Raising Awareness

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Use of Twitter at Events

What is Twitter?

As described in [1] Twitter is a micro-blogging service which allows users to send brief posts (known as 'tweets') up to 140 characters long. The tweets are displayed on the users profile page or in a Twitter client by users who have chosen to 'follow' the user.

What are Hashtags?

Hashtags [2] are a community-driven convention for adding additional context to your tweets. They are a form of metadata and very similar to tags, as used on social networking sites and blogs. Hashtags are added inline to a post by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag. Implementing a hashtag for an event is becoming increasingly popular and allows anyone to comment on event (before, during and after). Users can see all tweets collated through use of a hashtag in a number of ways:

  • Using the hashtags site e.g.
  • Running a Twitter search for a term and then following that RSS feed.
  • Using a relevant application such as Twemes [3] or Twitterfall [4].

Twitter Use at Events

Twitter can be used at events by:

By creating a Twitter account an event organisers can offer updates and alert followers to important occurrences in a similar way to an RSS feed. Prior to an event this may take the form of general publicity material. During an event it could be used to alert delegates to problems, for example if a session is cancelled (followers can sign up to have messages delivered directly to their phone). After an event it could be used to alert followers to where resources are held. Organisers of annual events may find it useful to create a generic Twitter account, not a yearly one, which can be used for forthcoming events.
Those interested in an event can sign up for the event Twitter account to receive relevant information. They can also tweet during the event using the hashtag. This can be a particularly engaging activity if it takes place during presentations and sessions. Discussion about the content of an event (and related) has become known as the Twitter 'back channel'.
By following a Twitter hashtag a presenter could potentially get a better understanding of an audience's knowledge and the event mood. During a presentation a presenter could answer questions on the fly, use Twitter as a way to 'ask the crowd' and as a feedback mechanism.


A Twitter back channel has the potential to be embraced by the event organisers and the conference participants alike. It can allow deeper interaction and engagement with content better audience participation. Twitter users tend to get to know each other better so it can enable the establishment of a community alongside more traditional networking activities. Use of Twitter also means that those not physically present can still participate by asking questions and getting a good feeling for the event atmosphere.


As Twitter use at events has yet to become mainstream and many will not have appropriate networked devices Twitter may cause a divide in the audience between those using Twitter and those not. Some have argued that event organiser's involvement should be discouraged and that the back channel should 'stay a back channel' and not be brought to the forefront. As with any networked technology some may see its use as disruptive and inappropriate.

Use of a live display (sometime referred to as a 'Twitterwall') which provides a live feed of tweets tagged for the event may have dangers. It can allow inappropriate content to surface and may need to be managed. Some events may choose to moderate a back channel display.


As an organiser it can be very exciting to see your event peaking (if your event hashtag is being highly used at that time) and see Twitter well used at your event. However it pays to remember that Twitter is first and foremost a communications mechanism and that the content of Tweets is more valuable than their quantity. Twitter can be an exciting way for you to allow your community to better connect with an event, by listening to what they say and treading carefully you can ensure that everyone benefits.


  1. An Introduction To Twitter, Cultural heritage briefing page no. 36, UKOLN, <>
  2. Hashtags, <>
  3. Twemes, <>
  4. Twitterfall, <>
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