How to Live Tweet Like a Pro
Posted by RuthBurr
Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably noticed that I live-tweet the conferences I go to. Extensively. Some people love it, some people hate it – but if you want to start live-tweeting for yourself, here are some things to keep in mind.
Why I Live Tweet
I started live tweeting events a couple of years ago, when I realized that I was spending as much time and effort tweeting out the most relevant points of the session I was in as I spent taking notes – plus, the notes I took were less relevant than my tweets, since I was only tweeting out the best parts!
Once I committed to live tweeting conferences, I got a lot of great, positive feedback about it from other attendees, so I kept on going. I’ve also gotten the bulk of my followers through live tweeting; it can be a great way to build your personal brand at conferences and get increased visibility with attendees and speakers alike. Live tweeting doesn’t just build your brand among attendees of the conference, either. People who are trying to follow along at home via the conference hash tag are often even bigger fans of quality live tweets.
There's a noticeable uptick in people who read my name badge and say “oh, you’re Ruth Burr!” at the end of a conference compared to the beginning (when they usually just say "nice to meet you").
@ruthburr Cheers for all the tweets, they are better than my notes, and much neater
— Kingsland Linassi (@kingslandlinass) March 15, 2013
— Dennis Seymour (@denseymour) March 15, 2013
So that's nice.
Why You Might Not Want to Live Tweet
A few caveats before we get in to the nitty-gritty of quality live Twitter coverage:
You will lose followers. When I’m covering a conference, I’m tweeting multiple times per minute, all day. That can really blow up someone’s Twitter feed. I usually encourage my followers to mute me or the conference hash tag if they don’t want to be inundated, but some people just choose to unfollow – and some of those people don’t re-follow after the conference is over.
Here are my daily follow/unfollow numbers from the last 60 days, courtesy of Followerwonk:
As you can see, I get the most new followers on days I’m live tweeting, but I get the most unfollows on those days as well. With the 31 followers I lost during SearchFest, my 54 new followers starts to look a lot more like 23. I'm still at a net gain of followers, but if you’re not prepared to (permanently) lose some followers (especially those who aren't in the search industry), live tweeting may not be for you.
It takes a ton of energy. Conferences can already be really draining, between the late nights, the "always on" networking conversations and the stress of trying to still get some work done while you’re there. Live tweeting takes a surprising amount of energy: the bulk of your focus needs to be on the session, not on the session + your work email + your slides for later in the day + Facebook. Tweeting live also means that even if a session is really boring or not at all useful to you, you can’t take a nice relaxing mental break and zone out or work on something more important.
You're reporting the news, not making it. That's something that can get lost in translation through retweets and replies. You’re going to get clarifying questions and dissenting opinions about things you didn’t even say (or necessarily agree with). No matter how many times you say “I didn’t say it, Duane Forrester did. I’d suggest asking him if you need more information,” some people are still going to get hung up on the idea that you’re the one advocating a particular position. It can get sticky.
You'll probably get rate limited. I usually end up unable to tweet for at least an hour per conference, because the Twitter API has blocked me for tweeting too many times in too short a period.
So! Caveats firmly in place, let's talk about:
How to Provide Value via Live Tweets
Provide as much context as you can. Take this tweet from SearchFest:
— Ruth Burr (@ruthburr) February 22, 2013
Just adding the word “Agility” to the beginning of the tweet puts the entire factoid into the context in which Mel was using it. This increases the ability for the tweet to be read and understood outside of the context of other conference tweets. Which brings me to:
- Think about the retweet. Each piece of information you tweet needs to be able to survive on its own, independent of the tweets that preceded or followed it. When you get retweeted, the new audience viewing that tweet may not have seen your other tweets on the topic: make sure that tweet will make sense to them, too.
Numbers are gold. When someone cites a statistic in their talk, tweeting the specific numbers they mention really increases the relevance of your tweet.
— Ruth Burr (@ruthburr) March 12, 2013
- Don’t try to live tweet anecdotes. Speakers will often use illustrative examples in their talks, whether they’re passing anecdotes or full-on case studies. These can be extremely hard to live tweet. Remember to stick to the rules above. It’s OK to sum up a two-minute anecdote or case study into one or two tweets that are focused on the point.
- Capture as many URLs as you can. If someone includes a link on a slide, I’ll usually type that out first and then write the tweet context around it, in case they change the slide before I can write it down (this is especially important with bit.ly links). Want to go above and beyond? If someone mentions a great article but doesn’t include the link, Google the piece and provide the link yourself. That way you’re adding extra value with your tweets.
- Give shout-outs. Any time someone mentions a tool, tweet that out. If you know that company’s Twitter handle, include them with an @ mention. Do the same for people. People love hearing about new tools to use, and businesses and individuals alike love hearing they got a shout-out in a presentation. Doing this also gets you on the radar of people who might not even be following the conference.
- Watch the conference hash tag. In addition to tweeting out the session you’re attending, keep an eye on the tweets coming out of other sessions. When you see a juicy, highly-retweetable tweet come out, retweet it! Now you’re providing information on other sessions, too. Speaking of which:
- Use the conference hash tag and speaker handles. I usually end each conference tweet with the speaker’s twitter handle and the conference hash tag. It helps mitigate the “I don’t make the news, I just report it” factor I mentioned earlier, plus it’s important to give credit to where credit’s due. Most of the time I’ll just copy the speaker handle and hash tag from my first tweet and then paste them at the end of each tweet (be careful there aren’t any typos when you copy, though – I spent half of Marty Weintraub’s MozCon session accidentally tweeting him as @aimcear instead of @aimclear).
One tool I’ll often use for live-tweeting conferences is TweetChat. It allows you to track just the tweets coming from one hash tag, and will automatically add the tag to the end of every tweet you post from the tool.
Other than that, I don’t use many tools for live tweeting – I’m usually just using the Twitter app for Mac. I use keyboard shortcuts for “new tweet” and “post tweet” to save a bit of time.
The last thing you’ll really need to be able to live tweet a full conference is the ability to type very fast, with few mistakes, and without looking at your hands or, necessarily, the screen. I don’t have any good recommendations for tools/programs to use to learn to type faster; I learned to type really fast by getting in a lot of arguments with people over instant messenger in high school and college, so you could try that. If anybody has any suggestions for programs to hone your typing skills, I’d love to see them in the comments!
Happy live tweeting everybody!
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