Converting the sceptics at Coastal Futures

'I posted a thing on Twitter': MWC Communications Officer Noa Leach tells the story of our journey to the 2019 Coastal Futures conference. On their way, our team of tweeters built a social media fortress, fought their way to the top trending hashtag in the UK, and brought the non-believers over to Twitter Kingdom…

It all started long before I joined Mindfully Wired, when the founder of Coastal Futures Bob Earll put a call out asking for Twitter support at the 2019 conference.

Mindfully Wired was entrusted with the task in July, and by November a brand new Twitter account was set up with the potential to become the platform that could deliver the ‘powerful messages from the meeting’ that Bob had asked for.

The hashtag #CoastalFutures19 was established and ready to facilitate all kinds of marine thoughts, messages, and conversations well in advance of the conference.

Within my first week at MWC in January, I had already been put on the Coastal Futures project and was happily Canva-ing away with graphics and slides in preparation for my first work trip...

I was only just beginning to realise just how organised everyone here at MWC is when we spent a solid few days in the week leading up to Coastal Futures scheduling tweets so we had less to do on the day. These tweets, introducing each speaker and their key messages as they were due to take the stage, were designed to involve the twittersphere that couldn’t make it to the conference.

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And then one snowy January eve, having wheeled our little suitcases through Bristol and onto a train, Harriet and I arrived at Paddington in much excitement as snowflakes began to fall. One more sleep until Coastal Futures!

The morning of Day 1, we joined forces with Mindfully Wired’s London-based intern Jacob.

It was a matter of minutes before we had a team selfie on the go with a timelapse set up behind us to capture the influx of delegates.

Excitement built as the first few hours saw our hashtag rise from trending in London (exciting in itself!) to trending across the UK. This was the first time I had been at the heart of a trending hashtag, and boy was it exhilarating!

During the talks themselves, we took it in turns (session by session) to boost our scheduled tweets with live tweeting. This included quotes, photos of speakers and slides, gifs, links to speakers’ surveys and reports, and even a livestream.

We also shared the schedule for anyone who had left it behind and posted photos of contact slides so tweeters could come back later… there was lots going on!

Meanwhile, a boomerang of Harriet taking her glasses on and off occupied the live-updating Twitter feed on the main screen at the conference for the majority of the lunch-break.

This saw not only a rise in the conference’s giggle rate (already at a high following speaker Dr Bryce Stewart), but also Harriet’s followers! Coastal Futures’ own Twitter account saw a 50.7% follower increase over the course of the two days.

And while there were just over 350 delegates at the conference, almost two million people were reached by our messaging. Not to mention the 5.6 million ‘impressions’ made on Twitter timelines.

But perhaps the most exciting part was the poll that provided the definitive answer to the question on everyone’s minds: Sand-which was the best sandwich flavour at the conference?! The results were in, and cheese and chutney took the award home.

Just kidding. That was nowhere near as pleasing as the realisation of just how big an impact we had made.

In fact, in the end the #CoastalFutures19 hashtag appeared in over 2,400 tweets from 723 contributors - a major story with the protagonists as our ‘Twitter converts’. Yep, that’s right - several people started their first Twitter account just so they could join the conversation.

One new believer even told us he was feeling very pleased with himself because he put a ‘thing’ on Twitter and was now feeling very ‘down with the kids’.

And even though we all came home with something closely resembling flu, it was all worth it. Until next year, Coastal Futures!

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