The role of Social Media Chair

Several people have asked me about some advice on how to be a social media chair at a conference, as I have filled this position at ICSE, ICSM and WCRE this year. Instead of emailing those people, I have promised them all a blog post, so here goes

What is a social media chair anyway?

A social media chair manages the social media presence of a conference. This means managing the Twitter and Facebook account, but also making sure people post and tweet about you conference.

Do we need one?

Good question! Why a conference would want to have a social media chair. Firstly, social media is a new channel from attracting participants, both paper submitters and regular visitors. I recently submitted to CASCON after Tom Zimmerman tweeted about it, so it does work that way (a little bit). Furthermore, I feel that we as researchers are obliged to tell the general public what we are doing. Social media are a wonderful medium for this, by publishing blog posts on papers and tweeting from conferences, we make it easier for practitioners to know what we are up to.

So, you are a social media chair. What to do?

A possible timeline for the Twitter account is the following:

When you take over the accounts

  • First thing to do if you take over is, letting your personal followers know. So tweet from your personal account that you will be doing this and mention your own account from the conference’s. Nice side effect is that your personal account might get a few extra followers.
  • Then, follow relevant researchers/groups (f.i. have a look at who follows other conferences in your field and follow them, there are tools for doing this)
  • Also, make sure your conference’s handle is year-independent, like @icseconf and not @icse2014. This way, you can keep the followers of last year and people will know the handle by heart after a few years.

Now, between the previous conference to the call for papers of the next one, there will typically be a few months without a lot of content. Try to fill those to remain on peoples radar. A few ideas:

  • Best papers of previous years
  • Most cited papers
  • Slides of keynote of last year
  • Fun conference facts, like number of attendants

@icseconf did this excellent this year (now ran by Tim Zimmerman) by combining fun facts with reminders:

And don’t forget practical tweets (deadlines for registration, maps to the location) are very helpful. You could consider to ask the program chairs to write a blog post on 1) how to get a paper accepted, this would be a howto on the topics and more of the conference and 2) on the process of reviewing.

After the submission deadline

It is nice to post statistics on the submission, like number of papers, topics and countries. We did this for ICSM and it was nice to see the topics. Additional ideas that we did not do but seem nice is to relate the submitted papers to the call for papers: Were there any superpopular topics  or topics on which nothing was submitted?

During reviewing process, keep people posted as much as is allowed by the program chairs. Are all reviews in? How many reviews per paper etc.

After notification, try to post a list of paper soon. Or even cooler, try tweetable abstracts. We did this for WCRE 2013 and almost all authors provided us with an abstract. We tweeted them in the weeks leading up to the conference, but I guess it is even better to post them before registration, to attract people to the conference.

Before the registration deadlines

Tweet reminders yourself, but also ask people who register to tweet about that (you can even try to add a form to the registration page where people can tweet from. Clicktotweet is supereasy for that.

During the conference

A few things I did at ICSE: post hash tags of all colocated events in the morning, so they are agreed upon. You can ask PC members to provide them to you in advance.

I also posted statistics on accounts that tweeted the most, I used a nice tool for that (thanks again Leif!), hash tags and such. This seemed to encourage tweeting among some people (Richard Paige, Tijs van der Storm)

Something I did not do, but would be cool is to ask for blogs and slides and post them as the presentation starts (you can schedule this in advance) because people not at the conference often want to know what we all are talking/tweeting about.

Another thing that would be cool is to record a podcast with keynote speakers if they are well known, this might be a way to get more attention from the twittersphere.

Then, there is live blogging. I personally really really love it, but I seem to be the only one out there. If you find someone who wants to do it, or make notes and share them with you later. Especially the posts that are published later make nice interconference posts.