Hashtag Spam v. Event Engagement: Spotting the Difference

It can be challenging for event and conference planners to prevent hashtag spam and misuse.

hashtag failScenario: I recently attended an excellent event. Speakers were experts with engaging content about hot button issues delivered through interactive formats. Event planners created a hashtag and tweeted to encourage bloggers to cover the event. So far so good.

Where they fell short was failing to provide an Internet cafe or Wi-Fi access for laptops. PCMAEC and IMEX America 2011 had Internet cafes. PCMAEC 2010 provided Wi-Fi access and a reserved table for tweeters and bloggers. This is important to encourage live tweeting during events, conferences, and important business meetings. Many people still don't have a Blackberry, iPhone or tablet. As I fall into that category, I made detailed notes and took photos and even a video clip that I planned to share on this blog. When I got home, I carefully crafted tweets highlighting gems that were shared by speakers.

The next morning, I received the following tweet from the organizer's Twitter ID:

fyi http://bit.ly/rGOpiY

The link was to Thoughts on hashtag spamming. Here is an excerpt:

Of late, I've noticed a minor sponsor of the event I attended riding on the popularity of the conference hashtag to advertise their product. Their tweets are mainly about their product and at best vaguely relating anything they can grab to the conference.

I was stunned. I had not shared a single tweet about my company or its services. All content, quotes and questions were directly related to the event and ONLY the event. How was this spam? I checked the Tweetstream to verify that I was not the only attendee who had tweeted highlights. I was definitely not the tweep with the highest number of tweets using the hashtag. The only difference was that my tweets came a few hours after the event as I had no opportunity for live tweeting. Clearly the person behind the account did not get the fact that, to be effective, social media engagement needs to take place before, during AND after events. They also did not perceive the distinction between hashtag spam and event engagement.

Hashtag Spam v. Event Engagement

  • Event engagement is about the event, speakers and sessions.
    Spam is about the person sharing the event or their organization.
  • Spam promotes something other than the event and hijacks the hashtag to reach event attendees.
    Engagement shares event content and insights.
  • Hashtag spam often includes links to irrelevant content.
    Event engagement includes links that are relevant to the event.

One More Hint: If the event organizer has few followers and the individual sharing content has 6 times as many followers and a high level of social media engagement, what possible benefit would they have for spamming? It is much more likely that tweets and updates will build the event organizer's follower base.

Epilogue: When the office re-opened, I followed up with the director. He apologized and indicated that the Twitter ID had been managed by volunteers during the event.

Organizers of events and conferences would do well to remember that attendees are their best ambassadors for event and conference marketing. No amount of money can buy their goodwill and loyalty. If attendees are following you and you have concerns, share it privately instead of rudely shouting it to everyone in cyberspace. Select event venues with the facilities to make live tweeting possible. Train your volunteers. Encourage tweeting and sharing to build interest. Buzz created by attendees will facilitate future event marketing efforts.

Search the Cvent Supplier Network for conference centers and meeting venues with Wi-Fi access.

Photo Credit: misspixels

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