Ever heard of live-tweeting on Twitter? It’s a way to provide real-time coverage and commentary during a live event (conference, TV show, game, etc.) in 140 characters or less per tweet, using the social-media platform Twitter.
And it’s not just for politicians, celebrities, or play-by-play game coverage. You can use this social media platform to boost your freelance business the next time you attend a writer’s conference or other event.
Live-tweeting on Twitter can help position you as an authority and break the ice at a live event, even if you’re an introvert. Once other attendees see your photo in the conference feed, many times they’ll introduce themselves between sessions and thank you for sharing their tweets.
Plus, you can gain followers from people who check the feed from home. These are people who couldn’t attend the conference or event but want to know what’s happening. Many times these people will become some of your most appreciative followers.
Live-tweeting is also a useful skill that you could offer clients, and one of several strategies you can use to monetize conferences. Posting social media updates from a live event for a client is one of those strategies. Even if you aren’t getting paid by a client, I’d encourage you to live-tweet events from your own Twitter feed to build your personal brand.
Want to learn how to use live-tweeting to connect with more people, generate leads, and give your freelance career a boost? Follow these six steps for live-tweeting at a conference or event:
1. Bring a fully charged laptop
You can live tweet on a smartphone, but I prefer having a full-sized keyboard so I can type more quickly and accurately. Charge your laptop before an event so you won’t feel tethered to the power outlet. Turn down the screen brightness if you’re concerned about battery life.
2. Look up speakers’ handles in advance
I compile speakers’ Twitter handles into a Word document before an event so I can easily copy and paste them into Twitter as they’re speaking. That saves me the time of looking up their Twitter handles during the event.
Before you go, check the conference website or brochure for the list of speakers, and then use the Twitter search to find them. Twitter is such a powerful marketing tool that you’ll often find the Twitter handles for speakers already on the conference website. Occasionally a speaker isn’t on Twitter and yes, that’s surprising, but maybe it’s less important for the type of work they do.
3. Use Tweetchat
Tweetchat is a platform that sets up chat rooms based on hashtags, so you can easily follow an event’s hashtag in real time. It also includes the event hashtag automatically, so you don’t have to type it in your tweets. You can also favorite or retweet other people’s tweets, too.
Pro tip: After a tweet or two, check your own Twitter feed and make sure your tweets are showing up. In one instance, I started tweeting up a storm in Tweetchat and only realized 20 minutes later that my tweets weren’t publishing properly!
4. Treat tweets as your notes
Someone said to me at a recent American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference, “I don’t know how you manage to tweet so much and take notes.” That would be a tall order, so I don’t generally take notes separately from my tweets. I can always refer back to my tweets to see what a speaker said, and occasionally when I hear about an app or a writing market I want to check out, I might jot it down in my Word document with an asterisks next to it. But I’m not trying to do both in equal parts.
When it’s over, be sure to go back and look at your tweets. For instance, someone in an ASJA panel on managing your money as a freelancer recommended a free app for keeping track of receipts. I live-tweeted her recommendation, then once I’d tried it and loved it after the conference, I tweeted again to thank her.
Watching the Twitter feed at a live event to see what others are tweeting can help you grow your business too. At the same ASJA conference there was a panel about coaching/mentoring. I couldn’t attend that panel, but the enthusiastic tweets from other attendees inspired me to investigate the topic further and write about it.
5. Edit quickly and ruthlessly
Since you’re confined to 140 characters, you won’t always be able to tweet in complete sentences. Embrace brevity by paraphrasing, omitting words like “an” or “the,” and choosing the shortest, juiciest nuggets to tweet. As long as you distill the essence of what the speaker said, you don’t need direct quotes. This is great practice for writing punchy headlines or email subject lines.
6. Share others’ tweets
Unless you’re a speed demon at the keyboard, you won’t be able to tweet every word a speaker says (And that’s OK. Your feed should be curated to feature highlights of what’s said). Fill the gaps in your own tweets by retweeting what others post. Often, I’ll see that someone else has distilled a point better than I could, so I’ll retweet them to amplify their reach. After member’s day at ASJA, I also created a Storify page to showcase favorite tweets from the day and give attendees and non-attendees a highlight reel.
Live-tweeting gave me the visibility to get featured in an ASJA story by Freelance Writers Den Member Etelka Lehoczky. I also had writers approach me at ASJA and offer contact details for editors they thought might be a good fit for my work after seeing my tweets.
I use live-tweeting to serve as a connector, too, which makes people willing to share and connect with me. During a pitch slam at ASJA, a colleague I know mentioned something that overlaps with another colleague’s interests. I tweeted both of them saying they should connect at the conference, and they did.
You might only be able to tweet 140 characters at a time, but live-tweeting can have a big impact on your freelancing business.
Do you live-tweet events? Share your best strategy in the comments.
Austin-based freelance writer Susan Johnston Taylor has written for The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. Follow her on Twitter: @UrbanMuseWriter.