Live tweeting Osama, the royal wedding, and more

May. 9th, 2011

The news that Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant in Abbottabad, Pakistan, became the "guy who tweeted the Osama raid without knowing it" was extraordinary. It's certainly a great illustration of social media as a powerful communications medium. It also got me thinking about live tweeting and live blogging of events in general. Why do we do it, how should we do it, what are the returns, and who does it the best?

I admit I don't have the answers. I admit that I've never live blogged an event (but I'd love to hear from those who have). I have followed live tweets, though, and here's my 2 cents.

Live tweeting the founder of Twitter

One of the most memorable was the live tweeting of Twitter CEO Evan Williams' appearance at the 2009 Online News Association conference in San Francisco. I remember following #ONA09 on Twitter during the lead up to Williams' keynote, which was also being streamed live. The webcast hit difficulties—according to the tweets at #ONA09—because of a network failure at the conference hotel. Some people tweeted that they thought it was because the network was overloaded with people trying to tweet or read their tweets!

When the keynote began, people began tweeting (using the #ONA09 hashtag) blow-by-blow accounts of what Williams said. Some offered analysis. Mostly, though, the tweets gave an account of what the rest of us could see as we watched the webcast. In other words, a lot of it was noise I could have done without (repeated over and over again by different people).

Why do it?

So what's the right way to live-tweet or blog? Let's begin by asking why we're doing it. Is it because it's another social media box you need to check off your list? Or is it because it would be useful to your followers who may not be able to attend your event? Only you can answer that question.

What are the benefits?

When done right, it could be a great way for you to add some value to the event. Instead of just offering a blow-by-blow account of what your CEO is saying on stage, add value that your followers may not be able to get elsewhere. (Remember that some of your followers may actually be at the event as well—and perhaps live tweeting it for their followers.)

How about offering a link to more information on the product or service that your CEO just mentioned on stage? Or link to a photo of your exec and the special guest comedian getting ready back stage? Give your followers something that they couldn't get elsewhere.

How should it be done?

There's plenty of advice out there, so I've compiled some of the best live tweeting tips below:

Before the start of the event:

  • Ask the attendees to follow the profile you have created for the event.
  • Tell them about the hashtag and advise them to tag all tweets related to the event with the same tag.
  • Request that they retweet relevant tweets related to the event.
  • Ask the speakers to reveal their twitter user name (a.k.a., twitter handle) to the audience right before the start of their talk so that you can associate tweets related to the talk with the speaker's handle.

During the event:

  • Engage all the senses as you compose your tweets—smells, sights, sounds, etc.
  • Try to add quotes for good color commentary. For example: Obama: "We will not give up in this fight against terror."

General tips:

  • Use news judgment to decide what should and should not be tweeted. Limit yourself to a maximum of three tweets a minute.
  • Having a backup way to tweet (I recommend plain old twitter.com) to ensure you don't miss a beat.

These tips were culled from the following sources: Twitter Journalism, 5 Tips To Help You Live Tweet A Speech, and 7 Tips to Live Tweet an Event Effectively. Check them out for more information.

Who does it best?

That's a question I want you to help me answer. What live-tweet did you enjoy and get a lot out of recently? If you watched the recent royal wedding, perhaps you also followed the live tweeting via @ClarenceHouse? The royals gave their followers links to some interesting background info, such as the wedding lunch menu and pictures of the royal wedding cake.

Who, in your opinion, has done the best live tweeting of an event and why?

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