Before I was lucky enough to score tickets to Swarm Conference I was impressed by the effort that they put into building momentum for their event and watching the twitter feed closely.
In the lead up to their event they generated excitement with well-worded and well timed tweets from an appropriate cast of tweeters. They didn’t just push scheduled tweets they engaged in conversations with prospective attendees. They ran competitions (one of which I was the beneficiary) and blogged in the lead up about their speakers providing so much more than the standard bio and synopsis.
On the day they were prepped to provide a well rounded digital presence backed with an analogue experience. Onsite volunteers were manning the blogoshpere, twitosphere and other key digital channels to record the days events as well as keep interested external parties up-to-date. The tweets were on display, white-boards were on hand for people to note community norms and share @handles. In a true mashup of digital and analogue there was buzzmonkey, a little LED lit monkey statue who changed colour as the designated hashtags were used. I am still not sold on buzzmonkey’s long-term value, but it was if anything unique!
I love to tweet at events. It’s my way of recording, experiencing and connecting with an event while still being inside my comfort zone. Here I was not the lone tweeter or one of a few but was there in the hive tweeting, retweeting and replying in a buzzing feed of witty commentary. I was even having brilliant off-shoot chats in the twitter-sphere with smaller groups of swarm tweeps as we found topics of interest and formed smaller sub-communities around them. Energised by this I felt compelled to see my swarm tweeps in person, I sought them out in RL to shake their hands and came home with a pile of business cards in my pocket.
It was a truly wonderful day, and I was preparing myself to come crashing back to earth as is often the case when the adrenaline wears off and your mind is violently disconnected from the source of fun. I don’t think this is going to happen with Swarm, because it isn’t over. The twitter feed continues the post-conference blogroll is building and discussions about off-shoot events blossom.
Of course it IS a community management conference, of course there would be a sense of community, of course they would make a point of building one, it’s what they do. Even with that being the case it doesn’t detract from the fantastic job they did of it, and that they set a high standard not just for conferences in the digital space, but I think for any conference.
How was this all achieved? Well yes, this is what they do, they build communities online for a living but it is more than that and something which you don’t need to be a community manager to achieve (but it sure helps). It is clear purpose, great planning, adaptability and focus on the user experience, married with the knowledge and passion of the inner-swarm that made it better than an event, it made it a community.