She has live-tweeted for TEDxVienna, Pioneers, and the Central European Games Conference, to name a few. Today, Silvia Gaetano is sharing her social media know-how and showing us how to best prepare for and run live social media management at a large event.
Live tweeting sounds easy peasy, doesn’t it? It’s only social media, after all. But what many people don’t know is that live tweeting requires a lot of preparation, concentration, and the ability to make fast decisions under pressure.
For everyone who wants to know more about live tweeting, as well as those looking to get into social media management, we’ve asked Silvia Gaetano about the ins and outs of live tweeting and social media management at events.
Silvia has been working with TEDxVienna, Games Austria, the Central European Games Conference, Pioneers, VRVienna and PIXELvienna. She often does the work of a general social media manager but has specialised in live tweeting large events and conferences.
How did you get into live-tweeting events?
Silvia: I’ve been managing various social media accounts for almost two years, with my first “proper” experience being TEDxVienna. I joined them in December 2014 and started live-tweeting their events as part of a team. When I started live-tweeting for other organisations, later on, I was able to use the knowledge I gained through TEDxVienna events.
I’ve since live tweeted for many events — sometimes as part of an organisation, sometimes as a one-time volunteer, and sometimes on my personal account. In 2016, I live-tweeted the Central European Games Conference completely by myself. Everything was a lot more hectic on my own, but incredibly rewarding as well.
Live tweeting alone or in a team?
Silvia: The workload really depends on the event itself, the organisation you’re live tweeting for, the industry and a myriad of other things. Members of certain industries simply don’t tweet much or the event isn’t that well-known yet, and that makes for smaller events. Sometimes, you come across events where the hashtag isn’t properly advertised and social media was more of an afterthought. These factors mean that sometimes you can handle live tweeting on your own, while other times you need a whole social media team to cover what’s happening.
With CEGC and PIXEL, I was able to handle live tweeting and engaging the audience by myself. With TEDxVienna, it’s done as a team, and I definitely feel the difference. Because we alternate in sets of two (a live tweeter and a moderator), we’re able to take breaks and not only do we come back more refreshed, but we can also snap some interesting shots from around the conference and tweet those out.
If you have a team, alternate the live tweeters. Not only do people get to have a break, they can also snap some pictures from around the event that they can tweet.
Why Live Tweeting Is Important for Your Event or Conference
We’ve talked at length on this blog about what hashtags can do for your event, from collecting all the information in one place to being visible and accessible for your fans. But what is the benefit of pouring one person’s or even multiple people’s time into live tweeting your whole event or conference?
What are the benefits of live tweeting events?
Silvia: Live tweeting for organisations is definitely a way for them to put their own content out there and a way to be seen. If you live tweet with your own hashtag, it allows your brand to be more visible on a platform that is not only full of information but one that also moves at an incredible speed.
On that note, conference hashtags are also a way for attendees to connect with each other at the event. When I was helping out at Pioneers, I saw a wide range of attendees starting to network on Twitter. I’m pretty sure later on some of those conversations were continued face-to-face.
But live-tweeting isn’t only great for organisations and attendees. I strongly believe that non-attendees can benefit from it as well. A lot of the time, people can’t attend due to their geographical location or financial and accessibility issues. Sometimes, potential attendees are just not fast enough and the tickets sell out before they can get their hands on them.
Conference hashtags are a great way for attendees to connect with each other at an event.
After live-tweeting Game Access, I got feedback from a few people on Twitter thanking me for making them feel like they were at the conference through my live tweeting. People I didn’t even know! It was incredibly uplifting and I definitely want to do more of that.
Live tweeting brings the core information of the event and/or the talks to those who aren’t physically there. You might miss out on some of the networking but if knowledge is what you’re after, live tweeting can solve this for you — especially if combined with a live stream.
Of course, it’s possible for attendees to still network despite not being there. As a non-attendee, you can connect to those who are there through the conference hashtag. That’s definitely another plus.
Why you should live tweet your event
- Create relevant content
- Be visible with your brand on Twitter
- Make the most important information from your event widely available
- Make the event accessible to non-attendees
- Attendees and non-attendees can use your hashtag to network with each other
Before, During and After: How Does Live Tweeting Even Work?
A lot of us are already well-versed in the use of social media, but being on Twitter doesn’t yet qualify one for covering a whole event on Twitter. A lot of thought and preparation goes into successfully live-tweeting an event.
How do you prepare for an event?
Silvia: Preparing for an event is vital. First, I collect all the social media information that I can find on the speakers. This information goes in a spreadsheet. When working within a social media team, everyone needs to have access to it; Google spreadsheets is what we regularly use for TEDxVienna. But even when I handle live tweeting by myself, I generally make sure to give the rest of the team access to the file, just in case.
Once I’ve got the main information — which is usually the name, the title of the talk, Twitter handle, company name, company Twitter handle and any relevant hashtags — I start preparing some stage announcements. The schedule is usually fixed at this point, so I include the ideal times for the announcements to come out.
These announcements usually go along the lines of “give a warm welcome to <Twitter handle> from <company Twitter handle>, here to talk about <topic>.” What’s important here is to also include the hashtags that relate to the topic. If there is no space for that, it’s also fine to leave them out as long as the conference hashtag is included. The main point here is to make information easily accessible and visible to conference attendees and other people following the hashtag.
Include not just your own hashtag, but also hashtags that relate to the topic if you have some room for them in your tweets.
If I have time — and I strongly suggest live tweeters do this — I try to also draft tweets relevant to the speakers. These can refer to their work or projects, or quotes that reflect the conference topic. It’s good to have these handy because you can acknowledge the speakers’ contributions to the industry they’re in. It gives them exposure and it gives you relevant content.
Another thing that I do sometimes is to create a Twitter list of all the speakers and their associated companies/organisations. This can be pretty useful for me as a live tweeter, as well as for the attendees and the hashtag followers.
What to prepare before your event starts
- Set up a spreadsheet where you’ll collect research and tweet drafts
- Share the spreadsheet with your team
- Research your speakers: name, talk title, Twitter handle, company Twitter handle, relevant hashtags, etc.
- Prepare stage announcements incl. the ideal time to post them
- Draft tweets introducing the speakers
- Create a Twitter list with all relevant speakers, companies and organisations
What exactly does your work look like during an event?
Silvia: If you’ve done enough preparation, the actual work during the event runs more smoothly. And if you’ve gotten acquainted with the speakers’ work and the main conference topic, you shouldn’t have much of a problem live tweeting the various talks.
I usually come along an hour to two before the event starts. Usually, there are still final things being set up and this makes for pretty fun “behind the scenes” tweets that the attendees can enjoy. At this point, I’ve probably also got some scheduled tweets going off that welcome the attendees, that get followers a bit psyched up for the event, etc.
Once the main event starts, I’ve got Hootsuite and/or Tweetdeck open, as well as my social media cheat sheet with the announcements I’ve prepped beforehand. I combine live tweeting with the content I’ve prepared beforehand, be it announcements or references to the speakers’ other works.
In order to keep up with everything on Twitter, I create a bunch of different streams on Hootsuite, or columns in Tweetdeck. I follow the conference hashtag, organisation mentions and organisation/brand hashtags. Common misspellings of the conference or brand hashtags are added too, just in case.
I also follow the list of speakers and organisations that I’ve researched and prepared beforehand. I like to keep an eye on these in order to engage with the speakers and/or organisations, in case they have tweeted something relevant to the conference but without tagging the organisation or using the relevant hashtag(s).
Live tweeting shouldn’t be about shouting information at people through the internet.
These listening aspects are all important so I’m able to engage with our followers and conference attendees. In the end, live-tweeting shouldn’t be about shouting information at people through the internet, but it should get them engaged in meaningful conversations around the conference topics.
Set up streams in your Twitter app for
- The event hashtag and common misspellings of the hashtag
- Mentions of the organisation or company you’re tweeting for
- The organisation or company as a hashtag
- The list of speakers and organisations you’ve prepared
What does the follow-up work entail? How do you repurpose the content?
Silvia: For TEDxVienna events, the blogging team takes care of this. In addition, the communications team sends out newsletters and collects any news pieces covering the event.
Personally, I don’t currently repurpose the content from the event. However, I know that writing a wrap-up blog post would probably be the best step to take and I certainly want to start doing that in the future.
Have you had to deal with negative comments during an event?
Silvia: Yes, fuckups can and will happen. These can range from the less dramatic to the very problematic. It can be difficult to handle these situations without taking it personally. The most important part here — and I can’t stress this enough — is to breathe and try to put yourself in the person’s shoes.
Why are they complaining or why are they dishing out negative comments? It’s stressful to take some time to think when you have a million other things to do during the conference but if you don’t handle it now, you may lose important members of your community or, worse, the situation could get completely out of control.
Don’t take negative comments personally. You have to represent the views of the organisation.
Another thing to keep in mind as well is to understand the organisation you represent. When there are issues and you’re live tweeting for an organisation, you can’t just take your personal view into account, you have to represent the views of the organisation. You’re the person in the middle between the organisation and the followers. Sometimes it’s really going to suck, but that’s what community managers and social media managers are there for.
So the short of it is, really: Don’t panic. Listen. And empathise. Can I get a shirt with that on it? 😉
How to deal with negative comments
- Don‘t take them personally
- Put yourself in the complainers’ shoes
- Understand the organisation you’re representing
- Deal with negative remarks swiftly to avoid the situation getting out of control
What would you say is the most difficult thing about live-tweeting a whole event?
Silvia: If I’m live tweeting an event by myself, one of the main issues I have is to stay focused and not be upset if I feel like I’m missing some pretty interesting content. It has happened many times that I started typing a tweet, only to delete it because I couldn’t formulate the rest properly and had to move on quickly so I didn’t miss anything else. These things happen and preparation can only get you so far.
What are the pitfalls in your job?
Silvia: I can’t really think of any. If I really had to look for any negative aspects, it would have to be dealing with the typical image of the social media manager. You know the one: we’re always on our phones, we’re just messing about on social media, we don’t listen to the conversations around us, etc. I think this negative idea can be changed by emphasising the informative aspects of live tweeting events and also highlighting how helpful community management can be, especially for organisations and companies.
How would one go about getting into professionally live-tweeting events?
Silvia: Practice. Practice a lot and practice from your own account. Go to conferences that cover topics that you love and just start tweeting once or twice during each talk. Don’t focus on the words they’re saying but on the message, they’re trying to convey. What you’re meant to be doing when you’re live tweeting is not repeating everything that the speakers are saying. You’re adding to the discussion, you’re raising questions that are related to the talk.
When you’re live tweeting, don’t focus on the words they’re saying but on the message they’re trying to convey.
Any last words of advice for our readers?
Silvia: If you’re live tweeting for an event, make sure you’ve advertised the hashtag beforehand. It should be on your social media channel descriptions and it should go out on your social media posts sometime before the conference starts so that people can get used to it and remember it.
Print it on paper and put it up around the conference location. It can be something along the lines of “Got something to add to the conversation? Tweet at us or with #confhashtag!” Do you have conference leaflets and posters? Put your hashtag on them too. Your hashtag needs to be visible so great tweets don’t get lost.
Promote your hashtag cross-media! Don’t spread it only online and on social media, but put it on print materials, in your TV adverts, etc.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about your conference or brand hashtag. Make sure it’s somewhat short but also memorable. With so many conferences popping up and starting to live tweet, it might be difficult to not clash, but you can do it! If your hashtag clashes with an existing one, try adding the first 3 letters of your location. I also suggest including the year, as you’ll probably want to differentiate between each iteration of your conference.
Oh right, and PREPARE for your live tweeting sessions! Have I mentioned that yet? 😉
A big thank you to Silvia for giving us so much useful information and advice on how to live tweet events. The aspiring social media managers and live-tweeters among you should now have a good overview of what the job entails, as well as what you can do to make everything run smoothly.
If you have any questions for Silvia, just leave them in the comments for her! And if you’re an experienced live tweeter yourself and have something to add — any tips and tricks for running large events — please, do let us know as well.