Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Live Tweeting Government Events - DOs and DON'Ts

Photo of the author seated at a desk
By: Sara Harris Smith, Management Analyst and contractor supporting the Dept of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, December 4, 2013

In this time of tight travel budgets, not everyone can make it to every event or conference they’d like to attend. Luckily, Twitter has made it easier to share events through live tweeting.

Live tweeting is using Twitter to report on an event, speech, or presentation as it is happening.

When done right, live tweeting can help followers feel like they’re actually a part of the event. When done wrong, live tweeting can be an annoyance and deterrent to your followers. In our office, as I’m sure is true with others, the person attending a conference or meeting is not necessarily always the person who regularly tweets on behalf of the office. Not wanting our followers to miss the opportunity to follow along, I began providing coworkers with some basic instructions on live tweeting whenever they headed to a conference. To help make sure you’re providing your followers with the best information and getting the most out of your effort I’ve pulled together these instructions into a simple list of DOs and DON’Ts for live tweeting.


DO:

 

- If you’re organizing the event, agree on an event hashtag in advance with your partners. Do outreach in advance of the event to encourage attendees to use the hashtag. Put it on meeting materials and slides.

- Include an introductory tweet about the conference. This initial tweet lets your followers know where you are and what you will be tweeting about for the upcoming hour or days. If you’ll be publishing tweets later when you report on the event (for example, on your website using Storify or some other tool), be sure to notify your followers of that too.

- Use and follow the conference/meeting hashtag. Using the conference or meeting hashtag allows followers to easily track the entire conference conversation. Following the conference hashtag allows you to make sure your tweets are findable and contribute to the conversation.

- Introduce the presentation you will be live tweeting from. If you are tweeting from a conference and will be attending multiple presentations be sure to keep your followers in the loop with a quick introductory tweet.
- Tweet direct quotes/concepts from presentations. Use short concise quotes to convey the presenters overall idea. Pictures of presenters or slides are a great way to grab attention too.

- Find Twitter handles of presenters and the handles of the organizations with which presenters are affiliated and use those in your tweets. If you know what presentations you will be attending ahead of time make a list of Twitter handles for presenters and their organizations. This is a great way to interact with presenters and will increase retweets. It will also link your followers to more information on the presenters without having to tweet a biography.

- Link to interesting programs discussed in presentations. When you want to provide more information on a program or presentation, but don’t want to send a flood of back-to-back tweets, look for an informative website to point followers to.

- Send a Thank You tweet at the end of the conference. Sending a “Thank you” tweet at the end of conference is both polite and signals to your followers, “that’s a wrap!”

- Measure your success. Be sure you’re using an analytics tool to measure how far your messages travelled. Capture and report this data to key people, especially decision-makers who aren’t that familiar with live tweeting.


DON’T

 

- Tweet for the sake of tweeting. Be picky about what you send out. Try setting a limit for the number of tweets you send per presentation. You don't want to overwhelm people's twitter streams. If a presentation is going too fast to keep up wait until the end and tweet one or two takeaways.

- Link to things that require some sort of payment to participate. All links should be purely about providing more information, not people having to open their wallets. This include articles behind paywalls, unfortunately.

- Get engaged in a back and forth with other Twitter users. If a follower asks a simple question about a presentation that would benefit other followers to answer then absolutely answer. If a follower has a more in depth question that you’d like to address but not have to send it out to your entire Twitter following ask them to DM you. However, if someone is clearly trying to pick an argument do not engage them.

- Use a bunch of abbreviations or slang. Yes, that pesky 140-character limit can be quite frustrating sometimes! However, when possible do not overuse slang or abbreviations such as 2 for to or too, or b4 for before.

- Directly criticize any presentation. If you were tweeting from your personal account then you should feel free to share your opinions, but when representing a federal Twitter account keep your personal opinions to yourself. Think of the old saying: "If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all."


I hope this list helps make your next live-tweeting experience a little easier! Do you have other tips and tricks? Please get in touch by commenting below.




Sara Harris Smith tweets about the environment, public health, social media, and emergency response from @saramhsmith.

This discussion is brought to you by the FederalCommunicators Network. FCN members are government employees managing U.S. government communications. We've published lots more on this topic, including How To Be A Fly On The Wall: The Dos and Don'ts of Sharing Executive Discussions and How You Can Use Google Plus To Boost Your Message: 10 Tips You Can Put To Use Now.

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