The Art of Live-Tweeting

Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

Twitter defines live-tweeting this way: to engage on Twitter for a continuous period of time – anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours – with a sequence of focused tweets. Hypothetically speaking, you could live-tweet a film, the birth of your child, or sessions you attend at an industry conference. While we wouldn’t recommend live-tweeting at all of these events, the practice does have advantages.

Frequent tweeting helps you to increase your profile and gain followers. And if you live-tweet at an event specific to your sector – using the appropriate hashtag, of course – you’re more likely to connect with other professionals in your field who have similar interests. Here are eight tips to help you master the art of live-tweeting:

Use hashtags and Twitter handles

Know your audience

Look for “aha” moments

Tweet about what you know

Disagree, don’t disrespect

Use pictures

Leave room for retweets

Don’t hijack the hashtag

Next page: Use hashtags and Twitter handles

Use hashtags and Twitter handles: Most events have a designated hashtag, such as #SAPPHIRENOW; make sure to include it in your tweets so they are visible for other people following the event. If you can, also include the twitter handle (username) of the speaker whose session you’re tweeting about. This helps you connect with other people live-tweeting at the session, giving you the opportunity to have a more interactive conversation, and it’s a helpful resource for the speaker to get feedback from the audience.

  • Tip for speakers: Include your twitter handle and the event hashtag on every slide in your presentation.

Know your audience: Are you tweeting for other people at the event or for those who aren’t in attendance? Depending on your audience, you either want to instigate a conversation with the people around you, or try to give those who aren’t at the event access to the information being shared. For the former, you should focus more on commenting on the presentation and adding your own perspective. For example: “Loving the session from @JohnSmith on tech of the future at #EVENT. But don’t know how I feel about self-driving cars.” Questions are also an effective way to start a conversation. For the latter, you should share more direct quotes and facts from the presentation.

Look for “aha” moments: For the uninitiated, it can seem as if the goal of live-tweeting is to rehash an entire presentation on Twitter. But successful live tweeters know that it’s all about selecting the right sound bite, or “aha” moment, to share with others. You should look for short, clear, thought-provoking statements that make you sit up and listen closer. Perhaps it’s a gutsy prediction, or an interesting statistic. The things that elicit a response from you in the audience (statements that get you thinking about an article you read recently or have you nodding your head in approval) will also grab the attention of your followers – and soon-to-be-followers! – on Twitter.

Next page: Tweet about what you know

Tweet about what you know: Simply because you can live tweet every session, doesn’t mean you should. Are you educated in the space? Do you have a good understanding of what is new and innovative and which trends have already been discussed to death? The less you know about a particular topic, the harder it will be to select the truly remarkable insights from the rest of the presentation.

Disagree, don’t disrespect: If you happen to disagree with a statement that has been made during a session, share your perspective, but try using qualifying statements like: “in my opinion,” “from what I’ve seen,” or even simply, “I don’t agree because….” Don’t bash the speaker. This is disrespectful and makes it unlikely that a fruitful discussion will develop. Furthermore, it’s easy to misunderstand something during a short presentation. You don’t want to tweet a rude remark in the heat of the moment that you’ll have to take back later.

Use pictures: If you’re new to live-tweeting and aren’t sure how to get started, sharing pictures from an event is a great way to dip your toe into the Twitter pond. Even experienced live tweeters can sometimes get stuck searching for the right words. And a photo of a CEO panel (or the long lunch line) can make your point just as well. Plus, it gives people who aren’t at the event a look behind the scenes. Don’t forget to include the event hashtag and a brief description of the photo.

Next page: Leave room for retweets

Leave room for retweets: With only 140 characters to get your point across, you may feel the urge to use every last one. Still, you should try to leave enough characters free for other people to retweet your comment without having to edit it. The number of remaining characters should be at least equal to the length of your Twitter handle plus five characters for the RT symbol, the @ symbol, and the two spaces (one between RT and @ and one after your Twitter handle)., for example, should leave at least 12 characters free in every tweet to accommodate “RT @sapinfo.” Ideally, you should give people even more space to add their own comments. This is how great conversations and connections start.

Don’t hijack the hashtag: One faux pas to avoid when live-tweeting is “hijacking the hashtag.” This refers to people who use the stream to push their own agenda, rather than share opinions and impressions from the event. Sure, it’s fine to send one or two general reminders that the session you’re hosting is about to begin. But vendors who urge people to stop by their booth every five minutes aren’t adding any value to the stream. They just end up annoying and alienating the audience.

Author’s note:

Rachel Happe contributed insights to this article. She is the co-founder of The Community Roundtable, a company that offers training, research and advisory services to organizations pursuing community and social business approaches. Connect with Rachel Happe on Twitter @rhappe