This post is part of a series that provides practical information and resources for authors and editors.
Imagine you’re at an academic conference – a big one, perhaps the biggest in your field. You already know that social media is a crucial tool to boost your presence there, so you diligently download the app of your choice, create a profile and decide to make the most of online networking. On your way to your first panel, you carefully craft your first dispatch. After some hesitation, you hit ‘post’ and … well, nothing really. You keep checking back, but despite the passage of time, your posts are like lone wolves separated from the comforting pack of likes and shares. Surely, you’re doing something wrong. But what?
Fear not, for we’re here with five tips that are guaranteed (or, at the very least, highly likely) to boost your online presence at conferences! Let’s dive in.
1. Choose Your Platform Wisely
Not all platforms are created equal, at least when it comes to the buzz around conferences. At the time of writing, X, formerly known as Twitter, is still your best bet. The platform has certainly seen some tectonic (and at times highly questionable) changes over the past year, but it remains a key player in academic social media with established conventions for conference posting (such as “live tweeting”, just to add an element of nostalgia here).
“Keep your eyes open and don’t shy away from experimenting or jumping ship.”
Whatever forces shape the social media landscape in the future, microblogging and text-based platforms are bound to be the prime outlets for conference posting. You will definitely want to explore Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky or other platforms – some of which may still be in an embryonic state right now. Just remember that these things can change rapidly and drastically, for better or for worse. Keep your eyes open and don’t shy away from experimenting or jumping ship.
TIP: check out the conference website – if they link to a dedicated account on a specific platform, online participants will likely gravitate towards that.
2. Get the Conference Right
Similarly, not all conferences have a lively online chatter around them. If the conference is on a highly specialized topic, with selected participants or a niche community of interest, chances are there won’t be a big crowd generating dynamic online discussion either.
Aim for an international meet-up, a world congress or the annual meeting of a large association – the kind of event that will be marked in red on the calendars of fellow scholars. Even better are anniversary or special edition events, which will attract more people than your run-of-the-mill conference.
TIP: ask your social-savvy colleagues for recommendations, making your request as concrete as possible: “Can you think of an important conference in the field of forensic linguistics where you’ve seen a dynamic social media presence in the past couple of years?” is likely to yield more answers than “Which conference should I post at?”
3. Connect, Connect, Connect!
Just like in a conference hall, your aim in the online sphere is to connect with fellow researchers. What many people don’t realize is that you don’t have to keep posting to achieve this goal. Especially if you aren’t a seasoned content producer, it’s worth getting your bearings first by engaging with content put out there by fellow participants.
“It’s worth to first get your bearings by engaging with content put out there by fellow participants.”
To do that efficiently, you will first need the conference hashtag – usually a straightforward acronym/year format that you can find on the conference website, or through a quick search on social media. Once you have it, bookmark it, favorite it, write it on a post-it, do whatever you need to do to have it constantly on your mind (or at least at the back of it). Follow posts under the hashtag as much as you can. Be aware that some organizers will create a dedicated conference account and actively repost anything of note under the conference hashtag – in this case, you can just follow this account and switch on notifications.
Now that you have access to what is essentially the conference feed, get active! Don’t just be an observer, engage with others: Like and share existing posts, and don’t let it stop you if you don’t know the original poster. As with in-person encounters, it’s needless to say that all interactions should ensue in a respectful, polite fashion and with moderation.
Finally, make sure to follow participants, especially those you interact with, be that online or offline. This is the whole point of this exercise – to establish connections and broaden your network.
TIP: If you had an especially fruitful exchange with someone, send them a thank you note in a direct message to consolidate the connection.
4. Share Useful and Interesting Information
Once you wrapped your head around conference dynamics, it’s time to venture further and start putting your own posts out there.
When you do that, the number one piece of advice is to put yourself in others’ shoes. Ask yourself before posting: If I were attending this conference, either online or offline, would I find this piece of information in some way useful or interesting, worth remembering or noting down? No one really cares about where you had coffee this morning, unless said coffee was extremely well-brewed, consumed in front of a remarkable view, or had something else to offer to fellow attendees who are keen on caffeination (which is pretty much all of them, usually).
“The number one piece of advice is to put yourself in others’ shoes.”
A useful piece of information can be many things. You could share visual or textual aids to navigating the venue (and finding the exhibitors’ hall – we at De Gruyter would be particularly grateful for any help with that one). You could tip off any conference giveaways, as well as things to see and do in the city. Above all: share important findings, striking observations or key takeaways from panels – that is, after all, why most people go in the first place. Do make absolutely sure to reference the speaker though, at best by tagging them in your post – another effective way to connect if you don’t get the chance to talk to them in person.
Whatever you decide to post about, don’t forget to include the conference hashtag and tag the conference account.
TIP: On X (Twitter), you can make a list of the attendees and speakers. Make this list public and share it under the hashtag for others to connect.
5. Make It Look Good (And at Best Make It Move)
The cherry on top when it comes to conference posting is nailing the aesthetics. Even on a text-based microblogging platform, posts accompanied by photos or video are highly likely to perform better.
Many conference venues aren’t exactly beautiful, but you’ll certainly be able to find some interesting angles or impressive views that’ll make for a nice visual note. Alternatively, you can spice it up with some cityscapes while roaming around during breaks, or you could head over to your favorite publisher – hopefully us! – and find some great books with nice covers.
If you’re really reaching for the stars, then make those images move! Even a short clip will take you far, because that’s just how most platforms and the human eye work – video makes scrollers linger and the algorithm happy, which in turn gives a mighty boost to your post’s visibility and reach.
TIP: Treat this as a creative exercise – experiment with different formats and see what works best.
Summary – What to Remember
Do your research in advance by selecting the right conference and platform. Find the hashtag and connect with fellow attendees online: like, share, comment and follow. If you do post, make sure it’s helpful for others and also nice to look at.
Lastly: have fun with this! Social media is a laid-back, casual alternative to most in-person networking events – treat it as such and you might just make some of your best connections there.
Find more tips for publishing and promoting your work here
[Title image by ChardayPenn/E+/Getty Images]