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News & Press: AAALetter

From the President: Going Social

Wednesday, August 26, 2015  
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AAAL has taken the social (media) turn. Finally, I might add.

This is not to say that AAAL has not had any online presence. Tech savvy members and conference participants have already been using various forms of social media to connect with one another—before, during and after AAAL conferences. The Graduate Student Council (in its current and previous iterations) has long been using Facebook and Twitter effectively to disseminate important information related to the organization. Yet, until recently, AAAL itself had not been playing an active role in facilitating interactions through the social media. Although AAAL has had Facebook and Twitter accounts for a number of years, they had not been used actively until fairly recently.

When I organized AAAL 2015 in Toronto, one of my charges was to integrate social media into the conference activities. For about a year leading up to the conference, I used the official AAAL accounts as well as my own Facebook and Twitter accounts to post relevant announcements as well as some sneak previews of the conference site and events.

Social media is not for everyone, of course. There are members and conference participants who, for various reasons, choose not to participate. In the early stage of planning, I had also heard a concern that social media use could be disruptive—if, for example, users exchanged irrelevant or offensive comments during sessions. Fortunately, AAAL 2015 participants used social media responsibly and respectfully. I felt everyone did a great job in using technology to enhance the conference experience—for themselves and for others.

As an organization serving large and divers constituencies, it is important to provide various opportunities for engagement—both for users and non-users of social media. During the conference, I used a live feed service to project the comments and photos on Twitter and Instagram. This feature made the online exchanges visible even to those who choose not to use the technology themselves. After the conference, some members used Twitter to facilitate post conference discussion, and Storify to aggregate and archive conference Tweets for others to see—including those in China who do not have direct access to many of the social media platforms popular in North America. All in all, the social media integration seemed to facilitate productive discussion—thanks to all those who participated—and I have received many positive comments from various people.

I have now passed on the official social media baton along with the conference organizer role. The AAAL accounts will be managed by the AAAL Business Office, and it is up to future conference chairs to decide how and to what extent social media will be integrated into future conferences. Regardless of the official stance by the organization, social media will probably continue to thrive at AAAL, and its use will be shaped largely by its users.

If you are new to social media and would like to learn how to use it appropriately, here are some links you might find useful:

One Experience You're Missing Out on at Conferences” by Lily Herman

5 Ways to Use Social Media at Conferences” by Eric Holtzclaw

Tweeting Etiquette at Conferences” by @online_academic

I look forward to seeing you all at #aaal2016—both in person and through social media.

—Paul Kei Matsuda (@pmatsuda), Arizona State University

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