By Molly Rivera
If you see me at a community event, you will undoubtedly notice my phone glued to my hand. But before you judge me for being another millennial who cannot go five minutes without sending a text message, consider this alternative: I am engaging with the people around me in a productive and enriching way.
Sharing IRL experiences on social media has become standard practice for many people, not just youngsters these days. Organizations must take advantage of these interactions, rapid-response style, in order to deepen their engagement in real time. When people post a selfie while volunteering with your organization, attending your event, or supporting your cause, you can benefit from the exposure and strengthen their connection to your brand by responding in real time.
While there are of course lots of ways for nonprofits to engage with their audience on social media, here I will focus on live tweeting an event. For me, Twitter is still the best option for sharing live, continuous updates for the following reasons: 1) The hashtag function easily allows the event organizer and attendees to view aggregate posts. 2) You can post plain text, photo, gif, or video updates. 3) It shows you which topics are trending, which means if your Twitter game is on point, you can gain major popularity ratings and street cred while attracting new followers.
Now, before you start brainstorming your event hashtag, know that not every event lends itself well to live tweeting. The event has to be, well, eventful, and should be well-attended. Ask yourself: Will there be plenty of updates to share that are interesting to other people? (Hint: Will anyone else care?) Will your Twitter audience be able to learn from your tweets, be entertained by them, or be called to act? Will the event have good visuals? Events such as conferences, community forums, or large, one-day activities like a 9/11 Day of Service are all live tweeting no-brainers. But other, smaller events may be more appropriately covered with a single Facebook post.
If you still need convincing, here are three reasons to live tweet your event:
- It creates a digital record of your event. Afterward, you can create a cool Storify to memorialize the experience and send in a link to attendees.
- It gives your attendees another way to participate in the event and engage with you. This is a great option for introverts who may prefer to network digitally and extroverts who feel compelled to share their life with anyone who will listen.
- It lets you show your event to the world. Attendees can share what they learned. Non-event attendees can follow along from home. And organizations can show everyone else why they should mark their calendars to attend the event next year.
Now that you’ve made the decision to live tweet, it’s time to prepare your fingertips. Because live tweeting is harder than it looks.
Even though each tweet is only 140 characters or less, effective live tweeting requires concentration and mad writing skills. Sounds simple enough, but things get complicated real quick when you are in the middle of dozens of distractions, technical issues, event hiccups, and people constantly trying to talk to you. Whenever you tweet from your organization’s account, you must remain professional and on-brand. That means no typos, errors, or inaccurate information. That means engaging with people in your authentic and consistent brand voice. And that means doing it quickly (it is called LIVE tweeting, after all).
As the organization’s live-tweeter, you must be prepared to essentially write constantly for the duration of your event, conversing with lots of different people at once and facilitating meaningful dialogue. As you can probably imagine, this can be tiring if your event is super long. Just as in a real conversation, it can be challenging to always have something to say. Plus, finger-cramping and eye-sight-blurring hurts.
- Choose an event hashtag that is simple, easy to remember, and unique. Do not overcomplicate it with numbers or random abbreviations. It should be intuitive and short, otherwise people will use the wrong one or it will take up too many precious characters.
- Make sure people know the hashtag. Write the hashtag on every surface possible at your event. Include it in the program, on the tables, and on your signage. Remind attendees throughout your event to share their experience on Twitter.
- If you have a pre-event registration process, ask for people’s Twitter handles on the registration form. Then, before the event, tweet at each attendee (or as many as possible), and tell them you’re excited to see them at the event. This will remind them that it’s happening, and alert them that you are on Twitter and want to engage with them in that space.
- Talk to your event team beforehand, and tell them that this is your only job for the day. This might not be possible for every team or event, but in my experience, if you want your hashtag to trend, you must keep that focus. If you’re doing it right, live tweeting should be almost all-consuming. Politely ask your team to please leave you alone during the event. Ask them to help run interference if they see you getting caught up in a different task or conversation. Remember: Your job is to engage with attendees online. On the event day, you exist only in the Twitter universe.
- Bring a portable charger/battery pack with you. Live tweeting will eat your phone’s battery for breakfast.
- Have your event schedule, talking points, and key facts on hand at the event. This will save lots of time when people ask questions, and will provide good filler content whenever there’s a lull in the dialogue. I like to have them written in a note on my phone so I can easily copy and paste into a tweet.
- Include the hashtag in every single tweet. Even if the tweet is just the sunglasses emoji, put it in there. This will help you trend.
- Respond to every tweet that you possibly can. And not just with a ‘like’ or ‘retweet,’ but an actual written response. If someone says “OMG having so much fun at this event!” Respond with an “OMG we are too! Thank you for coming! [Insert event hashtag]” This will also help you trend. Plus, it’s good manners.
- BONUS TIP FOR THOSE STRIVING FOR MASTERY: Tweet in your brand voice and be consistent. Tweet quickly, but carefully. Triple check for typos. Use correct grammar and punctuation. You want to be professional, even in the heat of the moment. Nay, especially in the heat of the moment. You need to be the omniscient voice of your organization while also showing some personable, human qualities as identified by your brand. At @YNPNTriangleNC, we like to use lots of emojis and GIFs because we’re so young and hip. Find your voice and do that, every time.
Molly Rivera works at the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina as their Communications Associate. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Triangle NC chapter and volunteers as a Children’s Group Facilitator at InterAct of Wake County.