Tuesday, 13 October 2015

by Silumesii Maboshe

Twitter is my favourite online platform. It doesn’t quite fit what I think of as a “social network”. At the same time it is great for connecting with interesting people I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. The character limit forces you to get to the point. I love that.

There aren’t as many Zambians on Twitter as Facebook but we are a vibrant and passionate bunch.

I’ve been live-Tweeting events more often over the last few months. It’s something I’m practicing to get better at. Here are some tips and tools that have helped me.

Four Steps To Happy Live-Tweeting

1. Fulfill The Need For Speed

Live-Tweeting is an exercise in multitasking and events happen fast! You will want to find a good flow so that you can post your Tweets quickly. Learning to touch-type has been incredibly useful for me. I don’t live-Tweet from a mobile device as I find my thumbs are not fast enough. Being fast is important but if you need to choose between speed and accuracy, always choose accuracy. You’ll get faster with time that way.

Minimise distractions as much as possible. For me this means closing all applications that are not being used to Tweet. Ubuntu is my desktop operating system of choice. I use full-screen windows in separate workspaces and use the Workspace Switcher keyboard shortcuts to switch between them.

During the event, I’ll have a text editor open with phrases, Twitter handles and hashtags handy so that I can quickly copy and paste them. I’ve read that text auto-expander tools can be useful for this but haven’t yet found one that works for me.

2. Do Preparation Before The Event

Zambians are known for being lackadaisical when it comes to events. It’s a stereotype I’m on a mission to debunk. My preparation includes:

  • Reading up on the event (if an agenda is available I figure out which sessions will be the most interesting)
  • Figuring out directions to the venue
  • Planning how to get to the event ahead of time (this is great for location-scouting and getting a unique behind-the-scenes perspective)
  • Making a list of Twitter handles, hashtags and website links for speakers, performers, sponsors, guests and products (if there is no hashtag, I’ll create one or check in with other people that are going to the same event)
  • Scheduling introductory Tweets to go out before the event starts
  • Charging batteries
  • Making sure I have enough data in my 3G dongle (just in case the venue has an unreliable connection or none at all)

Tips I’m working at getting better at doing before the event:

  • Promoting the event (using the hashtag)
  • Connecting with other people in my network to help get the word out (I believe such people are called “influencers”)
  • Being selective about which events to live-Tweet at (defining my criteria)
  • Preparing for multiple outcomes (for example at awards events–being prepared for the possibility of each winner winning)

3. Have Fun During The Event

At the start of the event, I like to post an anchor Tweet that simply states that the event has started. It prepares my followers that they are about to start “drinking from a fire-hose”. I secretly do it so I can hold the event organisers accountable. Did the event start at the time they said it would?

During the event, my goal is not to give the entire event away. You want to whet the appetite of the people who were not able to make it. It’s a bit like teasing but if they really wanted to be there, they’d be there. I try to give broad-stroke highlights and mix those with thought-provoking details. Part of what makes live-Tweeting fun is engaging with people physically at the event as well as those participating only via Twitter. I’ve come to know some incredible people simply because of their contributions to an online conversation.

Make sure you are logged in to the correct social media account(s). I’m a bit of a stickler and like to write full sentences with correct punctuation and grammer. SMS-speak has never been appealing to me. Feel free to summarize or paraphrase rather than spread a single thought across multiple Tweets. If something is “wrong” after you’ve posted it, the “Delete Tweet” function is your friend.

The easiest and most direct way to engage people is to @-mention them. If you are quoting them, that goes without saying. It’s just good manners. Favourite Tweets you agree with. Ask questions about Tweets you do not agree with. A little Retweet goes a long way!

Remember to use the hashtag for the event and to use it consistently. I used to be notorious for misspelling hashtags but have gotten better over time. While creating unofficial hashtags is poor ettiquette, you’ll want to be aware of those as are they are a legitimate part of the overall discussion.

Keep in mind that Twitter can handle more than just text. Where appropriate, mix things up with a photo, graphic, some audio or video.

4. Keep The Conversation Going And Reflect

At the end of the event, it’s useful to Tweet so. For you at the event, it comes to an obvious natural conclusion. For your followers, that natural end is not always evident and you could leave them on an indefinite cliff-hanger.

Reflecting on the Tweets, allows me to see things as a complete whole which is impossible to see as the event is unfolding. At this point you may decide which Tweets would be useful to include in a blog post or to follow up on with specific people. The “take-away” is perhaps the most important thing you can leave an event with. You can link back to those Tweets later with your epiphany.

The end of the event is the perfect time to say “Thank You”. No doubt you’ve met some great people and learned something you did not already know. Acknowledge that!

When it’s all done, remember to log out of your account(s) or you could end up telling complete strangers, “I love you” or asking them to, “pack the projector in the car before heading back to the office” …

Cool Tools And Resources

There are tonnes of tools and resources for creating a memorable live-Tweeting experience. Here is a sampling. Rather than trying all of them, I’d recommend you find what combinations work for you by testing one at a time.

Content Curation

Once the event is done, you may want to cherry-pick Tweets and make a blog post or article out of them. Have a look at:

Displaying Tweets

You can add panache and tap in to people’s ego by displaying their Tweets as an event is happening. Here are my favourite tools for visualising Tweets:

Working with Hashtags

I find the native Twitter search interface the best for working with hashtags. Here are some other tools that you might want to have a look at:

Working with Video

Scheduling Tweets

Data and Analysis

References and Resources Used to Write this Post

Happy live-Tweeting!