Anthony Basile

Whenever something is going on that affects and impacts your business — something you wish your audience could hear about — social media posts are your way to get through. Delivering a directness and capacity for instant reactions, social networks provide a forum for you to turn big events into great opportunities for engagement.

This is still true in the era when so many gatherings have gone virtual, with live event crowds being phased out for the time being. An event doesn’t have to be happening in person for you to talk about it with your audience. A video press conference, a webinar or the premiere of a pre-filmed piece of content is perfectly valid as the subject of social media hype. As long as you have an audience that wants to hear your message in real time, you’re in business.

Twitter is likely the social platform of choice for these purposes. While the “Story” features on Instagram and Facebook are able to reach people with fleeting and timely messages, the constantly updating scroll of a Twitter feed, and easy hashtag navigation, make it the perfect medium. But there is a difference between simply sending off some tweets and really committing to live tweeting. This guide will help you do the latter.

What is live tweeting?

Live tweeting is simple, really. This is just the act of posting comments on something as it happens, all united by a hashtag that will help people find information about that event in general.

The event in question can be anything from an industry conference, hosted by your company or another business, to a more general cultural event such as an awards show or big game broadcast. With that said, some types of events are much better suited to this treatment than others, as you will see.

Why should live tweeting be part of your social media marketing strategy?

The main reason to live tweet an ongoing event, rather than simply putting out posts on your normal cadence, is that you have the opportunity to speak to a specific audience at a particular time. Twitter itself pointed out that the number of people talking about an ongoing event can be massive, with 33.6 billion people viewing tweets about the 2018 Olympic Games and 4.8 billion impressions coming during the 2017 season-end showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots.

Events in your industry will clearly draw smaller audiences, but are likely better for targeted social media marketing purposes. The people watching the hashtags related to these gatherings have an investment in your field, and may want to hear your perspective on it. Rather than entering the blur of chatter around a big cultural moment, you’re zooming in on a relevant audience.

What types of businesses can benefit from live tweeting?

While live tweeting is a helpful item for your social media strategy toolkit, it’s not the kind of tactic to use all the time, and it suits some industries much better than others. Twitter’s own workbook for business users confirms this fact. The general rule of thumb is that if your company does not have a close relationship to the event unfolding, getting involved on Twitter may do more harm than good.

If your business frequently hosts or presents at events where new products are revealed or where your people provide thought leadership, you’re a great candidate for frequent live tweeting. Simply deciding to jump into the conversation around a trending topic, on the other hand, is likely a mistake. You should ask yourself whether your brand has the kinds of insights or comments people watching the event are likely to find useful or valuable. If not, it’s best to sit out and await a better opportunity,

What types of events make the most sense for live tweeting?

Some of the best events for live tweeting are industry gatherings or conferences. As Twitter’s workbook notes, companies that host their own events are the prime candidates for high-quality live tweeting experiences. Business News Daily added that it’s a common best practice for the presenting organization to come up with an event hashtag that all attendees can use, bringing them into the conversation and creating a stream of great content for the duration of the conference.

While those events are largely on hold, at least physically, they are still taking place digitally. While you can’t have an employee in the hall adding Twitter commentary from the room, you can still follow the same live tweeting practices as if it was happening in person, providing updates and insights and encouraging the audience to get involved.

As Business News Daily added, though, the most common events to receive the live tweet treatment are the big ones, the major football games and other events that draw people together to watch the same thing on television. Of course, trying to carve out some of the conversation amid such a big audience may simply end up with your message being lost in the crowd.

What goes into live tweeting an event?

Live tweeting is not something to do on a whim. Ideally, you will deliver a series of posts timed to coincide with the rhythm of the live event, and with each update becoming part of a greater message. Business News Daily notes they should all be posted as part of one reply thread, making it easy for viewers to follow your thoughts and see the exact order and timing of your thoughts. This combination of spontaneity and strategy is something your social media team should prepare for in advance.

Twitter’s workbook recommends getting in alignment well before the event, agreeing on a few things that will happen during the event that will definitely be the subject of tweets, or a few pieces of content to share. Deciding on topics ahead of time — and clearing them with PR or marketing leaders — is a better strategy than deciding on the exact text of tweets to send. You don’t want to be caught making an incongruous post when the reality of the event doesn’t match your pre-planned tweet.

If you’re the host of an event and consequently the one picking the hashtag, you need to make sure that hashtag is not being used by something else and promote it so that other brands, event attendees and viewers can jump in and communicate. Twitter Business explains the hashtag should change for every event, for maximum clarity. Next, it’s time to determine the content of your posts.

What types of content and information should you share?

Actually figuring out what to say is a more difficult part of the process than you may think. One thing not to do is to share openly promotional posts, especially when you are tweeting along with a greater cultural event rather than your own gathering. Twitter pointed out that major companies such as Duracell were successful by posting fun, lightly branded content that was more celebratory than sales-focused. People scrolling through a fast-moving online conversation don’t want the hard sell.

The right mix of content types is important for engagement, too. Mixing things up with animated GIFs or short videos is a good tactic. According to Twitter Business, a snappy, 5-second video is the sweet spot. This is short enough that people can watch it while still paying attention to the event itself, which is their primary focus.

How do you keep your audience engaged?

When you reach directly out to your audience, giving them chances to get involved with your brand’s live tweeting, you have a better chance at maximizing engagement. This is why Business News Daily recommends using the poll function on Twitter. This is an easy and low-stress alternative to having full-scale conversations with followers while an event is unfolding: Give them a few multiple-choice options to pick from, set a short time for accepting answers and use the results of the poll to keep the conversation moving.

As an event unfolds, it may also be valuable to share multimedia posts of the best, most memorable moments. Twitter business notes that these updates provide engagement opportunities by giving followers a game-changing view of the event. These posts may earn levels of retweets and responses that the more mundane live updates did not attain. Of course, a great visual hook is important here, whether that’s a still photo, a GIF or a video.

How do you know if live tweeting was successful?

As you look back on an event, either in progress or just completed, it pays to ask what worked and what didn’t, and what your key takeaways are. Social Media Today notes that you should be monitoring the sentiment of discussion around your tweets. If you’re drawing a high volume of replies, but they are all negative, it’s hard to call that event a win. You should also remember that these live tweeting experiences are not about sales or conversions, as direct advertising during live coverage is not a way to attract positive sentiment.

As with any marketing strategy, your live tweeting will likely get better through time and experience, as you see which types of content get your followers excited and engaged. When you host your next virtual gathering, present at your next trade show or detect the next trending TV show that ties into your brand, you can try out new live tweeting tactics and start this process of gradual improvement.