Regardless of your industry, events and conferences are both incredibly exciting and terribly overwhelming, especially if you plan to cover them live on social media.
Live tweeting, whether you’re doing it for your personal brand or for your organization, offers one of the largest, most under-celebrated opportunities to grow your networks both on and offline.
Below we provide a comprehensive overview of what you should do before, during and after a live event to get the most results from your social media networks.
Before the event
The less “housekeeping” work you have to do during the actual event, the more time and attention you can dedicate to what’s going on around you.
Find the social media handles of speakers and attendees
Check out the speakers and influential attendees on social media. Find their Twitter handles, connect with them on LinkedIn and follow their company pages.
Add them to Twitter lists and make contact before the event begins. You can use your mutual attendance as an ice breaker, and then figure out what else you have in common. If you get a positive response, you can even set up an in-person meeting to discuss business opportunities between sessions.
If you plan on live-tweeting the event, save the speakers’ Twitter handles to a Google Doc, or even just a note on your phone, for easy access while you’re in the middle of the action. The less “housekeeping” work you have to do during the actual event, the more time and attention you can dedicate to what’s going on around you.
Figure out what kind of access you will have
In 2015, most events have Wi-Fi access for participants, but not necessarily all. Do your research to see what kind of access you’ll have at the event, but be prepared with a back-up plan.
Wi-Fi networks often get overwhelmed and break, and are stronger in some event spaces than others. Are you set up with a mobile hotspot? Are you prepared to live-tweet from your phone?
Make sure to charge all your devices before the event, and bring chargers with you because you’ll burn through battery quickly. Mobile power banks also work wonders, and you can get them for fairly cheap.
Know your schedule
Figure out where you’ll be and when. If you have the choice of multiple sessions or tracks, decide which ones you’ll attend. Build yourself a schedule to cover a variety of topics that will give your social audience a 360 degree view of the event – not just from the perspective of what’s being talked about, but who is talking and what is proposed.
Also account for the in-between times. When are your breaks? When will you be eating? Checking email? Networking? You’ll want to make sure to pad time into your schedule to engage in real time on social media, both with your audience and other participants. Try to figure out beforehand when that might fit in so you’re not overwhelmed when you walk in the door.
Pre-write tweets and shorten links
One of my journalism teachers once told me that you should never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to, and that you should be able to write any article before you even talk to your sources, and then just fill it in with quotes.
I don’t know if I agree with that completely, but there is some truth to it. You do have an idea of what people are going to say based on what you know about who they are, and you can use that to your advantage in the live social media space.
Consult your event schedule and speakers list to assess where your content and personal or brand mission overlaps with the event agenda. Write tweets and shorten links to your own content and save them to your computer or a note on your phone so you can easily copy and paste during appropriate moments while the event is going on.
For example, if a speaker is touching on a topic you’ve written a blog post about, write a tweet linking his or her expertise to your own, and link to your post. You can always tweak them as needed in the moment, but having a framework in place will give you a huge leg up during the chaos of a live event.
Save ALL event hashtag users to a Twitter list
While you should definitely handpick speakers and event attendees you want to connect with and save them to their own Twitter list, you can use IFTTT as a catch-all to automatically add anyone who uses the event hashtag to a Twitter list. You can engage with this list in real time, and then check back in later to mine for influencers and prospects.
IFTTT (If This Then That) is a free social media automation tool that allows you to create social media recipes, cutting the busy work out of social media. This recipe will automatically add anyone who uses a hashtag you specify to a Twitter list you specify.
During the event
Creating a live experience for a virtual audience entails more than just conveying information.
Make your audience feel like they’re experiencing it with you
This is the ultimate goal for effective live tweeting. You want to provide a rich experience that makes people who are following along from home feel like they’re in on the action.
Live tweeting is not like writing a novel, where each sentence is contextually dependent on what came before it. While there should be a narrative structure to the progression of your tweets, each post should be able to stand alone. That means every tweet should be invigorating and logical both in and out of context.
Focus on quotes, brief snippets of information and calls for action (what issues are the speaker addressing, and what suggestions do they have for change?).
Media is your best friend. Take photos and videos not just of the speaker, but of the overall ambiance. How is the audience reacting to the information provided? How is the room uniquely set up? What is the overall energy like, and how can you capture it on film?
Pay close attention to detail
Creating a live experience for a virtual audience entails more than just conveying information. They don’t want to know just what information you’re gathering, they want to know what it feels like to be there.
I live tweeted an event once over a course of three days, and my most retweeted tweet was a picture of cupcakes. Whether you want to call that a success or a failure is irrelevant – people were interested not just in the intellectual value of the event, they wanted to celebrate along with us.
Pretend you’re a detective and absorb everything about your surroundings. Also pay close attention to the reactions you’re having. If a small detail struck you as interesting, it may captivate your audience as well, but at the very least it will add a dose of personality to your coverage.
Engage in real time
People get so caught up in documenting every moment of their event experience on social media that they forget the most powerful use of these platforms is connecting. Take a few minutes every couple of hours to thank the people who are engaging with what you’re posting and connect with other people at the event using the hashtag. This very often leads to in-person conversations between sessions – a remarkably fast, efficient and free form of lead generation.
Post to other channels besides Twitter and Instagram
The majority of live event coverage takes place on Twitter and Instagram, but don’t neglect other channels that could benefit from your content. Aggregate your photos into a Facebook album, upload a native Facebook video (engagement rate is now 97% higher than YouTube) and pin to an event Pinterest board.
Use these channels to tie the event back to your brand by linking your Pinterest photos to related content on your sites and writing a Facebook post that talks about you or your brand’s connection to the event’s key areas of focus.
After the event
Now is the prime opportunity to help your business prospects connect the experience you shared with opportunities to put learnings into practice.
Aggregate your assets
After a day or more of being elbows-deep in live social media event coverage, you’ll hopefully have gathered a number of quotes, insights, images and video snippets. Now that the chaos has ended, take some time to aggregate all of your collateral, and combine it with others people have shared publicly on social media sites.
Create a follow-up blog or a series of blogs about the longer term impact of the event, adding your own thoughts and insights as you continue to absorb the information.
You can also highlight content from around the web on one of many virtual storytelling content curation platforms like:
If you’ve done your job right, you’ve participated in a number of meaningful conversations with people at the event or interested parties engaging with your content and the hashtag in general. Take some time to look through those conversations, really study who the people are you were talking to, and look over the hashtag for any opportunities you may have missed.
Follow-up with these prospects while the event is fresh in their minds, and the excitement is still alive. Now is the prime opportunity to help your business prospects connect the experience you shared with opportunities to put learnings into practice. Use your shared experience to form the relationship, then bring the conversation back to ways you can help each other in the future.
What tips do you have for covering live tweeting events? Tell us in the comments below!