Live Tweeting OneWebDay: Lessons Learned

September 22, 2009

Time seems to speed up when you’re live tweeting. Especially when you lose your Internet connection.

These were among the lessons I learned this morning from my first live tweeting experience, covering Elon University’s OneWebDay celebration.

For the international Earth Day-like event, designed to raise awareness about the Web — this year specifically about digital inclusion, my interactive media classmates and I surveyed attendees of our school’s weekly College Coffee gathering about their Web use and knowledge. Through this, we learned that less than 20 percent of them spend more than 15 minutes a day accessing the Web from a mobile device and they learned that Tim Berners-Lee proposed the World Wide Web in 1990.


Ideally, I would have done more advance promotion. Live tweeting is a great tool for interacting with your audience and building your brand, but, you need readers to do this. I did post tease tweets on my professional and personal accounts yesterday and, on my way out the door to go to the event, verbally told a couple of classmates still in the computer lab to follow suit. Even these minimal efforts produced a couple of retweets promoting my coverage. However, as I was live tweeting just to expose myself to the experience, whether my coverage bore any journalistic or marketing fruit was secondary.


This exercise was similar enough to covering events for delayed Web or print publication that I knew enough not to go into it blind. I typed up a text file containing pre-made shortened urls for content I thought I might want to link to and keywords for tweets I wanted to make sure I got in. This prepwork definitely paid off. I didn’t waste time or miss important details creating links, and my keywords led to descriptive tweets. These three were respectively based on the prompts “weather,” “shirts” and “food.”

It’s an overcast but pleasant first day of fall here in N.C.’s Piedmont Triad. A few occasional drizzles. #OWD09

iMedia students, clad in black #OWD09 T-shirts with the hashtag in teal on the back, are setting up. Students are starting to file in.

Crowds snaking around food spreads. Donuts, fruit, sweet tea &, of course, coffee. Unfortunately, tastes/smell uploads not poss. yet #OWD09

To get others’ voices in my coverage, I also made plans ahead of time to interview a few attendees (this would have been easier with a netbook instead of a laptop), asking them, “What’s your favorite thing about the Web?” Here is one resulting tweet:

Getting similar responses. Freshman Sunny likes the “Unlimited information. If you want to find something it’s out there.” #OWD09


The “#OWD09” in each post is a hashtag. Hashtags help readers find information on a specific topic. This particular hashtag is the tag OneWebDay organizers asked content creators to put on all OWD-related posts. If any of my classmates were also live tweeting today’s event, it would have made sense to add a tag specific to our school so everyone’s posts could be accessable from a common page.


Thinking of stuff to write about wasn’t an issue. Writing it quickly and maintaining a certain threshold of quality was. In hindsight, I might have put too much pressure on myself to constantly churn out content. Allowing more time to think about and edit posts might have better served readers. I did have my share of typos, which, the way I understand it at least, are tolerated in live tweeting, but only to an extent. I might have had too many.


As I mentioned farther up, the opportunity for interactivity is one of the strengths of live tweeting. A fellow user might write me, for example, “I thought government researchers invented the Internet, not Tim Berners-Lee,” and I could explain that the Internet and the World Wide Web are two different things. However, had anyone been asking me questions, since my coverage lasted only about an hour, I doubt I could have kept up with them and what was happening around me. Here, a co-tweeter would have likely been needed.


I’ll end where I started: Cumulatively, there was probably about 10 minutes where I lost my wireless connection. This can be a helpless feeling, and, toward the last quarter of the event, I thought I had lost it for good and began scanning for someone with a smart phone he or she could loan me. To avoid such panic, having a built-in backup would have been a good idea.

One Response to “Live Tweeting OneWebDay: Lessons Learned”

  1. andersj Says:

    Good review of the work. As a reporter I would have played “catch up” and even if it wasn’t “live” at the moment I would have tweeted lines like “Now Janna Anderson of IMagining the Internet is starting the iMedia event” “Dr. Glenn Scott is talking about the importance of the Web in spreading knowledge and enabling free speech everywhere.” Etc.

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