Birth Activists Use Twitter to Enhance Conference Engagement

Last post Jeanette outlined why Facebook isn’t the ideal social media platform to use at a conference.

What platform is most valuable for conference goers eager for information sharing, but short on time for their Facebook news feed?

Using Twitter is quick, can happen on a smart phone, and allows a micro-focus on conference sharing and goings-on. By making it easy for conference-goers to tweet, organizations significantly extend the reach of the evidence-based information and the great energy that comes from professional gatherings.


If you’re already on Twitter you know how thankful you are for conference tweeters when you can’t be there. Watching and/or participating in a birth or breastfeeding conference Twitter stream lets you:

  • have an insider’s peek at conference happenings (in real time!)
  • get top line information from big-name presenters
  • glean valuable data and talking points from workshops
  • network and make new friends with those who care about healthy pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding

And best of all it’s from the comfort of your living room or on-the-go if you have mobile capability.

If you are a regular conference attendee who tweets you know that participating in the conference stream lets you spread inspiration and information from conference sessions, organize valuable conference meet-ups, and deepens your engagement with participants and the sessions.

Most attendees don’t know about the event’s Twitter stream or are unsure about how to find and use the conference hashtag. When Jeanette and I represented Citizens for Midwifery (CfM) at the DONA conference in Boston, MA, we wanted to show conference participants exactly what was happening when people “tweeted” a conference.

Our Goals:

  • Raise awareness of the conversation happening at the hashtag #DONA11
  • Be a help desk! Answer questions about twitter and its benefits at birth and breastfeeding conferences
  • Engage with new and old “friends” and raise the visibility of our organization’s presence at the conference both on- and off-line

What We Did:

  • Showed off the conference feed! Our monitor rolled on at our exhibitor table all weekend.
  • Used old-fashioned paper. We passed out “Tweet #DONA11” stickers and a handout– Tips for Conference Tweeting— with highlights from the previous #BirthGenius chat on best practices for Twitter at professional events.
  • Make the stream lively! We actively tweeted using CfM’s Twitter handle (@cfmidwifery) and the conference hashtag and hosted a give-away for conference tweeters.

The Results:

Making Twitter “Real.”  Twitter is almost invisible and very confusing to those who aren’t participating. Using a display monitor to highlight the conversation happening on Twitter made it tangible. Birth professionals gathered around the table, watched the stream and asked questions.

Making the Twitter conversation visible did two things:

  1. Educate conference participants about the very real ways social media spreads healthy birth messages and important information and
  2. Gave us an opportunity to engage with conference participants around CfM’s work.

Engagement is the key principle to leveraging the power of social media.

We invited attendees to join CfM to help advocate for  The Midwives Model of Care and directed them to the online medium that best fit their communications style. For some it was following us on Twitter or liking us on Facebook and for others it was signing up for our email list.

The DONA conference in Boston was moderately sized and there was a small Twitter presence compared to other birth and breastfeeding conferences. (ILCA, for example had high participation on the #ILCA11 hashtag.) CfM did grow our Twitter network by about two dozen, but more importantly we raised awareness not only of social media and its ability to spread healthy birth messages and information, but of the organization we were representing and the important work we do with Citizens for Midwifery.

As birth and breastfeeding professionals and activists continue to join, engage and organize using social networking platforms we believe there will be an even stronger presence and results at future conferences.

And as conference organizers begin to encourage and incorporate social media into their event planning we’ll see more people receiving up-to-date, important information and inspiration that helps empower birth and breastfeeding professionals and activists and most importantly–the women they serve.

Are you a conference organizer thinking about your social media policy? Get in touch – we’re overflowing with ideas!

Did you miss the #DONA11 stream?  Here’s part I and part II, captured on tweetdoc.

Have you tweeted from a conference? Do you follow conference hashtags from home? What’s your take on Twitter and conferences?

About Jeanette McCulloch

For more than five years, Jeanette McCulloch of BirthSwell has been helping professionals and advocates build businesses and organizations, change policy, and spread your birth genius (and breastfeeding and MCH genius) through strategic digital communications.

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