Many of the Genomes Unzipped team are spending the week at the American Society of Human Genetics meeting in San Francisco. This year the coverage of the meeting on Twitter is more intense than ever before, and social media is becoming an increasingly mainstream component of the conference. Chris Gunter, Jonathan Gitlin, Jeannine Mjoseth, Shirley Wu and I will be presenting a workshop on social media use for scientists this evening, and we prepared these guidelines for those interested in live coverage of meetings.
- Check the conference social media guidelines first.
If there aren’t any, ask an organizer what the rules are. If there is no formal policy, you may want to take the initiative and ask speakers if they’re OK with their talks being tweeted.
- Use the right #hashtag when you tweet.
This ensures that everything written about a meeting is aggregated in a single channel. When you search a hashtag it filters those posts for you.
- Remember that people are listening.
Twitter is a public conversation. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t be prepared to tell the speaker to their face. Also, bear in mind that your boss and potential employers may be following.
- Remember that people are listening who aren’t at the meeting.
In general, leave off the conference hashtag for in-jokes and social chatter unless it’s likely to be genuinely entertaining to outsiders.
- Be careful tweeting new findings.
If a speaker is presenting unpublished data, don’t write about it unless you’re sure they’re happy to share.
- Do your best to ensure that your tweets don’t misrepresent presented material.
Add as much context as you can, and actively correct misunderstandings that arise about something you tweet.
- Add value by contributing your specific area(s) of expertise to provide insight into presented material.
Don’t just be the fifth person to tweet the easy soundbite from the plenary; instead, explain the unappreciated but profound scientific significance of their fourteenth slide.
- At the same time, don’t tweet everything a speaker says.
One to three key take-home messages per talk is usually enough, unless a presentation is particularly fascinating.
- Don’t swamp the hashtag by quote-tweeting everyone else.
Use the official retweet function, or “break the hashtag” (for instance, delete the # character) in your quote-tweets.
- If you’re organizing a conference, be proactive with a social media policy.
Make sure both the presenters and the audience at the meeting are aware in advance what this policy is.