How This 550-Woman Conference Beat Super Bowl Ads At Twitter

When it comes to organic Twitter, he with the largest marketing budget does not always win.

How This 550-Woman Conference Beat Super Bowl Ads At Twitter
[Photo: Flickr user Charles Talbot]

If you opened Twitter’s trending topics in New York this past weekend, what you most likely saw was this:


1. #NYCC: The hashtag for the ninth annual New York Comic Con, a for-profit swashbuckling event that hosted a record 151,000 attendees this year.

2. #BinderCon: The hashtag for a non-profit symposium of women writers by the same name, which had about 550 attendees and only existed as a Kickstarter project just two months earlier.


Inspired by Mitt Romney’s infamous “binders full of women” comment and a community of women writers on Facebook, BinderCon aims to “empower women and gender non-conforming writers with tools, connections, and strategies to advance their careers.” Over the summer, the group (technically secret) grew virally; currently, there are almost 30,000 members. Some of its speakers for the conference included former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, Jezebel founding editor Anna Holmes, and the director of Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Emily Bell.

Despite the event’s relatively small size and lack of super hero costumes, according to social analytics tool Topsy, it generated almost 7,000 tweets. Though that’s nowhere near the almost 192,000 tweets Topsy counted for Comic Con’s hashtag, it is more than T-Mobile, Doritos, H&M, Jaguar, or Bud Light could inspire during the Super Bowl, despite running commercials that cost almost $4 million per half-minute.

So what is going on here? Is there some kind of voodoo that can make your tiny event’s hashtag blow up to big-budget-marketing-campaign proportions?

Not the kind you can really plan, according to the event’s organizer, Leigh Stein.


Attendees received bright pink bags printed with the hashtag at orientation. A volunteer live-tweeted the panels from a conference Twitter account with 1,500 followers. But other than that, there wasn’t a special social media strategy that helped boost the event’s profile on Twitter. “It’s really the strength of the community, that so many people were connecting online and face-to-face, that I think it just ignited,” Stein says.

It probably didn’t hurt that most people in the room were writers, who are more likely to have Twitter followers, live-tweet panels, and write good tweets than your average conference attendees.

But getting the event on the social media world’s unofficial scoreboard underscores a point that Home Slice magazine publisher Malaika Adero made during one of BinderCon’s panels.

“Women are the biggest consumer of books. Women have power in numbers,” Stein recaps, adding, “It is exciting to see our influence coalesce on Twitter.”

About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.