live tweeting

Little known fact, I started live-tweeting without actually knowing I was live-tweeting.

live tweeting

Me Live-tweeting

A few years ago I started going to more and more meetups and events to learn more about digital marketing and analytics, while learning from the best in the industry, meeting them and making connections. I’ve always taken notes at every event I go to as it helps me stay focused, it helps me pay more attention and, in a way, it helps me become an active listener. Besides, taking notes means I can always go back to them for future reference. Eventually, I created my own way of taking notes, in a way that would help me jot down quick bursts of ideas while taking in new insights from the speaker, and so forth.

Eventually I saw myself struggling trying to find “the perfect app” that could suit my note-taking technique method; I wanted an app that would let me share my notes after the event (or, even better, during the event), while tapping into other people’s notes; I wanted an app that would let me add external links and media, such as pictures, videos, shared presentations etc. Basically, I wanted an interactive note-taking app. After months of trying different note-taking apps, the light bulb came on while I was tweeting:

That’s how I started live-tweeting, and I’ve been live-tweeting ever since.

I was recently asked to give some live-tweeting tips, and as my second live-tweeting anniversary is coming up soon, I thought – why not write a blog post about it. So, here it is.

Pre-event – Tools & Preparation

Before the event starts, make sure you’re ready with the following:

  • Hardware:
    • Device: choose the device you’ll be tweeting from. I always have two with me, just in case one fails: I always tweet from my MacBook at events, but if something goes wrong with it, I always have my iPad as a backup device.
    • Power Up: come to the event with all your device(s) powered up. Bring a charger for each device you use, and sit next to (or near) a power outlet. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not always possible to sit next to a power outlet, in which case you should have an external charger for the main device you intend to use. If you have an iDevice (iPhone or iPad) or an Android phone, a simple Mophie Juicepack or Powerstation is enough. If you have a laptop, consider getting an external battery. For MacBooks, I highly recommend the HyperJuice, as it can charge your MacBook as well as any other device that charges through a USB port (most smartphones and tablets).
  • Software:
    • Client: pick a Twitter application that lets you engage on Twitter AND check the stream of tweets from people talking about the event. Besides, you’ll have to multitask dealing with mentions, DMs (if any), hashtag mentions, while tweeting at the same time. You need an application that can give you a bird’s eye view of the event as it happens. This is why I don’t recommend using the native Twitter apps or Twitter Web, as these limit you to only one view at a time. I always recommend stream-based applications, such as:
      • Tweetdeck: this is the only stream-app that lets you see any interactions with your profile and tweets, e.g. when you’re being added to a list, a follow, a retweet etc. in real time.
        • Please note: Tweetdeck is only available on desktop and it’s only limited to Twitter interactions.
      • Hootsuite: if you want a bigger experience than Tweetdeck, then I highly recommend HootSuite, a great choice if you want to see mentions on Twitter while engaging on other platforms. The fact that you can then report on the performance of your tweets and profile thanks to the inbuilt analytics is a great added bonus. It’s available on desktop, mobile and tablet.
        • Please note: if you’re tweeting from a corporate profile that already belongs to a Hootsuite account, you may not add it to your own Hootsuite account. In this case, ask to be given temporary access to the corporate Hootsuite account or to be made a member of the team. (If you choose the former, remind them to change the password after the event, for security reasons.)
      • Tweetbot: if you want an alternative, check out Tweetbot, a full-featured application that you can customise based on your needs – create streams based on what you want to see (e.g. mentions of hashtag + your own mentions). Like Tweetdeck, this is only for Twitter interactions.
    • Streams: now that you’ve chosen your application, prepare your various streams/columns BEFORE the event starts.
    • Browser: always have your browser open. This will come in handy when you quickly need to research a link, video, or other resources.
    • Notes: you may want to take notes, especially if you’re planning on writing a summary blog post after the event. While I look at Twitter as my note-taking application, I also recommend Evernote, available on most mobile, tablet and desktop platforms. You can use this as a bucket for any info you’re planning to use later on.
  • Connectivity: one word – wifi. There’s nothing more annoying than going to an event to live-tweet while there’s no working wifi. Besides, whether it’s a big event or a small one, the fact that there’s wifi available means that most attendees will connect to it (whether they need it or not). This can sometimes bring the speed down and make the wifi unreliable. That’s why you should have plans to use your own wifi:
    • Dongle & Mobile Internet: have a dongle or mobile internet device ready to use. I always recommend wifi enabled dongles/devices, especially if you need to connect your smartphone or tablet;
      • Tether: if your data plan allows you to do so, tether from your mobile/tablet to whichever device you want to tweet from.
  • Hashtag: make sure you use the hashtag for the event when tweeting. Most events will already have a hashtag in use, so find out from the organisers.
    • Multiple hashtags: some events are part of bigger events, in which case the organisers might prefer using hashtags for both events or just one. A perfect example is Social Media Week: most sessions have their own hashtag, although some session prefer using only one.

      If in doubt, confirm with the organisers.

    • Creating a hashtag: if you’re in charge of creating the event hashtag, or if you’ve been invited to an event that doesn’t already a hashtag, it is your duty as a live-tweeter to create one. When it comes to creating one, make sure it’s not too long (the shorter = the more characters you can use to tweet); most hashtags are (or contain) acronyms or abbreviation from the title of the event. Make sure no one’s already using it. Lastly, stare at it intently for a good minute to see if it makes sense how ever you read it (you don’t want to be the next #susanalbumparty for “Susan Boyle’s Album Party”).
    • Visibility: this is a note to the organiser – the hashtag chosen needs to be visible. You can’t expect people to participate in the conversation with a hashtag that isn’t visible, and no – saying what the hashtag is at the beginning of the event is not enough. Take into consideration people who joined in later, or who may not have you heard you the first time, or who perhaps were not in the room when you mentioned the hashtag. Make sure with the organisers that the hashtag is always present, whether it’s on the screen, monitor, or somewhere in the room that’s clearly visible. (Bonus points if you include it in any communication about the event, such as flyers, leaflets, emails etc.) Do the same with the Twitter handles of the speakers on the panel, so people know who to mention in their tweets.
    • Notice: another note to the organiser as well as yourself – start tweeting with the hashtag prior to the event, and keep an eye on what’s being said around it. That will help you (as well as the organiser) set some expectations on what the future attendees are talking about, who they are, as well as what their interests are.
  • Profile: a common mistake some live-tweeters make is assuming that they have to live-tweet from their personal profile. Unless you decide to live-tweet out of your own initiative, always confirm with the organiser to decide which Twitter profile you’ll be tweeting from. If you’re going to tweet from the official event’s profile or another brand’s profile, get the account details (username and password) well in advance, and link them to the app you’ve chosen to use for the live-tweet.
    • After live-tweeting, remind the organiser to change password (for security reasons).
  • Research: it’s always best practice to do a research before live-tweeting:
    • On Profile: if you’re going to tweet from a profile other than yours, study the tone of voice that’s being used on that account. You may be asked to stay in line with it.
    • On Event: if it’s an event you’re not particularly familiar with, see what it’s about, that the main topics of discussion are etc. You don’t have to become an expert, but a good knowledge of what you’re going to tweet about is always needed.
    • On Speakers: see who’s going to speak and take a note of their Twitter handles as well as the Twitter handles of the brands/companies they work for. They’ll come in handy.
    • On Attendees: see who’s attending – often a quick search of the event hashtag prior to the event will give you an idea of the people you’ll see on the day.
    • On Venue: yes, do a research on the venue and its utilities: Wifi password, various facilities etc. This is not only for your benefit, but also for other people who may ask on Twitter.
  • Ready content: have links readily available, like the links to the event website or presentations that may be mentioned during the event. Ask the organisers to make those links available, save them as tweet drafts so you can always copy and paste it in reply to people who ask on the day. Besides that, have tweet drafts that you’ll use later, like tweets to introduce each speaker, general information about the event, a welcome tweet and an end tweet, one for the end of sessions (if you have a morning session and afternoon session etc.) This will save you time in the end.
  • Alert: last, but definitely not least, let your followers know that you’re going to live-tweet. You can do so with a tweet that contains the hashtag, event name, a short description of what it is, start time and end time. This is for three reasons:
    • to let people know that your next tweets are due to a live-tweet and not a Twitter hack;
    • to invite people to join in;
    • some of your followers might be annoyed by the number of tweets that will come out of your profile while you live-tweet, so an alert can let them know which hashtag to mute, so those tweets won’t appear in their feed.
      • most Twitter clients will give you the option to mute a hashtag by long-pressing/right-clicking on the hashtag.

Now that you have all of this in place, you’re ready for the event.

During the Event – Live-tweet Etiquette

Now that the event is on, here’s what you need to bear in mind:

  • Tweet carefully: choose what to share carefully: live-tweeting doesn’t mean you have to tweet everything thats’s being said. Listen carefully and as soon as you hear something that’s worth thinking about or worth sharing to your audience, get to tweeting. Share other information about the event too – a great way I do this is by welcoming people on Twitter (“welcome, the event is about to start in X minutes, refreshments at the back etc.”) and tweeting information around the event (e.g. wifi code, faults with the wifi, emergency exits, where the after-party is etc.). Be a source of information.
  • Correct accreditation: when you want to share tweets from other people, make sure you credit them properly. To do so, you need to know the difference from RT, MT, and HT:
    • RT stands for ‘Retweet’: also called “old-style retweet” (as it was the original way of retweeting), this is a way to share other people’s tweets verbatim. You can also add your own commentary to retweets in this way – it’s custom to add your commentary before RT.
    • MT stands for ‘Modified Tweet’: if you want to retweet a tweet but you’re forced to edit it for length, add MT before it.
    • HT (sometime spelt as ‘H/T‘) stands for ‘Hat Tip’: use this form to acknowledge where you first heard about what you’re tweeting about. This is different from RT, as it often means that you’ve heard it in real life instead of Twitter.
    • Sidenote: there are other Twitter abbreviations you could use (e.g. OH for ‘Overheard’); however, bear in mind that not everyone is aware of these abbreviations. That’s why some people use the general attribution “via“, so whether it’s a retweet, or modified, hat tip etc, you can copy the text and at the end add “via @name of the person/people you want to credit”).
  • Use rich content: don’t only use text: use pictures, videos, and other media. See where else the hashtag is being used: perhaps people are uploading pictures on Instagram or Flickr while using the hashtag, or perhaps people are taking videos and uploading them on Vine with the hashtag. Join in the conversation and reach them by doing the same, but do share those on Twitter, to let your audience know.
  • Brevity: while the speaker is bound by a time limit, a live-tweeter is bound by a 140-character limit. This means that sometimes you may have to remove a few words just to fit content into a tweet. Don’t sacrifice good grammar and correct spelling for brevity. Here’s what you can do:
    • word your tweets differently: use synonyms, use active voice instead of passive (e.g. “X gave the award to the speaker” instead of “the speaker was given this award by X”), and find other ways to convey the same content in different way.
    • if you’re going over your limit because you’re mentioning somebody’s name, see if they’re on Twitter and mention their handle instead – more often than not it’ll be shorter than using their full name. For example, writing “@FR314” instead of “Ben Donkor” saves you 4 characters – it might not be much, but sometimes 4 characters can be a life saver. (Besides, it’s always nice to get a mention.)
    • if you really have to share a tweet that goes over 140 characters, consider splitting the tweets. Ideally split the tweet in two (avoid splitting a long piece of content over more than two tweets). When doing so, add a “1 of 2” (or (1/2) etc.) to show that there’s another tweet coming, and when you do write the next part, don’t create a new tweet but create a reply to the previous part. By doing so, people who click on one part of the tweet will see the full thread to makes it complete.
    • Sidenote: whatever you do, do not use “TMI resources”, e.g. Twitlonger.
  • Links: every time you share a link, it takes away 22 characters from your 140-character limit (regardless of the number of characters in the link). If you’re sharing a long URL, consider shortening it with bit.ly or po.st. Some tools, like Hootsuite, will automatically shorten your links for you. Always tell people where your shared links take them and why you’re sharing them (e.g. a presentation that’s just been mentioned on stage).

Splitting Your Time

Don’t just listen and tweet. Whenever you live-tweet, you need to take the following into account:

  • Listening
  • Writing tweets
  • Reading the streams (hashtags and mentions)
  • Wngaging

You’ll soon build your own technique to balance these four. How you choose to do so will mostly depend on:

  • your attention span
  • your reading speed
  • your writing speed

As those are different for everyone, your method might not work for everybody. I know some live-tweeters prefer blocking out some time to engage with people, while dedicating more time to listening and crafting tweets afterwards; as for me, I take in information while I’m writing, which helps me keep up with the stream of tweets. You’ll develop your own technique with practice, so make sure you practice live-tweeting at events even when you’re not being asked to live-tweets, or during lifestreams and Google Hangouts.

Engage

Now, while people who hire you may expect you to just dispense the information that’s being said at the event, you need to do more than that.

Tweeting and listening isn’t just enough – make sure you engage with other people who are using the hashtag. Don’t invite people to the conversation if you’re not going to talk to them. While it is not possible to talk to all of them, especially in the case of large events, you can try and talk to as many as you possibly can, without taking away the time and attention you need to actually live-tweet.

Of course, there are guidelines for this too:

  • Personal opinion: some brands and organisers will let you share your own thoughts. I do the same at most events I attend, to give a personal touch to the live-tweet (so it doesn’t become a boring Twitter-version of an event livestream). However, when I do so, I always make it clear that those are my thoughts, so I put them in square brackets. Differentiate between insights being said at an event, quotes, and personal opinions.
  • Publicity: don’t over advertise – if you’re live-tweeting on behalf of a brand, don’t be a sponsor junkie, as that will only scare people away and make them unfollow you. Make your live-tweeting worthwhile and worth following.
    • Even worse: don’t advertise your own stuff unnecessarily. If relevant, share links that you own or articles you’ve contributed to if they’re relevant to your audience. However, don’t take the event as an opportunity to advertise yourself.
  • Share content: don’t be selfish – retweet and favourite other people too. Feel free to create and curate content.
  • Questions: people may ask questions. If it’s a question that you think a lot of people might ask, or if you think the answer will benefit your audience, retweet the question and answer via RT (in the format “Answer RT Question”). This will save you time, as you then won’t have to answer everyone who has the same question. However, one thing you shouldn’t do is tweeting your opinion as a definitive answer. This could be misconstrued as the general opinion of the event or event panel. This is only acceptable if people ask YOU personally “what’s your opinion on X” and you reply from your own personal account.

A Quick Side note – Hashtags + Engagement

Some live-tweeters prefer using the hashtag for any tweets sent out during the event; other live-tweeters prefer not using the event hashtag when they’re engaging with other people (even if the discussion is on topic), as they feel that conversations can saturate the stream of tweets with the hashtag. This is entirely your decision, but whichever ‘strategy’ you choose just stick with it and be consistent.

What to Tweet?

Don’t keep your tweets as a one-way street – mix them up. If you don’t, your live-tweet will become a live-monologue, and as informative as it may be, you’ll eventually see people dropping off from your conversation and engaging somewhere else. Always use a mixture of tweets to achieve the following:

  • Amplify: relay information spoken from the speaker to your audience. This doesn’t have to be written only from you, feel free to retweet other “amplifiers”. Remember to be informative and don’t assume that your audience consists of people who are present at the event – you’ll have a number of people following and participating with the hashtag while they’re not actually at the event.
  • Enrich: enrich the event’s experience with resources such as links to presentation, videos or articles related to the topic. This could either be mentioned by the speaker, OR something that is still related but hasn’t been mentioned – if you think this will be for the benefit of the audience, and as long as it doesn’t clash with the interests of the event or the speaker(s) involved (e.g. a link from a competitor), do share. If you’ve seen someone sharing it in your timeline, you can either retweet or take the link and credit them with a hat tip (HT).
  • Engage: engage people and spark a conversation, as long as it doesn’t sidetrack from the actual event or its main topic. Pose thought-provoking questions, add insights, statistics, new facts and ideas that may have been mentioned during the event.
  • Invite a dialogue, but be careful – you may have to monitor and moderate the conversation, so be careful of how you approach this. Something like “What do you think about this?” is great, so you spark interest, create a conversation, but you’re not moving away from the main discussion.
  • Entertain: add a bit of humour to the table. Don’t be scared to be playful and show your fun side, while not detracting the interest away from the actual event.

How to Deal with Spammers, Trolls and Detractors

Sometimes you’ll find hecklers and disgruntled people trying to disrupt the conversation. Some have genuine concerns, some are very opinionated and “loud” even on Twitter, while others are simply trolling for the sake of it. While you can often differentiate the three, you can take the following steps in those situations:

  1. Engage with them – see what the problem is and see if you can be the solution. When you’re not able to help, redirect the person to someone who can.
  2. Talk to them without the hashtag (one way of the taking the conversation offline without actually taking it offline) so they’re not disrupting the event on Twitter.
  3. Ignore them. (Especially if you see that they’re trolls, in which case be aware that they feast on engagement – the more you engage with them, the more they’ll engage with you.)

Post-event

So the event has now ended, it’s been a great success, and you’re proud of your live-tweeting achievement, as you should be. Your job doesn’t end here. Here a few things to do after the event:

  • Check your stats: every time you live-tweet you’ll gain a number of Twitter followers. Don’t see them as just “new followers” – those are your new connections. Check who’s interacted with your tweets and profile (mentions, replies, retweets and favourites), how many clicks your tweets have gained, who’s now following you (and yes, who’s unfollowed you too, just out of curiosity). Just do a quick health-check on your account post-event. (I wrote about this quite recently – here’s how to quickly check on your account stats.)
  • Connect: take the time after the event to go through your new followers and people who have been tweeting you and connect with them.
  • After-event chatter: this usually last for an hour or so after the event, although if done properly it can last for days too – refer to previous tweets, use Storify (or a custom timeline) to keep the conversation going, ask people how they’ve liked the event. Expect people to come asking you where the slides and the blog post(s) are, it’s pretty common. Feel free to review the event afterwards too.
  • Follow up with a blog post if needed: perhaps you’ve also been asked to write a blog post about the event. You can use the event tweets (along with any notes you may have taken) to help you with this. You can use tools like Tweetbinder to store all those tweets so you can go back to them later. Unfortunately, most tools like that will only keep your tweets archived for a limited time unless you decide to pay a fee. The best solution to archive tweets is through Hootsuite, which lets you save all the tweets from a hashtag or a user or via any search queries in folders with one click of a button. Consider writing the blog post with Storify too, if you want to add media from other social networks (e.g. Instagram, Flickr, Facebook etc.).

One Last Thing

Here’s my last tip – have fun. Live-tweeting is a fun experience – you always learn something new, whether it’s from the event itself or from other people who are tweeting with you; you make new connections, you learn new skills (such as being concise in only 140 characters without making sacrifices on grammar and spelling). You also learn new things about yourself, such as how long can you retain information while multitasking. Soon enough, like me, you’ll find yourself live-tweeting at events even when you’re not booked to do so, as a hobby, and soon enough you’ll find yourself sharing this hobby with other people. Have fun and happy live-tweeting!