New survey: How people are using Twitter at conferences

Wow. Some academics have written a paper about tweeting at conferences (thank you @tonyramos for tweeting about it).

I’m more impressed that somebody would write such a paper, than by the paper itself.

The paper reports on a survey of tweeters at five different conferences.

The methodology of the survey seems a little light. Only 41 people responded to the survey (the url for the survey was circulated using twitter and the conference hashtag). The paper doesn’t mention how many people in total were at these five conferences and how many of those were tweeting. But, 41 seems a pretty low number. There’s no discussion of sample size or statistical significance.

The authors of the paper (Wolfgang Reinhardt, Martin Ebner, Gunter Beham and Cristina Corta) do not appear to be native English speakers. I totally admire anyone who can write an academic paper outside of their mother tongue, but it does lead to awkward phrases at times.

Still, I’m not aware of anyone else having done a survey like this, so it’s interesting to see what results they got.

The purpose of the survey was to “understand the motivational aspects of the use of Twitter during conferences.” The researchers asked about the purpose of tweeting. I’ve reproduced below the actual chart of the results as it appears in the paper:


I assume the vertical axis is the percentage of respondents who ticked a specific purpose, and I assume they could tick more than one (this is not clear from the paper).

In summary, ‘ sharing resources’ and ‘communicating with others’ were the most important uses of twitter for these respondents.

The researchers also asked open-ended questions which resulted in comments very similar to the stream of comments you find on conference blogs about the use of twitter. The most interesting question asked the respondents’ opinions on the value of tweeting in conferences:

Twitter helps you reach out to others with similar interests, provides networking potential, and allows people who could not attend to gain some value from your experience.

You get to know unexpected but interesting topics and persons. This emerges networking and knowledge building [sic].

…alerted delegates to the emerging issues and discussion they might otherwise have missed.

Twitter can be distracting. For people actually there, they maybe spend more time with their computer or phone than talking to people.

So that’s it, the first academic paper (that I know of) on Twitter and conferences.

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  1. It is a very interesting contribution! In China, there is alike practice using a Twitterfall-like software at conference in 2007. I report and analyze one practice at conference in Japan. This is the URL of the paper:
    Please use it free and it will be appreciated if you can give my paper some comments.

    • I’ve emailed you with my comments. Olivia

  2. Olivia,
    we conducted another survey at the TNC2009 with interesting results. There Twitter wasn’t extensively used but nevertheless we received 45 answers. Maybe you want to have a look at

  3. I just attended #buzz2009 and tweeting during the panel discussions and speakers presentations was a cool experience. I paid MORE attention than just sitting there.

    There has been discussion as to volunteer/hired tweeter and the validity of such summaries they would provide.

    Personally, I think the tweeting should be left to the stream of consciousness of the group (via Hashtag blah blah “#conference20″.) Rather, a SESSION BLOGGER should summarize live or after the session to the conference blog.

    The moral of the story is that engagement before, during and after the conference gives legs to the learning and education, and extends the life of the conference. Call it a “living conference” or Conference 2.0.

    This results are a better experience for the attendee, speaker, exhibitors and conference organizers!

    Tony Veroeven


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