Using social media to capture social change at the Skoll World Forum

July 13, 2015

Resource Media was pleased to support the Skoll Foundation’s traditional and social media work at this year’s Skoll World Forum. The three-day event draws nearly 1,000 of the world’s pre-eminent social entrepreneurs to Oxford, England each year. The event is jam-packed with plenaries, group sessions, networking and learning, and, with as many as three concurrent sessions happening at any one time, it’s just about impossible to keep up with it all. And, with luminaries and social entrepreneurship rockstars like Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Graça Machel, Ashoka’s Bill Drayton and “Egypt’s Jon Stewart,” Bassem Youssef, leading the conversation, there were an awful lot of can’t-miss moments. How could we catch it all?

Our social media strategy was to capture as much as possible in real time, collecting and distributing it so the audience at the event could stay up to date while the audience elsewhere in the UK, US, and around the world could follow along with each session and special moment. We used a variety of platforms to meet the local and global audiences where they were, and curated the highlights so that those who couldn’t take it all in would still catch the most important, most inspiring moments.

These moving parts required careful management and near-constant attention, but when they all came together, we had created a rich, multi-media experience that captured the top moments and overall flavor of three jam-packed days. Here are our top tips for using social and digital media to report on events.

  • Use Twitter to capture it all. We used Twitter to capture as many special moments and highlights as possible. By live-tweeting the high-profile sessions and plenaries, we created a real-time record of the event, broadcasting the best moments from the event as they happened. By keeping everything organized on the #SkollWF hashtag, we were able to add to and be a part of the conversation, grabbing everything we found notable and putting it all in one place. And it worked! During the event, the hashtag trended on four separate continents, including as a top-level trend in the UK.
  • “Promote” the best moments. Since we had an ongoing record of everything at the event, it was easier to pick out the most interesting, compelling moments from each session and each day. When a speaker or session created some buzz, we used techniques that work great for social sharing, like text overlay, to help make sure those moments were spread far and wide, with multiple shares across a variety of platforms. See two examples below, which together received nearly 100 retweets and over 50 favorites.
graca machel global treasure highlights quote tweet educate girls SASE quote tweet
  • Package the highlights. Even with all these newer social and digital tools at our disposal, we’ve found that email is still the most reliable way to reach fans and supporters. Given that, we wanted to be sure that the very best moments were captured and packaged in a way that would give readers a quick overview, and a way to dive deeper into all the great content coming from the event. Daily highlight emails proved to be the perfect platform.
  • Know your audience (and meet them where they are). There really is an emphasis on “world” at the Skoll World Forum – the event is in England, but it has fans from all over the world. Mid-day sessions in Oxford coincided with dinnertime elsewhere in Europe and the middle of the night in much of the US. To help make sure that those who couldn’t be at the event could keep up with the latest, we had staff members working both in Oxford and in the US, so that each could focus on reaching the audience that was online and meet them where they were.
  • Use technology to lighten the load. With so much content and so many great ideas, it was important to streamline as much as possible. Tools like TweetDeck, which can filter by engagement level and track multiple lists, hashtags and streams simultaneously, and IFTTT, which can automatically send content or notifications about event-related happenings, were absolutely invaluable for helping us keep a finger on the pulse of the event and stay organized across time zones.
  • Leverage the power of your network. Sharing and virality can carry content a long way, but it can be incredibly powerful to find influencers in the space and be sure they see that you’re talking about topics they care about. Tweeting those influencers by name and encouraging them to share can help expand the conversation and be sure that it gets in front of people who can help it move and expand.

All in all, the Forum built on an already great ongoing conversation about the ideas, strategies and people that are working hard to create social change in every corner of our world. Thanks to the power of social and digital media, we were able to share that conversation around the globe. What are your favorite tips for staying up to date at events? Let us know in the comments section below.

Collin Dunn