Since the 2008 Zuckerberg interview, SXSW has to be one of the largest scale laboratories for using Twitter while at a conference. Many saw how that particular “interview” rapidly took a nosedive, spurred by backchannel twitter chatter live during the event.
So… is Twitter helpful or hurtful when it comes to conference participation? For the speaker? For the attendee? For colleagues not there? There are many points of view being shared. It’s either the biggest waste of time and expressly forbidden (as was my experience in how CTAM directed its conference recently in DC www.ctam.com), or it is fully embraced and publicly lauded as in SXSW. Kate Neiderhoffer recently explored same ideas in a recent post in her blog Social Abacus. Some comments to Peter Kim’s post summing-up SXSW lament the intensity of its use.
I don’t know the answer. But my colleagues and I are trying to dive into some analysis in our spare time to see what actual use is like and what we can learn from that. We’re not done by any stretch–but take a look and share your POV.
SXSW Charlene Li “The Future of Social Networks”: 686 Twitter Feeds
So far, we’ve loaded 686 tweets during the Charlene Li “Future of Social Networking” presentation at SXSW. The tweets included the #sxswfsn or cited her name AND were published within the start/stop timeline of the live panel so as to narrow our inquiry to live use of Twitter during the presentation. Of course, Charlene started hers introducing the # and a backchannel–so we’re talking a case in which the speaker encouraged use of Twitter from the beginning.
Individual Use — Very Little RT
First, it’s clear most of the activity was original tweeting (91.4%)–only 8.6% were re-tweets of others’ ideas or comments. It seems the interchange online and/or the speed of review of ideas being shared live create a context of people offering their ideas and not spending a lot of time spreading the verbatim ideas of others.
This doesn’t mean there wasn’t direct exchange and interaction. Nearly 10% of the tweets during the live presentation included direct references to others Twitter IDs as the source of a quote, object of a reply or debate, or a person of interest to the tweeter.
So… point one is Twitter during a live panel is predominantly my “megaphone” or my “note-taking device”. Most of the listening, reviewing, reading and/or sharing what is tweeted by others seems to comes later. Hmmm… good or bad?
Dominant Content = Quotes, Ideas, Discussion
To the naysayers who claim only garbage flows by those tweeting during a live speaker presentation or panel, the stats show differently. In reality, 75% of the 686 tweets were directly quoting the speaker/commenter/questioner OR commenting on the topic/issue OR passing along added value links for relevant content. In other words, most of the chatter was directly germane to the topic being discussed live in the moment.
The next largest block of tweets were for “alerting others where I’m at” (13.6%) and/or arranging how to connect, meetup, or discuss ideas in person (6%). I explore this a bit later.
Five percent (5.1%) of tweets were brown-nosing suck-ups or genuinely impressed people sharing their praise for Charlene Li and her commentary.
And–get this–only 4.4% were tweets random, or seemingly random, off-topic comments not directly contributing to the debate. But–even this is debatable as one of the tweets coded in this bucket does contribute to the “feel” of the room in a funny way:
Lots of trust issues in this crowd, come see me for a hug. #sxswfsn
Another was quite functional… I wonder if those sunglasses were ever reunited with an owner?
I just found a pair of sun glasses in Ballroom A where @charleneli spoke. If you know who’s missing them let me know. #sxsw #sxswfsn
So… point two, so far, is Twitter activity live to the event seems mostly to facilitate distribution of ideas directly tied to the topic. We’ll find out by comparing with other sessions we’re pulling whether this is due to the high-interest nature of the topic and content being shared. But, most of the chatter is on-topic and seemingly furthering the debate.
Constructive Uses — Maybe???
Digging deeper into specific tweets you can see some a number of uses with, potentially, real value. Some seem to be more useful after the fact. Others, however, are only relevant due to the live nature of their delivery. What do you think?
Sound Bites. The obvious is sharing compelling ideas, quotes, thoughts whether you agree or disagree with them. This seems either to be to spur thought or a sort of note-taking for you and/or others in your network. This is also most likely to be RT of the relatively few that are.
“they dont think of this as a social strategy. they think of it as a corporate strategy and they will need help”– charlene li #sxswfsn
What will get everyone to open up and work together? Money, money, money #sxswfsn
RT @faris: distribution not destination #sxswfsn (So you can never leave or arrive again…)
Play-by-Play. Several take the form of almost a narrative setting up the event, some with pictures (see Armano picture I posted up top, loaded live during the session, that had 890 views — but, of what???). These feel like play-by-play commentary offering their own John Madden spin.
Going to live broadcast the first 30 of charlene li, the future of social networks” follow me for URL. #sxsw
Liking the idea of putting the customer into the org chart. this is getting better #sxswfsn
so, heres precisely my issue with FBC, no standardization…social web needs to be based on standards..a standardized data web #sxswfsn
already getting bored…not to sound like a douche, but none of this is new to me re: portable graphs, social touchpoints #sxswfsn
The play-by-play can also be entertainment of sorts.
favorite intro ever – question from “low persuasion marketer” #sxswfsn
Finally got the required crazy rambling conference questioner that never made a point. #sxsw #sxswfsn
Ballroom A wifi is pretty sucky, at least for me. #sxswfsn
#sxswi #sxsw Technical diffs plague even the most commanding speakers ike Charlene Li. Makes me feel better bou t my own ppt foibles.
Yeah, right! Another use is to challenge what is being said. Some offer their own insight. Others just like to attack.
too bad @charleneli didn’t touch on the potential of “social networks as air” (aka the social web) is to realize VRM #sxswfsn
I disagree with Charlene Li. If I’m a fan of something I don’t mind my pic appearing with an ad. If I like it, I like it. #sxswfsn
Sometimes this is an attempt to call someone on violating protocol.
Totally, ask a question not an adv. RT @bud_caddell “Hashrocket and potlabs… False advertising. #sxswfsn”
Connections / Associations. Among the most useful tweets I see are those that associate an idea with another–although not likely used until after the event. Many even add direct links for additional content, including the slides being shared live by Li on the stage. No doubt some of these are going to be self-serving for “my content” or “my product”. In this case, many seem to genuinely point to useful material toward the topic.
Reminds me of John Pickering’s High Performing Organization model. Google HPO and University of Virginia for more info #sxswfsn
For a look at what a local government is doing is social media, go to www.roundrocktexas.gov/cc #sxswfsn
Media6 looks very interesting for site owners #sxswfsn http://bit.ly/aJ2vN
Requests. Several tweets suggest topics they either would like to have discussed or they are anticipating will be discussed in the session. Of course, for these to be useful there must be some mechanism for sharing with the speaker delivering content in a manageable way.
At the @charleneli #sxsw presentation about the Future of Social Networks – hoping to hear more about Activity Stream innovation #sxswfsn
Follow-Ups. A particular useful tweet practice are those pointing to things that should be followed up on based on what was heard or discussed.
love the idea of social algorithm making privacy and permissions easier to manage #sxswfsn
@rnadworny spoke briefly with Charlene Li after her presentation. Will e-mail her tonight to find out more for next steps.
Musings. Debatable as to how useful these are, but some tweets are individual musings on what is being said with varying degrees of insight and/or entertainment.
#sxswfsn Interesting that folks talk about the death of email in the face of social networks, but think about how you login to each – email!
Logistics Coordination. The most practical or functional use are those who simply used tweets to connect with colleagues or with new people they met or would like to meet as a direct tie-in to the content being discussed at the panel.
So many people I follow from twitter at this Charlene Li talk. Would be nice to find them and meet them. #sxsw
@amyrsward meeting up with @carribugbee after session in front of room, audience-left. RIght by video camera. #sxswfsn
@cvelis hey – are you in the #sxswfsn panel? me too! i’m on the right side, half way back
These next two were actually in response to each other… a connection apparently made.
Li: Talking about gov’t and social media. Again, if people have ideas about this and want to talk, please get in touch. #sxswfsn
@AndrewPWilson I, too, want to talk about soc media for govt. Let’s meet in ctr of room b/w 1st & 2nd sections after panel #sxswfsn #gov20
This is just one look into a hot-topic issue at a Twitter-heavy conference event. Twitter is a distraction, especially if you don’t use it or don’t see any real value in those who are–so in that way, it’s clearly distracting to others in attendance. But, to those patched into it, the tool seemed to be predominantly used in this situation as furthering discussion and, therefore, committing to memory (as Kate references in her musings on the topic) the ideas being discussed.
Beyond that, there seems to be a lasting benefit beyond the moment of capturing spur of the moment thoughts and additional content to be referenced later… but, is it referenced later? Or is is only entered in the moment and never referred back to in the future? Can we provide some mechanism for assisting the access to these insights later when there is more time to think, ponder, and review?
A huge win in terms of Twitter relevance in the moment has to be the connection in real life based upon ideas being shared in the moment via an online platform. How else can you break down the social protocols and impossibility of direct interaction with a large number of those in attendance to filter through whether that person has something of interest to you? Pre-Twitter you could do that via the person sitting next to you, the person asking questions, or you could be a crazed biz card socialite and query almost everyone in the crowd. A few tweets create much more precise serendipitous encounters!
Finally, however we look at this, it seems clear this question must be considered differently from the perspective of all parties in attendance in the moment: the speaker, twitterers, non-twitterers, and observers from afar.
What do you think? Twitter use valuable or waste of time at a conference? What does this analysis tell you?