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Twitter at #ECCMID

A bit over two years ago I was a guest blogger at the US Biophysical Society Annual Meeting in Baltimore. I was disappointed by the lack of Tweeting at the conference – there were 208 tweets using the #bps15 hashtag when I wrote a blog post in which I speculated that, one day, there might be a tipping point and Twitter at large conventions would become genuinely useful.

Well, I’ve just returned from ECCMID, which is the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Vienna, and it seems we are now there!. For example, on the morning of the last day, there were over 200 tweets per hour which is about 20x the level of Tweeting at BPS15. That is enough activity that it was really worth keeping an eye on the #ECCMID2017 hashtag using TweetDeck whilst sat in talks. It was especially useful when some of the talks were less relevant or interesting.

It isn’t a perfect comparison as ECCMID is a bit bigger than BPS (10,000 v 7,500) and the attendees have different backgrounds (clinical microbiologists v biophysicists), but the difference is so stark that I’d hope the increase applies across all or most large conventions.

Likewise, not everything that I wrote about in my previous post has come to pass. Yes, occasionally people did post links to papers that the speaker had just mentioned (and this is incredibly useful) and yes you got an idea of which sessions were “hot” and interesting in real-time. But the chairs were not, as far as I could see, monitoring twitter (you’d really need a session specific hashtag for that) for questions from the floor) or even tweeting themselves. Also there is a tendency, which I mostly follow as well, to be positive, upbeat and effusive on Twitter so there are lots of posts saying “Professor X is giving an amazing talk in Hall Y!”, rather than “I was a bit disappointed that Professor X just did the same talk as last year in Hall Y”. You’d be forgiven for thinking all the talks were interesting and engaging if you just followed the hashtag Twitter, but of course some talks were poorly delivered or aimed at the wrong audience or were a touch too sycophantic.

So Twitter is now a useful addition to large, international conventions. Jon Otter gave a presentation at ECCMID (which, alas, I missed) on social media use by healthcare professionals and has surveyed that cohort. He found that a bit over 70% of respondents used some form of social media platform, with about 35% using Twitter. To read more, please visit his blog post. By the way, I’ve never met him in person, I only know of this work because … you guessed it, he followed me on Twitter during ECCMID and then I retweeted him during the conference.

That’s what happens.

By Philip Fowler

Philip W Fowler is a computational biophysicist studying antimicrobial resistance working at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

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