You've heard about Twitter, you know there's a whole conversation happening out there about your event, and you're not participating in it. You know it's something you should be on...or in...or do...or whatever it is one does with Twitter, but you're not sure where to start.
This is intended as a quick-and-dirty guide for event planners to get you up to speed.
Twitter is an Internet-based service that lets people send short messages, known as "tweets", to whomever wants to listen. Once you have a Twitter account, you can "follow" people, which means you'll be able to see their tweets, and people can "follow" you, which means they'll see your tweets. Common Craft produced this great, short video that explains how it works.
There are a variety of ways you can view someone's tweets (sometimes called a "Twitter feed"):
Which method you choose depends on how much you intend to use it, and what you intend to use it for. So, before we choose a tool, let's talk about why you would use Twitter to begin with.
There are two major reasons for an event planner to use Twitter:
There are many other reasons to use Twitter, such as keeping in touch with friends, sharing your profound insights with the unenlightened and keeping your thumb on the pulse of the digerati culture, but for the purposes of this guide, we're going to assume you're content to leave those things to the next generation, and want to focus on the most straight forward, practical applications of Twitter.
First, get yourself a free Twitter account by signing up at and clicking the "Join the Conversation" button. Your user name will have to be unique and will be how people reference you when they talk to you on Twitter.
There are different ways to listen on Twitter. There's the "normal" way, in which you visit people's Twitter pages and click the "Follow" button. Thereafter, when you visit Twitter.com, you'll see the tweets of the people you're following in a list, starting with the most recent.
How do you know who to follow? Many people post their Twitter username on their web site or in their e-mail signature, you can search for people by name through Twitter.com's "Find People" function or by topic through a service like Twello.
But what if you want to hear everything anybody is saying about your event, including people you don't know and aren't following?
You can search the recent tweets of everybody in the world by visiting and entering a term (e.g., the name of your event).Then, if you use an RSS reader such as Google Reader or a recent version of Microsoft Outlook, you can subscribe to the RSS feed of results and view them in the same place you go to read your blogs.
But what if you don't use an RSS reader (or dare I suggest, don't know or care what RSS is)? Now that Google indexes the contents of all public Twitter activity, you can use Google Alerts to have an e-mail sent to you daily with every mention of your event anywhere on the web, including Twitter.
Hint: Be sure to get notifications when someone mentions @yourtwitterusername (e.g., "@pathable"). You'll see why when you read the Start Talking section below.
It's not always easy to know just the right search term to use, especially because not every tweet about a particular topic would include the name of the topic. For example, if someone tweeted "Just found some lost tracks by The Beatles", and I searched for "music", I would miss out.
This is where hash tags come in. A hash tag is just a word # (hash mark) that marks a tweet as being relevant to a topic. For example, if I wanted everyone interested in music to find my tweet, I would say "Just found some lost tracks by The Beatles #music". By including the "#music" as part of my tweet, I've marked it as relevant to music.
By convention, hash tags are placed at the end of a tweet, unless it works naturally as part of a sentence (e.g, "My #music professor loves The Beatles").
So, to find interesting people to follow, try searching for a hash tag that relevant to you or your business, and see who is using it. For example, if you're an event professional. Try searching for the hash tag #eventprofs (event professionals).
You can also encourage your attendees to use a hash tag to refer to your event (e.g., the Consumer Electronics Show might use #CES). You don't have to do anything special to establish a hash tag for your event, just let people know what it is in e-mail, on your web site, via Twitter, or however you communicate with your attendees.
Once you've heard what people are saying on Twitter, you're going to want to start talking back. This may be to respond to specific messages from attendees, to communicate news and updates about your event or to just build buzz.
Sending a message via Twitter is easy: just go to Twitter.com (or your TweetDeck client) and type your message. It has to be 140 characters or less, but other than that, knock yourself out!
Remember, unless someone is following you, they're unlikely to see your tweets. So how do you get people to follow you?
First, follow other people. Nobody likes someone who talks but doesn't listen, so it's only polite to find people you're interested in and follow them. Each time you do, Twitter will e-mail that person to let them know you've followed them, and they will often follow you back.
Second, publicize your Twitter user name with a link to your Twitter page prominently on your web site and let people know that you'll be tweeting news and updates about your event.
By convention, if you're speaking to someone in Twitter, you address them by putting an "@" in front of their Twitter name. For example, you might say "Just tried @pathable's social network for events, and loved it!" That's why we hinted above that searching for @yourusername is a good idea, because it makes sure you hear when people are talking to you. ** **
What if you want to send a message to an individual in Twitter, but don't want everyone to hear? Easy, just send
d twitterusername Your message
(e.g., "d johnsmith Thanks for mentioning us in your blog"). The only limit is that you can only direct message someone who is following you.
What do you do if you want to direct message someone who isn't following you? You can try following them first. Twitter will send them an e-mail letting them know you're following them, and many people will follow you back as a courtesy. If not, you can @twitter them as described above, or use their profile information to try to find an e-mail address you can use to reach them.
This is just a beginner's guide to Twitter. There are a number of great sites out there that teach you how to do even more with Twitter (like this one), and there's some things you have to learn by doing, but we hope this will be enough to get you started.
Here are some great tools to check out, as well: