous conferences each year. We believe that nurses, and others, can and should maximize conferences by using social media for three important reasons: knowledge sharing and information exchange for those unable to attend the conference; increased visibility; and mobilizing the next generation of nurses (nursing is a somewhat traditional profession) to develop new uses for social media.

What are the five best practices in Tweeting from the meeting?

1. Determine if a social media policy exists for the conference

Start by determining if a social media policy exists for the meeting and what the social media tags are for that particular meeting. Generally this information is provided at the registration desk or in the conference materials.

Many of the large professional societies provide a Twitter hashtag to follow, and recent examples include: the American Public Health Association's tag for National Public Health Week: #NPHW; and since no one "owns" hash tags on Twitter, you can also create your own. Dr. Burton recently did this for the 20th Conference of the Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International (#NNVAWI20). The purpose of hashtags is to allow participants of the meeting to organize their thoughts, provide immediate and/or direct commentary on the content of the meeting or upload pictures for networking. You can use the #Discover tab in the Twitter toolbar to find if a hashtag exists and is in use.

2. Announce on your feed when you're Tweeting from the meeting

Several of our followers who can't attend as many conferences as we do, have commented that they've appreciated the information that we Tweet. We generally announce on our feeds when we're Tweeting from a meeting and what specific hashtag we're using so that our followers can follow and search for all of the Tweets.

To be sure, Tweeting the meeting could be viewed as distracting or disrespectful to conference speakers and other conference goers. And, for those new to Twitter, there is a bit of a learning curve. However, we believe that the benefits of sharing content, and knowledge, in real time, are important and useful.

3. Announce who is speaking

We tend to announce who is speaking and from what session at the conference, and often provide a brief summary of the presentation.

We Tweet poignant quotes from the presenters that we think are relevant to others following our feeds. For example at a recent regional meeting of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses (@AWHONN), which Dr. McLemore attended, several speakers were present from the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (@cmqcc) and presented cutting edge data on poor birth outcomes in California. As these data were presented, Mr. McLemore tweeted the statistics. When I attended the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy conference (#FWCA2015) recently, I tweeted about discrimination and campus climates for Black women. Dr. Burton, attending the Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International (#NNVAW120), tweeted content, web links, and photos. Video clips can be also be tweeted and all of these tweets can be searched for later use, by ourselves or by our followers. It's also helpful to tag the institution the speaker comes from, since they may want to retweet or post it on their own social media site.

4. Provide meet-up information and other networking sessions that you plan to attend at the meeting

An additional best practice that we use is to provide meet up information and other networking sessions that we'll be attending in case other Twitter users in attendance want to get together to discuss some of the conference content or related issues. This has been an invaluable way to coordinate meeting schedules without doodles or having the "personal" contact information for individuals interested in discussing nursing and other related science at conferences.

5. Allows Twitter users to tag where they are

Finally, there is a location feature within Twitter that allows users to tag where they are. This function has also been helpful for us to quickly identify building and room changes at meetings and to be able to determine where meeting essentials such as coffee and bathrooms can be found!

So, we encourage you, the next time you are at a professional meeting or conference, to follow these 5 best practices and Tweet from the meeting! Do you have other best practice ideas? Tweet 'em to @mclemoremr, @DrCBurton, and @MonaShattell.