Twitter has about 18 million active users, which is forecast to grow to 26 million active users in 2010. In a recent survey by Champion Exhibition Services, it was found that 54% of association event marketers use Twitter. Of these, 82% used Twitter to create a buzz before an event, and 68% use Twitter to support PR efforts. Only 36% use direct messaging, and even fewer (23%) use #hashtags. This survey points out that even for the simplest Twitter purposes in events, adoption is still quite low. Despite all the buzz, Twitter is still a relatively untapped resource on the social media landscape. As such, we’ve only begun to understand how we can best use it as marketers, and have just scratched the surface of its application as a complement to event and experiential marketing.
One way to advance the conversation around using Twitter for event and experiential marketing is to leverage third-party applications. There are literally hundreds of Twitter applications available. A case could be made for using any and all of them for your event marketing program. I’ve spent some time reviewing some of the more interesting applications which can complement your events beyond creating buzz. In some cases there are alternate tools which perform the same function as those listed below. Feel free to explore. These are some of my favorites.
Twellow: The Twitter yellow pages. This directory searches the profiles (bios) of Twitter users when you enter a keyword. This application can be used to identify potential attendees, speakers, exhibitors, suppliers, etc. Its very simple to use, and ranks search results by number of followers.
Icerocket Twitter Search: There are several Twitter search tools out there. This is one of my favorites. Its a real time search engine and searches for keywords used within tweets. For events, Icerocket can be used to find trending topics, monitor hashtags, or find people of interest based on what they tweet. Bonus: Icerocket also searches blogs.
Tweet Later: This is one of my favorites for event marketers. If you plan ahead of time, you can schedule some of your tweets to coincide with the event schedule. Great for reminding followers of speaking sessions, or promoting your booth and other activities throughout an event. The perfect tool for press releases of new product launches, etc. I’ve used this tool for tweeting key points of my presentation while I was giving it. With rehearsal and timing it can work out pretty well. Keep in mind, while you can schedule some of your tweets ahead of time, its important to stay connected and be a part of the ongoing conversation live.
Tweetdeck: Monitoring the conversation around your event is critical. Tweetdeck makes this simple by allowing you to monitor several keywords, hastags, and people at once. Consider using Tweetdeck to monitor the conversation around your event in realtime. You can also set up Tweetdeck on large format monitors for attendees to see what content is buzzing in the twitterverse while they’re at an event. Bonus: Tweetdeck also integrates with Facebook and MySpace.
Tweetbeep: A very useful tool that monitors keywords and links and sends activity alerts by email every hour. Imagine having trending topics about your event, sessions, speakers, etc. delivered to you as they happen. Deploy Tweetbeep in addition to Tweetdeck to monitor hot topics.
Twtvite: a free event management tool that helps you organize and promote local Tweetups (informal social gatherings of people with like interests). You can use Twtvite to organize tweetups around your event. If you are using Tweetdeck or Tweetbeep to monitor conversations around your event, Twtvite can be the perfect tool to organize adhoc discussions to complement planned event curriculum based on what topics are trending.
Poll Everywhere: Need an audience response system on the cheap? Poll everywhere allows audiences to submit messages or answer multiple choice questions via tweet, SMS or the web. The best part: their feedback is instantly embedded into your live Powerpoint presentation. This tool has some amazing applications for hybrid events. Here you can get feedback from both face-to-face and virtual audiences during a presentation that is also streamed live via the internet.
Twtpoll: Simple polling application that allows you to submit a question to the twitterverse. You can choose form 17 types of questions and set a time limit for answers. This is great for gathering information for presentations before an event, or getting feedback after an event. Bonus: You can share Twtpolls across any social network.
Twitpic: This tool allows you to share pictures via Twitter – complete with geotagging. Share live pictures of your event with the world! Encourage attendees to share their event pictures as well. You might even incorporate a photo scavenger hunt into your event using Twitpic.
Twitvid: Like Twitpic but for video. Super easy to use. Share videos of speakers, entertainment, demonstrations, etc. via Twitter. Encourage attendees to participate. Bonus: autosharing to Facebook, MySpace and Youtube is integrated.
Twitcam: Create a live twebcast! Broadcast your event via this simple, instant streaming video application. This is great for speaking sessions, demonstrations, etc. Integrates with a twitter window so observers can comment / ask questions during the presentation. Its a good idea to have a moderator and a decent webcam / mic hooked up to your computer.
Tweetchat: Very cool application that allows users to conduct live chat over twitter via #hashtags. I participate in the #eventprofs tweetchat as often as I can. You can organize tweetchats during your event on trending topics, or schedule these as part of you planned curriculum. Tweetchats can also take place off hours or for virtual participants.
These twelve Twitter tools will help you advance your event program beyond the profile, #hashtag and promotional tweet. If used appropriately these applications can drive community engagement before, during and after each event to create real relationships with your audiences across your event program. Use one, use some, use them all, its your choice. Understand your audience and objectives first, then pick the best tools to meet your needs. I’ve only scratched the surface here. Again, there are hundreds of third-party Twitter applications out there, and they come and go daily. If you find something that’s worked for you please share!