Is there an easy way to turn Twitter into a real-time conversation tool in order to follow conference back-channel discussion or live tweet-ups such as #hcsmeu (Fridays, noon UK time, 13.00 CET)?
The good news: yes, there is.
The better news: it’s simple.
The best news: it’s free.
Here’s what to do:
- Download a Twitter feed management platform such as Tweetdeck
- In Tweetdeck, click on the ‘Twitter Search’ magnifying glass icon
- Enter the hashtag (in this instance, ‘#hcsmeu‘) for the event or community you wish to follow as a search term in order to create a column on the this case ‘#hcsmeu‘. Anything that anyone tweets with that hashtag in will now appear in this column every time Tweetdeck auto-updates. In order to get as close to real-time interaction as is possible, you may wish to ramp up the amount of processing the program is doing during a live tweet by adjusting the settings (the spanner icon, top right: Twitter API > All Friends) in Tweetdeck).
- You’re now following the discussion.
- In order to contribute to it yourself, simply incorporate the hashtag #hcsmeu somewhere in your tweet. I usually add the hashtag to the end of my post to keep things clutter-free.
You’ll notice members of your community flagging hashtags that are being used by events that my be of interest to you on an almost daily basis. It’s hard to resist following all of them, but highly rewarding when you do choose to dedicate a little time to those meetings of especial interest. The period you set aside will invariably be time well spent; not only will you learn a great deal from those who are live-tweeting, you may also have the opportunity to share your own knowledge in the answering of queries that may arise, or perhaps find an appropriate moment to share your own perspective. You will also be rewarded by discovering interesting new people to follow through their hashtagged posts.
Why would you want to participate in a live debate driven by the real-time tracking of hashtags?
If you’re someone to whom this feet-first entry into the social media pool may seem a little direct, I’d invite you to pluck up your courage and jump. I’m willing to wager that you will get more out of the experience than you would expect.
Good tweet-ups should be supportive, encouraging, lively, enabling, inclusive and fun. Your participation can only augment the experience, as well as adding value to your personal social media stock in terms of your ‘showing, not telling’ your commitment to transparent, authentic, reciprocal engagement.