Attendees should now be setting plans in order to get the maximum amount of value out of the 2013 Biennial. One thing that should definitely be part of your plan is participating in the conference's backchannel.
For many people, the backchannel is a new concept. A great many others may have heard of the backchannel but never actually participated in one. If you're interested in participating in the SCRA Biennial backchannel, either at the event or remotely, it's something you should prepare yourself for in advance. This post will briefly walk you through some things you can do to prepare yourself to participate and enhance your 2013 Biennial experience via the backchannel.
For starters, do you know what a Backchannel is? If not, check out this post: What exactly IS a Backchannel? Once you are comfortable with what a backchannel is, let's look at the two critical things you must do to participate.
Step One: Join the TwitterVerse
In order to participate in a backchannel you must have access to the technology through which the sharing takes place. In most cases today, the backchannel exists predominantly on Twitter. If you want to join in the fun, it starts with joining Twitter and begin following @scra on twitter. [NOTE: If you don't want to use Twitter, you can still use the #scra2013 hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, Vine, or Google+ and get in on the backchannel. Check out the full #scra2013 hashtag board here (tip of the hat to Gina Cardazone)].
Joining Twitter is actually very easy, and can be done in less than five minutes. Visit the Twitter signup page and follow the on screen instructions. During the signup process Twitter will ask you to look at your online profiles for friends and recommend celebrities you may want to follow. These are steps that you can (and arguably should) skip. Where you do what to take an extra few moments is in setting up your profile.
Step Two: Participate
If you want to participate in the SCRA Biennial backchannel, it's important that you do everything you can to remove the barriers to participation.
The first, and most obvious barrier to participating is becoming comfortable with the Twitter (or other) tool you are going to use - of which there are many. I recommend newcomers start with a simple tool without 'bells and whistles' and get comfortable using that. More importantly, I recommend that you first consider what sort of technology you will use at the event. Most people that connect to Twitter during a conference are not doing so using a laptop. More often, people are connecting using a smart phone or tablet. Consider what device will be with you most often. If it is a smart phone or tablet, choose a Twitter app (I recommend the official Twitter app) and start participating. The goal here is to get comfortable with the tool, so that when you arrive at the conference you can concentrate less on 'How to Tweet' and more on 'What to Tweet'. A related barrier is understanding the language of twitter, and how that language translates into connecting with the community. Twitter's support page has a greatglossary of termsthat you can reference to help with this.
One term that you MUST become comfortable with to participate in the backchannel is hashtag. A hashtag is the foundation upon which a backchannel is built. It is a concept that grew organically from the Twitter community, who realized that one thing that Twitter lacked was categories. For instance, if I was interested in seeing what people were tweeting about pertaining to empowerment, I could search for the words 'empowerment'. The problem with that is it brings back any usage of the word. When I am searching for something on Twitter, I'm often searching not for the use of the word, but for people who are discussing the topic.
That's what the hashtag provides. By placing a number sign in front of a word or acronym, I am informally categorizing my message with a topic or group. By including #empowerment in my tweet, I am essentially saying that this message is connected to the concept of empowerment. If you remember one thing from this post, make it this: #SCRA2013.
That is the official hashtag for the 2013 SCRA Biennial Conference. People contributing to the conference backchannel will be adding the #SCRA2013 hashtag to each message they post. Similarly, anyone that wants to review or monitor the conference backchannel can do so by searching for the #SCRA2013 hashtag. Check out the full #scra2013 hashtag board here.
For example, future Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon does a lot of bits using hashtags. He'll suggest a hashtag, like #dadquotes, and then read some of the funniest posts using that hashtag
A bonus feature for Instagram users is that if you use the #SCRA2013 hashtag when posting new Biennial-related photos, those photos will automatically get added to the Biennial photo album on the 2013 Biennial Facebook page.
So start using and monitoring the #SCRA2013 hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Google+ as many people begin using it long before the conference to connect with one another through the event hashtag.