At Tweet Level: How To Instantly Engage Your Market

“It’s a real-time world now, and if you’re not engaged, then  you’re on your way to marketplace irrelevance.” Real-Time Marketing & PR.

The above quote may sound a bit extreme, especially for libraries, but being first in the conversation (offline or online) is very important.

Witness this article about librarians being silenced at the CLA Conference, with a response from the CLA President a day later. It is worth noting that it took only a day for the CLA President to respond and they did so by commenting on both the initial post and on the CLA website. However by the time the response was published, the initial post had already received over a dozen comments (none of them favouring CLA) and tweeted numerous times within that 24 hour period. Because CLA wasn’t first, and their response didn’t elucidate what occurred, it will be difficult for them to repair any damage caused.

Being first in the conversation is important because you get to control the impression you want others to see. If you aren’t first it can take a lot of time, energy and resources to change the impression others already have of  you.

So how can libraries (and LIANZA) control the conversations they want to have with their members? The Engaged Web in New Zealand report provides some excellent guidelines about how to use the web to engage with customers. Rather than reiterate what is said in the report I’m going to suggest something different but equally practical and effective – live-tweeting.

Live-tweet (v.): to engage on Twitter for a continuous period of time—anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours—with a sequence of focused Tweets. The focus can be a big live event that everybody’s paying attention to (e.g. a TV show or an award show) or it can be an event you create yourself. (Source:

I attended LIANZA Waikato/BOP weekend school in Whakatane with the purpose of live-tweeting the event. Why would I (or you) want to live-tweet? There are several reasons.

1. I’ve followed live-tweets from other people attending events in the past and have found them just as good, if not better, than being there in person.

  • Live-tweeters often share more highlights than lowlights.
  • Live-tweeters are open to questions and discussion from their followers.
  • Followers don’t have to sit through the boring bits. Followers get to live vicariously.
  • And followers also save on travel, accommodation and registration expenses.

2. I knew there would be other tweeters (@arwenamin, @paulcnielsen, @vye, @Anna_is_great) in the audience and as a result live-tweeting becomes a form of collaborative note-taking. However instead of writing notes on paper (or tablet) that only we can see, we each post them to Twitter and they become a collaborative set of notes for ourselves and people following. It’s distributed professional development (and promotion to potential new members) at its finest.

3. Live-tweeting requires a set of well-refined skills. You need to be able to listen, distill, summarise and tweet all before the next information nugget comes along. It is not for everyone but it can be learned.

4. Live-tweeting is an immediate broadcast of your event. Instead of only reaching the 60-plus people in the room we tweeted to at least 1500 followers around the world. They in turn shared their favourite tweets with their followers and so on. You get immediate feedback on specific content and can sense the level of engagement by how content is shared and discussed. In real-time. No follow-up required.

5. And last but by no means least, a cumulative effect of the previous four reasons is that following live-tweets provides a much richer professional development/event experience. Live-tweeting enables you to instantly engage with your market by providing them with pertinent, relevant and timely information. It enables you to start conversations with them and learn more about what pushes their buttons.

Imagine how valuable someone live-tweeting your event could be as a way to broadcast and promote the value of libraries with both new and current members.

Imagine how valuable someone live-tweeting an event could be if your schedule doesn’t allow you to attend, or if you only want to learn what happened at one session rather than the entire event.

Imagine if libraries pooled their training budget and collaboratively sent one person to an event with the express purpose of live-tweeting the sessions they were interested in.

If you’d like some pointers on how to engage real-time or if you’d like me to live-tweet your event, contact me and let’s see what we can work out.

A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 6 June 2012.