Documentation of Roles and Responsibilities for Conference Social Media Chairs

Many conferences now have a Social Media Chair, a person who agrees to the service role of managing social media activities related to the conference.  Below is brief documentation of roles and responsibilities for a conference Social Media Chair. This documentation is based on my experience being Social Media Chair for 4 different conferences 6 times in the past 5 years. Comments are welcome. This is biased towards computing and information conferences.

Before the conference

  • Account information: Request usernames and passwords from the previous year’s Chair
  • Hashtags: Determine/confirm the conference hashtag for the coming year and post online to the community. Most conferences append the year (e.g., “chi2015, cscw2015”); some use the same hashtag every year (e.g., “icwsm”). Be consistent with prior years (e.g., “chi2016″), or be ready to defend and advocate a change (e.g., “chi16″ is shorter than “chi2016″).
  • Submission deadlines: Post major submissions deadlines leading up to the conference (3-4x for paper submissions, ~3 months, ~1 month, ~1 week, ~1 day ahead; 2x for panel/workshop/alternate submissions, ~2 months, ~1 week ahead)
  • Reviewing and Notifications: Recruit reviewers to sign up in conference system
  • Notifications: Post notifications of paper acceptances, rebuttal periods, etc.
  • Registration and Housing: Post conference pre-registration opening and housing information opening (2x, once available, reminder ~1 week before close)
  • Location: Promote the conference location (e.g., sightseeing, fun facts, good weather, flight deals, etc.)
  • Monitoring: Monitor accounts actively to address questions or concerns (e.g., confusion about deadlines, issues with registration). These should be brought to the attention of the relevant conference committee member as soon as possible and then responded to online.
  • Presence: Ensure that the Chair will be at the conference. Otherwise, recruit a Co-Chair or assistant who will be present to post updates throughout the conference. Pairing a more senior (post-PhD) Chair with a more junior (PhD student) Co-Chair is an effective combination. Senior people have enough experience to balance professionalism and playfulness (and to take responsibility for issues that may arise) while junior people have focus and enthusiasm to maintain persistent engagement in the role.
  • Tools: Using applications to set pre-scheduled posts, monitor multiple accounts, etc. can be useful for some Chairs. Others will prefer to monitor activity manually.
  • Roles: If there are multiple Chairs, choose leaders for particular tasks (e.g., monitoring the Twitter hashtag for questions) otherwise issues get overlooked.
  • Identities: If there are multiple Chairs, some choose to initial posts to identify themselves with initials (e.g., “Great coffee place on 5th street one block from hotel! -SS”), others choose to present a unified account. Pick a strategy and be consistent.
  • Publicity: Some conferences have separate media or publicity roles. If not, the Chair may decide to notify national/global media outlets (e.g., TechCrunch) as well as local regional outlets about interesting topics being presented at the conference.


During the conference

  • Engagement: Post regularly, but don’t spam (~20-30 posts/day during the conference on Twitter, ~3-5 posts/day on Facebook).
  • Content: Balance content that is of interest to attendees and to people watching remotely. Quotes from keynotes and key findings from papers are generally of broad interest.
  • Sharing useful information: Post and re-post informational updates (e.g., location and hours for nearby morning coffee, running routes, transportation information). You can ask Local Chairs or monitor the conference hashtag to glean this information.
  • Sharing social information: Post and re-post social updates, such as happy hour gatherings organized by others. This helps other people find social activities and promotes the liveliness of the conference to the community.
  • Monitoring: Monitor accounts actively to address questions or concerns (e.g., venue is cold, wireless doesn’t work). These complaints tend to snowball rapidly online and can be mitigated with prompt and respectful replies via social media.
  • Social activities: Consider facilitating social activities (e.g., lunch meetups) via social media. This involves recruiting 1-2 lunch leaders, determining a meetup location such as the conference registration desk, and picking 1 or more lunch locations to walk to. Some conferences (e.g., CHI 2016) now have dedicated Lunch Chairs, most do not. Social activities are especially valuable for newcomers, graduate students, and generally those who may know few people at the conference.
  • Attendee engagement: Lightweight contests and games via social media can engage participants, but if poorly executed will flop. Location-based games, treasure hunts, networking, etc. often appear overly engineered, but can work if there are meaningful incentives and sufficient integration with the rest of the conference.
  • Displays: If available, large screen displays can effective for communication real-time information and providing a watering hole for attendees to gather around. One possibility is a screen that displays social media feeds by hashtag.
  • Photographs: If the Chair is not an active photographer, consider recruiting an enthusiastic photographer among the conference attendees to take photos and post them to social media. Be thoughtful about privacy considerations of taking photos of other people and posting them publicly.
  • Professionalism: Balance professionalism and playfulness. Humor and wit can promote engagement and liveliness. Be careful posting about sensitive topics that may be misinterpreted by a broad and public audience. Jokes about gender, race, status, power, etc. are not appropriate for a conference account.


After the conference

  • Evaluation: NodeXL is a simple tool for assessing community engagement (e.g., number of hashtag users, popular users,  number of tweets).
  • Media: Post subsequent media coverage of papers
  • Looking forward: Post location and dates of next year’s conference
  • Account management: Transfer usernames and passwords to next year’s Chair

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