How To Live-Tweet An Event: Part 1 - Defining Success

A couple of years ago, I wrote a 3-part series on Twitter chats: finding them, managing your way through them and running a good one. Since then, I've been asked more times than I can count about doing the same for live-tweeting events. I finally had the time to dedicate to putting it together and here it is! I'll be posting the pieces over the next few Mondays. 

Don't wing it.

Live tweeting doesn't start the minute the event gets underway. Properly tweeting an event takes some prep in order to really deliver some value to your in-person and online-only audiences. In fact, it's pretty much the equivalent of running a second simultaneous event to the one happening in person. That is, if you do it right.

Whether your event is lasts several days or just an hour, and whether your attendance is a few dozen or a few hundred, you're better off getting yourself organized well in advance to reduce your workload (and stress!). Thinking through your event and doing some planning can also help elevate your ability to live-Tweet effectively and efficiently.

Sure some of this might be overkill for your particular needs, but this is meant to be a helpful primer: pick and choose the elements that seem relevant to your event, do as little or as much as you want or have time for. I probably included way more detail than expected, and then again maybe I missed a few things. Feel free to drop me a line or comment to let me know!

Getting Started: Identifying your goals

In the days and weeks leading up to the event, you need to start planning for live tweeting. It needs to start with one question:

Why do you want to live-tweet?
Before you even start planning, you need to think about why you want to live tweet and who your audience will be for the live tweet stream. Here are some common goals of live tweeting and questions to consider for each:

1. Promotion

Maybe you're just looking to drive up interest in your event to promote registration for next year or to supplement the marketing you are already doing in other channels. Here are some things to consider:
  • Who are your key target audiences?
  • Are they in already-formed communities? Are there hashtags you can use to promote your event?
  • What hashtag should you use to promote your event? Is it already in use? (This one is important; you don't want to hijack an in-use hashtag on another topic especially if it isn't relevant or appropriate to your audience.)
  • Do you have a following? Do you need to build one? Should you find champions who can help promote your event/ account/ hashtag?
  • How far in advance should you start using your account/ hashtag to build interest in your event?
  • How long should you continue tweeting post-event?

    2. Back-channeling

    The back-channel is the conversation that happens on social media (or through other channels) while the event is on-going. The back-channel may or may not be obvious to presenters as they speak, depending on whether or not you choose to display the back-channel in the room (e.g. via a Twitter wall). If you're considering promoting and supporting a back-channel with live tweeting, here are some things to consider:
    • Are you planning to live tweet in order to provide a back-channel for folks in the room?
    • Is it to foster and support discussion among the on-site participants?
    • Are you trying to stimulate conversation during the sessions? after them?
    • Are you building a community the you intend to foster before/after the event or are you providing a service at the event?
    • What information do you want to capture from the event: all of the salient points? Just the highlights?
    • Do you want to seed questions for the audience to consider as they participate in the sessions?
    • Do you want to provide additional context or resources that compliment the content?

    3. Remote audience engagement

    Perhaps your event is has a remote registration option, or perhaps you are likely to attract some Twitter-based participation. If you post content on Twitter during your event, especially if you use an event hashtag and invite your audience to Tweet, you're likely to draw a remote audience. The question is: how should you best engage with remote audiences. Here are some things to consider:
    • Are you planning to provide content for people who can't join the event on-site? 
    • Do you have a webcast or online conferencing component to support the event?
    • Are online audiences completely cut off from the event, and entirely reliant on the content coming from social media? 
    • Are you interested in including the remote audience (and their questions and comments) in the on-site event, or is this more a means to spread the word and content in order to entice people to attend future events?
    • Do you plan to engage with the Twitter channel to the same extent as you will engage with the on-site participants? If not, how much interaction do you expect to have with their comments and questions?

      4. Archiving

      Between live tweeting and the general Twitter back-channel, you can end up with a significant amount of digital content generated during your conference. It can be a fantastic resource, but it's best to plan ahead for capturing and re-using that content.
      • Are you planning to follow and capture the discussions happening online?
      • Do you intend to share the discussion thread with event-goers after the fact?
      • Do you need the content to stand-alone post-event or is this meant as a sampler?
      • Will you be mining it for engagement metrics to solicit future sponsors and speakers? 

        5. ???

        Maybe you have other reasons for including live tweeting in your event. Now is a good time to examine them.

        Why so many questions?

        The point of this thought exercise is to consider your requirements, in order to really set yourself up for success. It's a lot easier to set your own expectations (and even hire the right live tweeter) for the quantity and quality of tweets for your event if you know:
        • Who are you targeting
        • What value you want to provide
        • When do you want to engage with them
        • What volume of tweets you want to deliver
        • How responsive you expect to be with other participants in the Twitter back-channel
        • How you will handle positive and negative commentary coming from Twitter
        • What you will do with the content once the event is over
        • What success means to you
        Defining success in terms of the goals of your particular event will help you narrow your requirements for live tweeting (e.g. a hashtag to aggregate the conversation, and other considerations we'll explore in the next post). It will also help you figure out what kind of measurement, monitoring and data collection you need in order to evaluate the success of your live tweeting. More on this in Part 2.