The live tweeting handbook

By Ashley Crockett

We've already covered how to verify the credibility of real-time news on Twitter. But what if you're the one tweeting live coverage?

During every ONA Mizzou meeting, our social media coordinator, Andrew Gibson, sits with fingers poised, ready to share the events unfolding before him with @ONAMizzou's Twitter followers. He even makes it easy to search specifically for live tweets by using the simple hashtag #ONAMizzou.

As part of an RJI collaboration with Illinois Public Media, student volunteers will help live tweet during a webcast event today, Nov. 15. Opportunities like this are a good way to show potential employers that you have experience using social media to deliver news and information for a professional news outlet.

Read on for guidance in the still-evolving art of live tweeting.

The first rule is essentially the Golden Rule of journalism: report the truth. Make sure your tweets contain accurate and engaging information.

Before you start tweeting, assess the situation. Would a laptop or a phone be better to use? It's also helpful to have a list of names, titles, etc. already spell checked to reference.

Once you're ready to go, let your followers know that you're live tweeting. Tell them what event you're talking about and where you are. Toward the beginning of your coverage, share the important actors, the setting, the format, etc. Basically, the 5 Ws and H (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?)

Remember, sharing is caring. Just don't swamp your followers with every teeny, tiny detail. Limit tweets to intriguing and/or important quotes, ideas, observations and even reactions from the crowd. Add some fun details to keep followers interested!

Like Andrew does for ONA Mizzou events, use a hashtag. It helps catalog your own tweets while giving other Twitter users a chance to contribute their voice. Just like the #ONAMizzou hashtag, keep it simple and logical (and unique!). Check to see if others are using the hashtag to become part of the conversation on occasion, too.

Keep an eye on your @ mentions as well. Followers may have questions or comments that you can either answer or retweet. (Be sure to thank these users for the mentions during or after the event.)

If a speaker has a great point but a lengthy quote, go ahead and tweet the idea, but make sure to attribute it. After all, it's possible not everyone who sees that single tweet will see the others. If you are able to use a direct quote, don't forget quotation marks.

Since these tweets will appear strung together, almost like a story, refer to speakers by their full name and title on first reference. Last names (or, better yet, Twitter Handles) are fine for any other mentions.

Add transparency to your coverage by sharing relevant or mentioned websites. Don't be afraid to add links to photos and videos -- both can help with engagement.

Always question items presented as fact. If possible, verify information first. If that's not possible, make sure you attribute it to the speaker.

You only have 140 characters for each tweet (and that's excluding a hashtag!), so keep things concise.

What are some live-tweeting practices you follow or admire?

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