Those of us who love Twitter are, by this point, used to answering the questions of the uninitiated who don’t understand the point of 140-character microblogging. When I am called to Twitter’s defense, I always find myself waxing rhapsodic about live-tweeting, the phenomenon of participants in an event sharing the highlights with their followers who can’t be there in person.
When done right, live-tweeting can extend the reach of conferences, lectures, and other collective experiences. But when handled poorly, all it does is clog up your followers’ feeds and aggravate those you’re trying to help. So I’ve compiled a list of best practices I’ve seen to help us all be better live-tweeters.
1. Tell your followers in advance that you plan on live-tweeting an event. Since presumably many of your followers will be interested, this could alert some of them to an event they might want to attend and tell others that they should at least tune into your feed at the right time. However, this will also tell your followers who aren’t interested in your live-tweeting they might want to mute you for a while. [Didn’t know you can temporarily mute noisy followers? Check out Proxlet for an app that will let you do just that. Remind your followers of such an app before your live-tweeting starts and you’ll likely earn accolades from ]
2. Make sure you know the hashtag for the event — and follow it! If there are multiple people live-tweeting the same event, you will likely find some of the same things interesting. Paying attention to what others are tweeting will help prevent multiple people tweeting the same quotes and make the feed much more useful for those following remotely.
3. Make it clear when you’re quoting a speaker or when you’re offering your own commentary. Don’t forget how @-replies work: if you begin a tweet with someone’s Twitter name, the only people who will see that tweet are those who follow both of you. However, if you want to follow a script-style attribution (e.g. @itsdlevy: This is what I said.), follow the now-standard practice of starting your tweet with a period (e.g. .@itsdlevy: Now everyone will see this tweet!). Two other options are to end your tweet with an attribution (Like this - @dlevy) or begin your tweet with the hashtag (although this is the least-employed option of the three).
4. If you can’t say it in 140 characters, break it into two tweets. It’s tempting to shorten words to make your thoughts fit into a tweet, but if your words are so truncated your readers need a secret decoder ring to understand them, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Remember, Twitter is primarily a means of communication — if you’re not being understood, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re concerned that readers won’t know that your tweet is only half a thought, you can always indicate that there’s more to come with a simple (con’t) or (1/2) at the end. And for the love of God, don’t use a tweet-lengthener like deck.ly or twitlonger. If you really can’t say whatever it is you’re trying to say in 140-character dispatches, consider live-blogging rather than live-tweeting.
5. Keep your audience in mind. You don’t need to create an entire transcript of the event, but make sure you provide enough content for those who aren’t attending to follow the main points. Don’t be afraid to offer your own commentary and participate in backchannel chat as well. Presumably, your followers are interested in your point of view — that’s why they follow you!