Social media: making an impact at conferences

Do nursing and social media go together? Two years ago, the European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS) decided to find out by launching a social media presence and hiring me to run the Facebook and Twitter accounts. The initial 12-week trial was surprisingly successful; I was able to report back with solid evidence of growing engagement. So we continued. Last summer I ran a social media training workshop for the EONS Board, which resulted in several executive members developing their own Twitter presence for the first time.

Last week we got clear evidence that you can have a strong organisational voice on social media without huge resources. Four EONS Board members went to Florida for the annual congress of the US-based Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). One of the four was Paul Trevatt, chair of the EONS Communication Working Group and the driving force behind the decision to get EONS on social media. He live-tweeted ONS conference sessions, both from the EONS @cancernurseeu account and as himself.

The result? EONS made it into the top ten of “congress influencers” in two of the three categories. Paul, tweeting from the EONS account, was spot-on in his assessment: “It’s fair to say EONS was punching above its Twitter weight.


As you’d expect, we also saw a boost in Twitter followers during the congress – around 40 new followers, which would normally take us about a month to gain. EONS represents cancer nurses all over Europe, but it’s not a huge organisation, and the social media presence is run by me (contracted to do roughly four hours a week) with support from Paul. I’ve been thinking about why we were such a strong voice at ONS Congress, so we can replicate that success in future.

I think the key was having several people actively engaged in reporting on the congress (from their own perspectives) with one person helping to boost and collate that reporting. I would be interested to hear other people’s stories of how they built a strong social media presence at an international conference.

  • Several EONS Board members attended the congress. Three of the four were only tweeting as themselves, but I was retweeting and responding from the official account.
  • One of the Board members skilfully live-tweeted conference sessions from our official account.
  • All four Board members were taking photos and were happy for these to be shared elsewhere. I took pictures from Twitter and collated them in a Facebook album, which reached a whole new set of people.
  • Back in the UK, I was checking through tweets that had been sent while I was asleep and re-posting them for the benefit of people in European time-zones.