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A LiveTweet Concerto

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I spent years of my youth playing piano.  My favorite form of play was with my piano instructor on two grand pianos.  It is perhaps my first memory of an adrenaline rush.

Music, written for dueling pianos, is often fierce, fast and so exhilarating that the crescendo of the music draws the interest of even the least musical person in the room.

I have found a similar experience in live-tweeting events.

For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, it is sharing the content of a presentation or webinar over Twitter as it is occurring live.

Imagine, if you will, an audience, who is not present in the room but willing to engage in the conversation you are watching as you share it out over an electronic platform like Twitter.  But that is only half of the equation, you must also consider what you would want to hear being unable to see or hear the presentation being given.

Now, a good live-tweet is an art form.  You must be able to actively listen to the presenter, codify their key points into concise statements, attach a consistent hashtag and quickly be able to grab actionable information like weblinks, graphics and maybe even a picture so the outside observer can get a sense of what you are witnessing.

I have found that using a desktop twitter client like Tweetdeck is very advantageous during a live-tweet because it allows me to watch the #hashtag-based conversation, see who is mentioning me or the hashtag and deal with the direct messages that are always inevitable during an engaging conversation.

What, you may ask, characterizes an ineffective live-tweet?  Here are some examples of what I find painful to watch:

  • Announcing who the speakers are, but offering little-to-none of their content
  • Lots of room pictures, but again, no key points.
  • Twitter traffic that primarily praises the speakers.  I don’t mind when it’s just a credit tweet, but don’t claim to be live-tweeting an event and make this the focus of your online conversation.  The meta-message that comes across is “we’re just bragging that we’re here and you’re not.”
  • Inconsistent use of a conference hashtag.  Even if you are using more than one, be consistent so that it sets a trend in the conversation.
  • Starting off a content-based live-tweet and devolving into your own personal opinions of the conversation.  While it’s okay to sprinkle in some thoughts and additional content of your own, ensure that the voice of the speaker carries through the full conversation.

When a live-tweet is engaging, it’s nothing short of a piano concerto because your senses will be heightened in your attempt to listen to the key information and you’ll learn much from the conversation that occurs online.  It is an informative mix of thoughts and ideas that crescendo in ways that are truly entertaining and fun.

In a day where conference travel is being limited by so many agencies due to the lack of funding, live-tweeting events can provide a very content-rich experience to your profession that magnifies the reach of the original meeting or event.

If you are a conference planner or speaker, I encourage you to seek out those who are willing to live-tweet your events which will, in turn, help your message reach many outside your room, if done well.

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My Twitter Strategy

Tonight, I’m going to share some thoughts about Twitter.  You don’t have to follow my Twitter stream very long to see that I break just about every “rule” on Twitter.  I read a lot of articles about social media and have seen the following “tidbits” of wisdom:

  • Stay on topic
  • Don’t tweet too often
  • Keep conversational tweets to 2 or less before you move to “direct messaging”
  • Have a strategy

And perhaps this works for people who use Twitter with one goal in mind or those in the marketing business who are busy calculating tweets-turned-into-sales-leads.  But I have a number of different reasons for using Twitter…

  1. News Monitoring: I like to see “breaking news” on Twitter.  Following both local and national news outlets gives me about 20-30 minute lead on when info will final trickle to an actual news website.  This is particularly important to me as an emergency manager.
  2. Professional Development: It’s interesting to me to see what other emergency managers are dealing with across the nation.  Sharing best practices, ideas and the day’s activities is like an in-motion white board that offers instantaneous feedback sometimes that can save me a ton of time.
  3. Relationship Building: I also follow a lot of “local people” who are active on Twitter because I’m very interested in what’s going on in my local community.  More importantly, I’ve been fortunate to meet many of the folks who are active on Twitter locally.  While I have learned a ton about both using the medium and how they are using social media in many other ways, I have also just made a number of new friends which is the best return on investment.

I don’t tweet around the clock.  You’ll see me drop in and out of Twitter with random bursts of conversation as time allows.  But my basic rule of thumb is that I’m authentic.  I might be live-tweeting a wedding, watching a movie with friends or tweaking the tweets with other emergency managers to help out the community.

It’s important to understand that everyone has a different strategy with regards to how they use Twitter and that is perfectly okay.  Figure out why you are there and niche your stream accordingly.  I sometimes find folks who follow others without reason or feel compelled to follow certain folks.

If who you are following is not interesting to you or you find yourself offended by something said, feel free to disengage and unfollow.  We should all be confident enough to walk away if someone’s Twitter voice is something we wish not to hear.

Use the power of the opt-in platform wisely, but remember that everyone’s voice is there for a reason and has an audience.  Become a part of the audiences that mean something to you!

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"Watching" Events on Twitter

I really enjoy the educational aspect of Twitter.  Whether it be an information-packed meeting that I’m unable to attend or a conference that I am unable to travel to, there are a number of ways that Twitter can expand your audience and the level of participation that can occur.

Most people look at me strangely when I say I’m “watching” something on Twitter.  Often, people will ask “how, in 140 characters, can you ‘watch’ anything?”

Quite easily, actually… the Twitterverse, users use a “hashtag” which looks like #keyword.  When the # mark is used, Twitter creates a hyperlink which means that you can click on this word and find all other “tweets” that use the same hashtag.

When an event starts to unfold, you might learn of it in a couple of ways:

  • Your followers might start using a similar hashtag that you see repeated several times
  • The topic might show up in the right column on Twitter as a “trending topic”
  • You might hear folks announce the use of a certain hashtag
  • You can even try using a #hashtag and then click on it after you post to see if anyone else is already using it.

I have not only observed meetings and conferences via Twitter, but have also tweeted actively at conferences and presented on various topics while my audience tweeted about my presentation.

It’s a pretty interesting phenomenon to be receiving questions and feedback from people across the country. 

Consider the implications of the broader audience during emergencies….to me, it’s important to realize that impressions, credibility and messages can already be flowing out of a meeting before a press conference concludes.  In a conference setting, it can double the power of the messages being shared to reach people across the continents. 

So, what is important to share from a meeting or conference?

  • If there is a key speaker or presenter, be sure to identify who is presenting.
  • Share the case studies and resources being shared.
  • Feel free to add some additional resources that are relative to the topic that you are aware of.
  • Use Twitter to jot down notes or key statements of the speakers.
  • Communicate with others who are also at the conference.
  • Use the opportunity to participate in parallel discussions….if you share a tidbit from the conference, parallel discussions will often occur among those watching from their desks.  
  • Pose questions (if you are “watching” from your desk, your question might be posed to the speaker and your answer received….likewise, if you are listening to a speaker and want to test an assumption and see if your followers feel the same way, you can post a question to your Twitter audience.)

What should you NOT post on Twitter?

  • Comments about the location of the conference or meeting.
  • Actions of what is occurring (like speaker line-ups) without content.
  • Endless pictures of the activity. 

Remember, share the lessons and expertise of your speakers.  The purpose of employing experts to speak to certain topics at meetings or conferences is to educate and inform the masses.  Those who are interested in the message can find it if there is consistent use of a hashtag and conversation that is interesting to participate in.

Creating engagement via Twitter will not only broaden the messages, but will be a gain for presenters who receive immediate feedback on their topic that will be valuable for their future presentations.  

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