Micro.blog and Events

Famously, it was an event, South by Southwest 2007, that put Twitter on the map. But even before that, the early Twitter team was trying to use events, raves more specifically, to sign up early users.

It didn’t go well.

An excerpt from Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton:

It wasn’t how the grand public launch of Twitter was supposed to end up: Jack in the hospital at around 2:00 A.M., covered in blood, and Noah, Ray, and a few others still dancing at a rave a few blocks away. But in hindsight, it was as predictable as nightfall that the public debut of this tiny social start-up would end this way.

So, this is yet another case in which @manton should not follow Jack Dorsey’s playbook. But, as I mentioned in my earlier post about diversifying the Micro.blog user base, I think in-person events are a great use case for drawing a more diverse set of users into Micro.blog.

There are existing tools that serve the events market, such as white-label event apps and established social networks like Twitter. But I don’t think any of the current tools meet the needs of event organizers or attendees particularly well.

The event-specific apps at most events I’ve attended have been fairly poor. Their usefulness is often limited to easy access to the event schedule. They don’t bring the event topics to life or help me connect with my fellow attendees. Most attendees probably don’t even bother to install them. And they certainly don’t forge any connections among event attendees that persist beyond the end of the event.

I have seen Twitter used effectively at some events, but there are some significant limitations:

  • Participation is limited to the subset of event attendees that are already active Twitter users
  • Twitter dialogue at the events is generally fairly shallow: quick pictures or quotes of what speakers are saying
  • Abuse and harassment, already of major concern to event managers, are amplified by Twitter

It would be an interesting experiment to work with some event organizers to incorporate Micro.blog accounts into their event registration packages. Prior to the event, each attendee could be prompted to sign up for an account that includes a few months of Micro.blog hosting, as well as the option to connect the account to an existing blog. Participation could be a billed as central to the event experience — a way connect with speakers and participants to get the most out of the event.

A week or two before the event, organizers and speakers could introduce themselves on Micro.blog, prompt attendees to do the same, and encourage people to share thoughts on what they are hoping to get out of the event. Micro.blog’s pin / gamification functionality could be adapted for the event, providing a way for event organizers to encourage attendees to engage in substantive discussion. Ideally, some of this dialogue will spawn ad hoc in-person meet-ups at the event and help people attending alone make social connections.

Some attendees will likely wind down their Micro.blog usage after the event. But it’s likely that in some cases Micro.blog activity at events will evolve into lasting online micro-communities.

A benefit of this use case for Micro.blog itself is that it could be a way to diversify the user population quickly. A concerted effort could be made to prioritize partnerships with events that cater to populations that are under-represented on Micro.blog. And then each event could be followed by promotion of the benefits of participating in the broader Micro.blog community in addition to staying engaged with the event cohort.

I think the approach would appeal to event organizers as well. It adds a whole new dimension to the event experience. Everyone starts on an equal footing, and a code of conduct has been thoughtfully considered in advance. A simple, per-user pricing model would also make it accessible to smaller events without the budget to license and customize a white-label event app.

As with the micro-communities use case, there are likely some Micro.blog feature enhancements necessary to support an events model. At a minimum, there would need to be some method of connecting Micro.blog activity that is focused on a particular event. It’s possible that hashtag support, as contemplated in my micro-communities post, could meet this need as well. The ability for event organizers to create a set of event-specific Micro.blog pins would be a “nice to have” feature as well.

There are likely higher short-term priorities than tooling Micro.blog up to support in-person events. But as the platform grows and matures, I think it’s a great use case to keep in mind as a way to diversify the community quickly and make events more fun.

Doug Lane @douglane