It was my great pleasure to attend the Victorian Alcohol And Drug Association (VAADA) conference in Melbourne, Australia today. VAADA is the peak organisation for alcohol and other drug NGO’s operating in the state of Victoria, and as such the annual conference draws a diverse crowd of alcohol and other drugs clinicians, researchers and policy makers.
I was among a small number of attendees that were tweeting from the conference, which generated some interest from a number of non tweeting attendees. It was a great opportunity to talk about how the utilisation of social media can be a useful tool in supporting workforce development (See Drugs, Conferences and Twitter for some more of my thoughts on the topic).
Knowing that the cadre of tweeters attending the conference was quite small, I was curious to know what the potential impact might be, so I did some exploring.
What did I find
I started by using Mention Map, a great tool that allows you to explore a visual representation of your Twitter network. Connections visualised by this tool are based on mentions. By using this tool I was able to see a visual representation of the tweeters who had posted a Tweet with the hash tag #VAADA11 (there is a slight flaw here in that the conference organisers had not promoted a conference hash tag, so our little community of geeks came up with our own.)
As we can see from the map there was a grand total of four ‘Tweeps’ using the #vaada11 tag. Over the course of the two days of the conference they generated 192 tweets tagged #vaada11 . Granted some of those tweets may have been retweets or well… inane conference chatter, but it is still a reasonable body of information (transmitted in bite size chunks) to an audience that for whatever reason cannot attend the conference.
So how big was the audience?
To get an idea of the potential audience I began by adding the sum total of followers of each the Tweeps together. I came up with a total of 512 total followers. That’s probably twice the number of people that actually attended the conference. It blew me away! Then I realised the flaw in my plan. The alcohol and other drugs sector being the relatively small community that it is, it is very probable that many of the followers counted in my calculations would probably follow more than one of our four little research mice. At the very least however over 200 individual followers (premised on the Tweep with the most followers) would have received somewhere between 3 to 192 tweets hash tagged #vaada11.
What’s the advantages?
Generally speaking most of us don’t get the opportunity to attend many conferences (until recently I averaged less than 1 every two years, after 12 years in the sector). A fairly routine method for conference dissemination is that one or two people from the organisation will attend the conference, write a conference report and then report back the information obtained at the conference after the fact.
Tweeting from a conference however opens up three possibilities that are not readily available through the traditional means of sharing a conference experience:
While I cannot deny that actually being at the conference is a lot more fun than following it on Twitter, there are so many conferences that I have missed completely because there just wasn’t the time/resources to attend. If I can’t get to a particular conference I would like to think that at least there are a number of people there who are willing to share the experience through Twitter.