Tweeting #WASH @UNC_Water_Inst:

Reflections on Tweeting the UNC Water and Health Conference 2018

Yesterday, Monday, November 19, 2018 was World Toilet Day 2018.

And for the first time since I was hired, I picked up my phone every hour; in order to follow the conversation going on worldwide about toilets. Logging onto Twitter and seeing my newsfeed ‘flushed’ with #WorldToiletDay facts, publications, blog posts, thoughts, puns, etc. made me feel like I was at the largest world-wide conference where everyone from everywhere was talking about toilets in one giant room. The best part about that was it only took a few minutes here and there throughout the day to be an active part of this world ‘room’; as I sat in my work chair in Leonia, New Jersey…ah, the magic of Twitter!

But after everyone takes a car or a plane to travel back to their homes, how do the conversations continue?

As the official Twitter Rapporteur of the University of North Carolina Water and Health Conference 2018, I witnessed first-hand the benefits of engaging with the Twitter community during a conference. I’m sure I don’t speak just for myself when I say that attending and tweeting the conference as a new and young professional expanded my network tenfold. Conferences are wonderful because they literally give all attendees the opportunity to connect with each other in the most genuine way possible — by meeting in person. But after everyone takes a car or a plane to travel back to their homes, how do the conversations continue? Meeting people in person during the conference then continuing conversations on an informal platform like Twitter and vice versa gives little room for formalities. Forcing everyone to minimize thoughts into maximum 280 characters encourages direct, to-the-point conversation. As someone who spends too much time downsizing and perfecting her emails, 280 character Twitter has become a great medium to build and maintain connections with colleagues on a more down-to-earth level.

Forcing everyone to minimize thoughts into maximum 280 characters encourages direct, to-the-point conversation.

What I did not expect was meeting colleagues initially via Twitter then later in person during the Conference. By actively tweeting the Conference consistently throughout all sessions, I thought I would dominate the hashtag’s timeline. But to my delightful surprise, I realized Twitter Rapporteurs were ‘natural roles’ and were everywhere. Soon enough you all become wary of each other’s presence sharing content all over each other’s timelines and throughout the Conference; warranting in-person meetings.

However, you cannot meet all colleagues in person; since some will follow the Conference hashtag from outside locations. These non-attending colleagues interacting with your content via ‘likes’, ‘replies’, ‘messages’, and ‘retweets’ and are closely following the conference through your eyes, is a refreshing reminder of the benefits of tweeting a conference — highlighting and sharing information with the public beyond Conference walls. It was exciting to connect new colleagues to each other and satisfying to learn via twitter analysis tools that #uncwaterandhealth content was shared beyond immediate WASH networks.

Two weeks after the UNC Water and Health Conference, I’m still seeing benefits to my active tweeting during the Conference. I notice them literally through new daily ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ of past Conference tweets and through new ‘follow’ requests and interactions with new colleagues. I did not believe it until I saw it — tweeting during a conference can help young and new professionals build a voice in their professional community. And engaging in a worldwide event discussion topic like #WorldToiletDay via Twitter welcomes more potential and newly-connected colleagues to the WASH community — like it has for me.