One of my clients has a really cool event happening next week and when I met him today he was wondering how to maximise its coverage on social media. I suggested that we live tweet the event, and I was excited to have the opportunity because, to me, live tweeting epitomises the best things about social media as a tool to show your work in action and to connect people around a common experience.
If you’re not sure what live tweeting is, let’s start with the Oxford English Dictionary which defines it as:
VERB (WITH OBJECT): Post comments about (an event) on Twitter while the event is taking place.
Essentially it’s a way of reporting an event in snippets – you turn up armed with your smartphone, and you tweet about what’s happening at very regular intervals either throughout the event or for a defined period of time. Each time something interesting happens, someone says something noteworthy, or you take a great picture, you tweet it. You retweet what others are posting too – speakers, event participants, audience members. You ask and answer questions. All those tweets – both yours and those posted by others – are connected together by a hashtag which you’ve predetermined, so you and everybody else can easily find the conversation and join in.
The most obvious example is a conference. Let’s say it’s about rabbits (I love bunnies). We’ll call it Rabbits International 2017. All your publicity material in advance includes the conference hashtag, #RabbitConf2017, and your delegates’ packs include a flyer asking them to tweet comments and questions using the hashtag, before, during and after the event. Then you might choose to live tweet the opening talk by a world rabbit expert, with photos of him speaking, quotes, and lots of retweets of others’ comments. You would definitely live tweet the talk where they bring out all the adorable bunnies, because, yes, photos of cute animals really do rule the internet. I’d be really surprised if a strategy like this didn’t generate some good conversations that wouldn’t otherwise have taken place or, more significantly, that would have taken place without your involvement in them.
Here’s a less obvious example. You’re a hotel and you’re holding a wedding fair. You write in advance to all the businesses attending and ask them to use your hashtag, and you include it on a flyer in the pack you’ll hand out to couples who attend the fair. With luck and encouragement some of the businesses attending might tweet about their preparations for the event and post their own photos of their stalls, while you post your own preparations at the hotel. On the day itself, you go along and take photos (with their consent!) of couples visiting the fair, telling their lovely engagement stories and getting their wedding ideas. You tweet about the stalls on offer and mention the Twitter handles of any of the attending businesses, especially the ones making use of your hashtag! You include useful wedding planning tips (and you can schedule these in advance). Of course you make sure there are lots of photos of your lovely hotel.
Both these examples show how intensive use of Twitter over a short period can enrich your event by spreading its message to those who couldn’t come, and making it linger in the memories of those were there. But there’s a more important reason to go to the extra effort of live tweeting: it creates rich, unique content, a content narrative, which you can repurpose when the event itself is long over. It’s easy to compile your tweets into a blog post, or a Storify story (although this depends on consistent hashtag use so don’t neglect publicising your hashtag!). You turn the photos into a gallery on Facebook. You edit the video snippets and put them on your YouTube channel. Real people are involved in the story of your business. This content shows your business in action rather than in its ‘marketing’ mode.
Live tweeting allows you to be your own journalist. Not every event is important enough to attract the ‘real’ press, but we can use Twitter to recreate the same effect and make a story out of the day-to-day. To me, Twitter has its natural home in journalism and using it in this context unleashes its most valuable powers.