Being Social at the Global Health and Innovation Conference

Jarret Cassaniti

CCP | Program Officer

I arrived early to the Global Health and Innovation Conference opening plenary to review my social innovation pitch scheduled for later in the day. As I looked over my notes, I heard others lament the large number of sessions running concurrently. Aside from the keynotes, each time slot had between 11-16 sessions we could choose from, which meant we would miss the vast majority of sessions. By the time the morning speaker, Tina Rosenberg of the New York Times, took the stage I’d read the conference program a few times and narrowed down my choices.

VassarHaitiProj GHIC Tweet

A Tweet by the Vassar Haiti Project about the Global Health & Innovation Conference

GOOD/Corps Tweet GHIC

A Tweet from GOOD/Corps about the Global Health & Innovation Conference 2013.

Rosenberg discussed how to Harness the Power of Peer Pressure and said that the best messages don’t inform people, but motivate them to change. She challenged us to craft messages with a human touch, and, as I live tweeted, I thought about how our social networks influence the decisions we make. The people around us influence what we think and how we act and, sometimes, what sessions we go to at conferences.As I looked at what others were tweeting about, I realized that I could virtually canvas my peer group at the conference and see what sessions people were talking about. During the 9:15-10:45 time slot when I presented, I missed eight other sessions and 36 presenters. At the next session I visited Twitter to see what was being said about what I’d missed.

Tweet Archivist GHIC Graph

A graph from Tweet Archivist illustrating the use of #GHIC from April 10, 2013 to April 17, 2013.

Tweet Archivist GHIC Pie

A chart from Tweet Archivist illustrating top Twitter users by count using #GHIC.

After the conference I used a free analytic tool, Tweet Archivist, to get a fuller picture of Twitter conversations at the conference. I found that in the last week, 1,294 Tweets used the hashtag ‘GHIC’ and that the most tweets were sent during the middle of the second day of the conference (April 14th) when several keynote speakers presented. This was not surprising since Jeffrey Sachs, Sonia Sachs and Al Sommer are some of the most influential leaders in global health and development. However, I was surprised to see that only 16 people were responsible for 46% of all tweets out of 2,200 conference attendees.

At the end of the second day, I was reminded that at conferences, and in life, it’s good to think carefully about where you’re going and talk to others to get their thoughts. But in the social media space, like face-to-face environments, it's important to consider who you are receiving information from. Is your information representative of your peer group or the thoughts of 16 random people?