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The Society of Legal Scholars’ 2012 conference took place on 11-14 September. It’s the last, and the biggest, of the 2012 law subject association annual conferences.
During 2012 the SLS launched presences on both Twitter and Facebook, so this was the first annual conference to offer the potential for coordinated social media activity. However, neither channel was embedded on the conference website and ‘official’ activity was limited. Prior to the conference @legalscholars tweeted some admin style tweets and a call for volunteers to live tweet, with 15 tweets made from this ‘official’ account during the conference. Turning to Facebook, four status updates were posted during the conference, and three ‘others’ posted on the SLS wall.
Follower/friend counts grew thus during the conference:
- 13 August: 171 followers, following 11; Facebook 122 likes, 10 recommendations on conference home page
- 19 September: 230 followers, following 16; Facebook 146 likes, 13 talking, 15 recommendations on conference home page
Social media use during #slsbristol
Social media use during the conference was hence largely audience driven. The livetweeting baton was taken up by @jamessflee and other familiar faces including @m_bro/@hea_law and @PaulbernalUK. At 19 September TAGS showed a total of 446 tweets (93 links, 108 RTs) by 85 tweeps, with 363 of the tweets made during the conference.
From a first pass it seems that many tweets were rebroadcast versions of paper titles, with little interaction or conversation taking place. Few resources or photos were tweeted, and other coverage has been limited so far. (This may in part be due to the current position of law teachers on the scholarly publishing continuum – there are active bloggers and tweeps about, but the peer review journal publishing model still holds sway.) A notable feature though was the use of a session hashtag for the medical law sessions, #slsmed, used for 19 tweets.
One innovation at the conference was the poster session (the call includes some nice examples from previous legaled conferences), however the posters have not been made available digitally. @m_bro’s tweet with a link to his poster gave rise to a plea for more:
— Judith Townend (@JTownend) september 12, 2012
Storify was used by @jamesslee as a Twitter archive, with eight stories usefully divvied up into sessions, and by @m_bro with #LegalEd at #slsBristol. The quick turnaround of these archives did not allow time for any editing to improve long term usability, with (for example) links not embedded and multiple versions of tweets and RTs remaining.
Will #slsbristol escape the confines of space and time? Closer analysis is required, however it does seem to be an example of short term/low value coverage, largely made up of one way broadcasting. Less than a week after the conference activity is now virtually nil.
No effort analytics
I set up the following largely automated tools, which offer some numbers to crunch and compare with other legaled events:
- Tweetreach - the last 50 #slsbristol tweets reached 17,692 people with 33,316 impressions
- Epilogger - dashboard with photos, tweets, check-ins, links; any coverage and resources I’ve spotted curated under blog posts; Epilogger also autotweeted top tweeters during the conference
- Eventifier – another dashboard for comparison; this one collects slides and videos
- TAGS archive (see summary and dashboards sheets) plus a TAGS Explorer visualisation and searchable archive (filter by keyword or user)
It will be interesting to compare the #slsbristol analytics with those for #gikii, which concluded yesterday. First impressions of the latter are of a more engaged and conversational Twitter backchannel, with links to substantive resources.
What is a backchannel for?
As at the other law subject association conferences earlier in the year social media was not really used to amplify and curate the content, however this focus on knowledge sharing and conversation may undermine other uses of the Twitter backchannel. As @mhawksey commented in relation to ALT-C for the individuals concerned there are other processes at work, such as internal self-dialogue and note taking. Plus in the before, during and after of backchannels and what makes a great backchannel @davidkelly stresses its role in creating an online community.
Is there is a step change still to be made in rethinking law events in relation to social media? At the moment usage is personal rather than organisational, and all about the tools (our old friend technical determinism) rather than any wider aims and objectives beyond the conference. As yet the SLS website has not been updated since the conference, but hopefully there will be some sort of wrap-up in due course, including a summary of activity for those not on Facebook or Twitter.
Perhaps next year SLS and the other subject associations will be in a position to take a more strategic look at their use of Twitter and other social media, embedding them more fully in their events as a tool to exploit conference content and promote conversation more widely.