Microblogging: My Experience

Keep it short and sweet, when you’re ready press “Tweet”

How hard is it to provide live, engaging and accessible commentary on an on-going event or subject using only 140 characters? HARD.

Microblogging is probably the most interesting new stream of journalism today. It’s technology’s answer to our constant thirst for information of any genre and it provides it to us instantly. But we don’t always want the information to be detailed, we don’t always want to see the fuller picture; that takes far too long. We want the short, quick-fire, concise version with the most important facts and that’s how this type of news came to flourish on Twitter.

“Twitter. It’s what’s happening. From breaking news and entertainment, to sports and other everyday topics, see what’s happening in the world, live, as it unfolds.” — Twitter Inc.

So how do you adapt to a news sphere where your audience wants you to sum up an event or a subject in less than 140 characters? Here are some top tips as well as some of my experiences in microblogging:

1. Planning Is Everything

Plan ahead, if you’re going to be tweeting a live event or subject — think about the types of things which could occur during event, learn the player’s names ahead of time for example, introduce speakers before they’re introduced on the screen or at the event.

I failed to do the above when carrying out my own live event, a coastal tour of Dorset, and it was really challenging to balance all of the travel requirements, taking photos and creating cool tweets with innovative hashtags at the same time.

But once I sat down for 10 minutes in a local cafe with a pen and pad, I made some notes ahead of the next leg of the tour around what types of attractions I could expect to see and some fun facts to write in my tweets. This made creating tweets easier and I even produced a few drafts ahead of a few legs to save time.

Above all, plot out the day or the event and take a look if anyone else is tweeting prior to the start of the event to see which hashtags are most prominent and trending.

Lesson learnt? Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Yes, it’s live and no one expects you to look into the future but research doesn’t hurt your case, it helps.

2. Avoid Clutter

When you get into the swing of creating good consistent tweets with engaging hashtags, don’t get too carried away with overloading your feed with identical tweets.

Press tweet and let the microblog gain traction and gather some likes, retweets and/or replies. But I found this really difficult because I don’t really have that many followers, but I did manage to get some replies towards the end of the tour.

The key though is to produce great microblogs regardless of the number of followers you have, if your tweets are great then a friend might retweet it to their hundreds and someone else might retweet it to their thousands, it can happen and has happened on countless occassions. Check out this example from a friend of mine. :

Above all, if you can engage in some conversation with followers, this can make your feed a lot more conversational and less formal.

Lesson learnt? Less is more so focus on quality over quantity. Someone won’t retweet 100 average tweets but they’ll be more likely to retweet 1 incredibly funny, engaging tweet. But this really comes down to…

3. Timings

So what’s the best time of day to tweet? Well in recent study carried out by Buffer, they analysed 4.8 million tweets to find the most popular tweeting times across several major time zones and the best times to tweet to maximise clicks and engagement.

They concluded the following:

  • Based on all of the data they collected, the early morning hours appear to be the time in which tweets receive the most clicks, on average.
  • Evenings and late at night are the times when your tweets receive the most favourites and retweets, on average.

Taking these findings into consideration, I started my live coastal tour around noon and carried it through until around 6 — well outside of the proposed best times for overall engagement by Buffer. This would explain the level of engagement, or lack thereof, on my feed during the event and the number of replies posted AFTER I had completed the event.

But the reality is that I couldn’t have completed the entire tour within a single morning or evening but it would have been far more successful during the weekend, perhaps even as a Sunday “road trip” live event.

So above all, think about your followers and consider when they would be most likely to engage with social media. You wouldn’t hand out flyers outside of business hours at a supermarket so follow the same philosophy with your Twitter.

Lesson learnt? Don’t always assume someone’s watching or reading, think about your audience and when they’re likely to be receptive.

4. Use Photos

It’s not rocket science but if we think about all of the new players in social media — Instagram, Snapchat etc. they do away with words and focus on photos so there’s clearly plenty of evidence to suggest people love them on social media.

Use plenty of photos but make sure they’re either relevant or engaging, memes are always great but use these in moderation and consider if they will add something special to your commentary or confuse your followers.

This was an area I believe I excelled in during the live event with a huge selection of beautiful travel photos. From landscapes to selfies, I included a wide variety of images during the live coastal tour. After all, photos speak louder than words, right?

Take a look at this shot I took from the Isle of Purbeck.

CREDIT: Karabo Mazibuko

If I had to do it differently, I could have included high-resolution photos from my Nikon DSLR for all those high-res photography lovers but I was carrying out the event solo so using my iPhone was the quickest way to snapshot the day. Apple and many other manufacturers have really stepped up the camera technology on modern smartphones so take advantage of the point-and-shoot ability, it saves time.

But above all, take pictures which will add to the story and complement you commentary. Don’t add photos which don’t quite link to your tweet or have the potential to confuse followers.

Lesson learnt? Ask a friend if they’d like to tag along and help with your microblogging.

If you can combine all of these things, you will have what it takes to microblog with the best of the best out there. It takes practice but once you’ve got the hang of it, it gets easier.

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