Getting information out about your event immediately isn't a matter of just wooing the press anymore. Your attendees are now also your event chroniclers—reporting updates, blog posts, videos and photos on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter in near real-time.
The challenge is to make sense of all of that noise and find a way to highlight the best user-generated content for delegates to read. After all, you don't want people at your event glued to their laptops and iPads searching for information about your event, instead of experiencing it.
The solution is for you to become the front-page editor of your own newspaper, choosing what bits are most relevant and what content will visually engage a reader of your event's digital space.
Just as there are multiple tools to project tweets onto onstage screens, there are also a growing number of tools that can help you become editor, without you having to spend time cutting and pasting content like some old-time newspaper paginator.
These instant applications are best when, like any good editor, you take the time to highlight quality contributions and not simply give top billing to the most prolific writers. The best of these apps rely most heavily on Twitter, which is public by default, and it's far more open with its data stream than Facebook.
Tweeted Times, one of the oldest of these services is still one of the best. Basically, it finds stories that are most popular with the people you follow and lays them out in a single stream.
For an event, you can use some of its other features, including the ability to list the people whose posts you'd like to use. You don't need to be following these people, so you can add all of your speakers or attendees to a list in advance of your event. You can also include entries from a search of your event's name or official hashtag.
Perhaps the best use of this automated tool is to use it prior to your event as a way to get attendees excited and involved. Make a link to your Tweeted Times page or pages and put it on your website or in an email to users so they can get a feel for who else is going to be there—without having to subscribe to anyone on Twitter.
The drawbacks? You can't embed it on your own site or editorially control what shows up in the stream. For more control, your best options are ChirpStory, Storify and CuratedBy.
Storify lets you embed as much from the Web as you like in an onsite digital newspaper about your event. You set a picture, headline and short description of your event to set the scene. Then to create the timeline, you can add tweets and other social media in whatever order you like. For Twitter, you can either search, comb through your “favorited” tweets or mine tweets from your followers or from a list.
To add tweets or sources, you simply drag them into place. Additionally, you can grab public posts from Facebook, individual Google search results, YouTube videos, Flickr photos and even other Storify stories. The Flickr photos show up as actual photos, and the videos can be played right from the display. You can also drop in an RSS feed or any URL—say a link to someone's blog post on their own site—and the system smartly finds a way to embed them.
The service is currently free and in beta testing—without limitations—but the company may at some point include ads or add a premium level.
Created by Burt Herman, a former AP correspondent, Storify is by far the most powerful of these tools. Additionally, it looks great on the page, is widely used by professional media and is the easiest of these services to use—both for creation and updates.
Chirpstory is Windows XP to Storify's iOS. When you create a new Chirpstory, you get a blank canvas that you can fill in with individual tweets. You can find candidates by searching for a term, looking at your feed or anyone else's. To add a tweet, just drag and drop it where you like on the timeline. You can also add YouTube videos, Flickr photos, Amazon products and other items simply by adding a URL to an empty box and the service fetches the item and displays it visually.
The service isn't likely to go away anytime soon. It's the English version of Togetter, which was created by Toshiaki Yoshida, a former Yahoo! Japan employee. Togetter is big in Japan, with two million users since its launch in September 2009.
But unlike Storify, Chirpstory forces you to go to another browser tab or window to get URLs of YouTube videos and other embeds, rather than allowing you to search those sites from within the product. The user interface can also appear to be a confusing mess of check boxes and search boxes. That's unfortunate since its competition, Storify, uses icons and tabs to keep a slick interface that's also feature-rich.
A final option for a curated digital onsite newspaper is Curated.by, a Storify-light service that lets you put Tweets in a timeline. While there's no way to include content from sites other than Twitter, the twist here is that you can invite as many editors as you like to help make the paper.
This can be a way to get your entire event team to help out, without having to share a Storify password. You could also experiment with letting all of your conference attendees—or a select group of people—add to the timeline, which like the others can be embedded on your website. One+
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