How To Live-Tweet An Event: Part 2 - Developing a Content Plan

This is part 2 in an ongoing series on Live-Tweeting Events. Check out Part 1 - Defining Success. Or see the bottom of this post for links to the full 5-part series.

In part 1 of this series, I listed out dozens of questions which would help you consider your goals for live-tweeting your event: the purpose, the audiences, the type of engagement you want to encourage and what you will do with your content post-event. Now that you have figured out what success will look like, let's move on to the prep work. Yes, that's right: there's homework to be done before the event even starts.

Before you can get started, you need a content plan. It might seem a bit weird to plan out content that will be delivered in 140 characters and based on activities or presentations that you might not even see until the day of your event, however pre-planning content has a number of benefits:
  • you can ensure coverage of key points; 
  • you can prepare important logistical information up front; and, 
  • you can set a consistent approach for content posted throughout the event.
That last one is especially important if someone else is live-tweeting your event for you.

But my event is short/ tiny

For small events, you don't need to document your plan necessarily but it can be useful to think through the following points and figure out how they apply to your context. If this is your first time, don't overthink it: pick the parts that are relevant to you, your event and your audience and dig right in. The last thing you want to do is stress yourself out by overthinking things. But if your event is of a significant size or you expect a lot of coverage, you should put in some effort up front.

I've live-tweeted everything from small workshops to large conferences and everything in between. In some cases, we documented plans, while in others we just discussed what the organizers wanted and then went for it. The key is to have agreement on the general approach: whether it's documented or not is up to you.

For some events, like large conferences, it is prudent to plan out the content if you plan to have simultaneous sessions or if you need more than one set of fingers typing: in those cases, you need to figure out how many people you will need live tweeting and the best way to handle different topics being tweeted at once. This is where your logistics and content goals start to influence your content plan.

Selecting the Twitter account(s)

Huh? Why is picking the Twitter account for my event a content planning task?

Selecting which account to tweet from is a strategic content decision. And the options are manifold:
  • tweet from your main brand account, 
  • tweet from a special/ temporary event account, 
  • tweet from the live-Tweeter's own account,
  • ... 
If you are looking to piggy-back on your live-tweeter's own popularity, you can have them tweet from their own account. This is great if their followers are your target audience for the event, and likely to be highly engaged with the content. However, if they aren't, your live tweeter might alienate some of their core audience by bombarding their stream for the day. And the last thing you want is your star tweeter losing follows by live-tweeting your event. If you want to benefit from their following, you can have them tweet notices from their account stating that they are live-Tweeting from your handle for the event, and including the hashtag in their event-related tweets. (This is basically the best of both worlds.)

When deciding whether or not to have a live tweeter tweet from their own account, also keep in mind that people who see their tweets might (likely) be inclined to hit "reply" to ask a question (rather than seek out your official event account). Consider whether you want your live-Tweeter receiving all of those to their own account or if it would be better that you receive those directly; that is, by having them tweet from your account. If you are worried about the live tweeter handling all that traffic, it's possible to have multiple people logged in to the same account to tweet simultaneously, so you can have different people proactively tweeting, as well as monitoring and responding to incoming messages. Or you can use different accounts for these purposes.

So. many. decisions. Like I said, best to think back to how you are gauging success, and think strategically and practically.

Then again, if you plan to tweet out using a hashtag, it may not matter which account you use, as long as you have some ability to monitor and respond to questions and comments (assuming you choose to do so).

Choosing your hashtag

I mentioned in Part 1 that choosing a hashtag can be tricky: your preferred term might already be in use and have a community built up around it, and it might have nothing to do with your event, let alone your industry. So, let me be clear:
It is bad form to attempt to hijack a hashtag. Always. 
"But my topic is really similar!" -No.

"But it's relevant to the discussion!" -No.

"But it's only for one day!" -No.

Never hijack a hashtag.
Got it?

Defining your voice

Establishing tone and content standards in advance can help to ensure that the content tweeted is on-brand for your event. This is especially important if you are planning to have multiple live-Tweeters delivering content throughout the event or if your Tweeter is tweeting from your account (instead of theirs).

If your brand already has a particular tone, you will need to set guidelines for your live-tweeters to ensure that tone is delivered throughout the event. Consider providing samples that are written in the tone you want to see used on your account. You might even consider using live tweeters who are well familiar with your brand identity to help ensure consistency.

Alternately, if you prefer diversity, you might hire Tweeters who are recognized subject matter experts with a distinct voice, and request that they use their own voice to Tweet the event (whether from their accounts or yours). In this case, it can be helpful to provide content guidelines to ensure the appropriateness of the content throughout the event. (Or not, if you prefer not to give them constraints.)

Your tone can also influence the types of visuals that accompany your content:
  • are memes appropriate? 
  • Do you only want photos taken on-site? (Do those need release forms?) 
  • Can tweeters take liberties and look up content such as multimedia and images on the fly, and tweet those (e.g. a related TED talk or an infographic)? 
Good live tweeters will find relevant content on the fly and add it to the stream, so it's helpful if you give them some guidelines about whether or not you are looking for this kind of added input and whether there are any parameters they should consider.

Content type and frequency

If you're going to have Tweeters capturing the content from the sessions, you can establish minimum information requirements for each session to establish some consistency between Tweet stream. For example, at the beginning of each session, each tweeter may provide the same type of information about the speaker, such as:
  • name, 
  • company, 
  • Twitter handle, 
  • website, 
  • session title, 
  • link to slides, 
  • etc. 
Establishing these content requirements may also uncover some pre-event research needs to ensure that Tweeters have the information at their fingertips prior to session start. (This is where the cheat sheet comes in handy! But we'll save that for the next installment of this series.)

In the same vein, consider whether you will be providing straight text tweets, or whether you plan to incorporate multimedia and images.
  • Do you need to prepare repositories in advance or have someone walking the event floor snapping pics and saving them to a common location such as Dropbox or Google Drive, where the live-tweeter can grab and post? 
  • Do you have headshots of all your speakers or do you want your live-tweeter snapping a pic and tweeting it on the fly?
Depending on your content requirements, you might impose some equipment requirements as well: it's easiest to live-tweet with a keyboard, so your live-tweeter is best equipped with a laptop or tablet/keyboard combination. For photos, they could use a smartphone that is logged into the same account. If they need to move between rooms, a smaller device is better (or a separate setup in each room); just make sure to have connections to keep the batteries going.

Establishing frequency is also important for content development prior to the event, during the event and post-event. Providing tweeters with guidelines about how often they should be tweeting may not be neccessary during the event, but it is important to consider for community management pre and post event (e.g. sending out reminders about the hashtag before the event date, and links to the archive post-event). It can also help keep you out of Twitter jail (i.e. having your account locked as a spam prevention). More on that when we get to Showtime: What to do on the big day.

Do People Really Do All This Work?

Yes. Absolutely, yes.

Even if the stream isn't tweeting all of the content, a responsive and informational official Twitter stream can be an incredibly valuable tool for attendees. Consider: When you go to an event and the Twitter channel is buzzing with replies and logistical information, it can be a real life-saver for out-of-towners or anyone in the audience. There's comfort in knowing that you know that you can ask a question at any time and get an answer.

Now, if you can't attend an event, a really effective Twitter stream will make you either feel like you are there or that you absolutely need to be there next time. Whether you choose to tweet highlights or the full content from each session, having detailed information about speakers, session titles, resources mentioned, etc. can be a great way to garner interest in your event. Especially when all collected with a visible hashtag. A well-tweeted event will often receive longing "I can't believe I'm missing this!" tweets from off-site tweeters (aka potential attendees for next time). Being organized can make all the difference in presenting your event as a must-attend, whether large or small.

Speaking of which, next up in Part 3, we'll look at developing an editorial calendar and cheat sheet for the event. Very valuable tools for preparing consistent messaging, logistical information, as well as speaker and session info.


How To Live-Tweet an Event: The Five-Part Series

  1. Defining Success
  2. Creating your content plan (this one)
  3. Establishing your editorial calendar and building your cheat sheet
  4. Showtime: What to do on the big day
  5. Measurement and archiving