Forget the watercooler. Twitter's become the place where people congregate to dispense with the old, "hey, did ya hear?" Except, instead of waiting until break time the next day, the conversation is always happening. For a brand, the middle of the action seems like a desirable place to be, and that is driving more brands to consider live tweeting important events. But before a brand dives into a live situation, there are a few things to remember.
Here are tips for live tweeting a variety events, including conferences, pop culture events, and unanticipated news happenings.
1. Remember it's not just about the event
"An event is an occasion for content, but it can also help drive the content beyond the event itself," said Rebecca Lieb, analyst at Altimeter Group.
For Emily Harris, content marketing manager for digital marketing agency Rockhouse Partners, in Nashville, Tennessee, this is very true. Rockhouse focuses on promoting live events, including Formula 1 races and music festivals. She has to keep in mind the fans who aren't there.
"If you do your job right and make your event look amazing, you better believe those fans are kicking themselves for not going this year. But maybe they'll sign up for your email list so they can buy a ticket for next year... or they'll run down to your event to buy tickets at the door." she said.
2. Give existing fans and followers a heads up
While watching your own feed can easily give the impression that everyone is tuned into the same event you are, they're not. As Gartner analyst Jennifer Polk said, "They might not care."
She advises to give existing fans and followers notice that your brand is going to be posting about a particular event, so that the people who want to engage and follow along can, and the ones who don't will know to check back in later, without any hard feelings.
3. Be prepared for multiple outcomes
Preparation is the lynchpin for many of the do's of live tweeting an event. For anticipated events, be ready to roll with multiple outcomes. Lieb gave the example of HBO having graphics ready to deploy during the Emmys depending on who won the award.
For unanticipated events, preparing for unexpected turns can save your brand from an awkward-to-bad situation. Harris is responsible for sending tweets during live races that are broadcast on television. Some of the races air in Asia when it's 3 a.m. in Nashville. "It's so tempting to just schedule posts like 'How are y'all enjoying the race so far?' when it should be about half-way through, but if you're not awake to monitor things, and the race gets rain-delayed and hasn't even started, people are going to notice," she said.
4. Set guidelines
One concern of live tweeting an event is maintaining an authentic brand voice, Polk said. One of the ways to do that is to create guidelines. "Understand what's in and out of bounds," she said. Knowing what is in bounds can also apply to legal matters. Prior approval may be required to use certain logos or trademarks. Clear that ahead of time and know which images to safely tweet.
5. Don't get caught understaffed
During an event, levels of brand engagement can exceed levels of engagement at normal times. Polk said to go in with a team. Have multiple people on the ground in order to accurately capture the experience, instead of relying on one person to post, take photos, video, interact with followers, and monitor the conversation.
This is where having a command center can also come in handy. "Clearly, you can't do everything in advance, which is why it's important to have a graphic designer and someone who can approve new creative in the room," Harris said. "For smaller brands, this is no problem, but for Oreo during the Super Bowl, you just know they had a team in the office that night."
6. Don't forget to listen
Having enough staffing plays into the importance of listening. "It's critical to know what people are actually talking about," Polk said. Listening is always a necessity. On the more serious end, listening can keep your brand from tweeting obliviously during a breaking news event. On the lighter end, Harris referenced Arby's success during the Grammys when they tapped into the fact that rapper Pharrell's hat looked a lot like their logo.
"Everyone was talking about that Arby's tweet about the hat Pharrell wore. Super clever social media guy? Kind of. If you read interviews with him, he'll openly admit that he saw that people were making that connection on their own. He just rolled with the opportunity and basically crowd-sourced awesome viral content," she said.
Having and using the proper hashtags can also help "drill down into the conversation," on and off-site, Polk said. One caveat: Don't go crazy.
7. Don't tweet for the sake of tweeting
Lieb warns against tweeting purely because your brand is participating in an event. The key is to make following your brand worthwhile for the people at home. "You should always add value," she said, whether by tweeting a quote, or someone's take, or images from the ground. Think "more signal than noise, " she said. Harris also stressed picking which events to tweet based on where the fans' interests are.
"If you're a NASCAR race track, you should absolutely post during other NASCAR races because you know your fans are online. However, your fans might not be as tuned in during the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics, so don't waste your resources," she said.
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.