TWEETWALLS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE “YO MAMA IS SOOO UGLY…”

November 23, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you: The Tweetwall – the hottest new accessory for events in the digital age.

If you haven’t seen one yet, give it time. They’re quickly becoming ubiquitous.

(How ubiquitous? How about the fact that you can now tweet prayers to appear in an aggregated feed for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?)

For those of you who are new to the concept, a Tweetwall is a projection of an aggregated; auto-refreshing conversational feed, that’s often occurring simultaneously as a real-time event or gathering.

As an events tool, Tweetwalls make a lot of sense.

Increasingly events have “back channel” conversations that are equally as compelling as the “front channel” ones. Incorporating a Tweetwall into the experience allows you to marry these on-line and offline conversations and connections.

Additionally, live streaming, social networking and virtual reality have begun to blur the distinction between being virtually present at an events and actually being there in the flesh. A Tweetwall is an excellent way to give your virtual friends a seat at the table too.

But, like any other technology advancement, there is a wrong and a right way to use a Tweetwall.

Before you jump in, here are some tips to help you avoid making any rookie mistakes.

Tweeters + Speakers = Not a Match Made in Heaven

The first exposure most of us have with Tweetwalls are at conferences or workshops where the feed is being projected behind a live presenter.

At first glance, this seems like a natural and smart move.

But as one who’s coordinated, watched and presented in front of Tweetwalls for over a year, let me be explicitly clear on one thing. In my opinion…

Tweetwalls do not belong behind presenters.

Never.

Never ever.

It’s an ineffective logistics choice from many perspectives:

  • If you have one presenter competing for focus with a wall of moving images, the wall will win every time. The images effectively neuter the presenter and dim the volume on any words that come out of their mouth.
  • By giving the audience play-by-play equal standing as the presenter’s words, you are creating an environment that nurtures a horde of armchair Simon Cowells – each one free to lob critiques at a “performer” who has no idea they are being publicly judged and no ability to defend themselves (as the comments are often appearing literally, behind their back.)
  • Presenters – especially solo presenters — can’t talk, and read your real-time feedback on their talk, simultaneously. And increasingly they are facing rooms full of people who are looking down and typing, so it’s impossible for them to distinguish who is unhappy with the presentation and who is just IMing their friend. If you hate the session, be a grown-up and just walk out. That’s a clue that every presenter can understand.
  • Even if your audience is professional about their tweets, all it takes is for one person to highjack your hashtag and say something inappropriate on your big screen (such as “you suck, get your fat ass off the stage.”*) for you to have a PR nightmare on your hands. Sadly, anonymity tends to breed brutishness in audiences, and a cutting remark never remains alone in a feed for long.
  • Even if a presenter stinks, we should honor the fact that it takes connections to land the gig, time and skills to build the presentation and guts to get up on stage. Any presenter, whether they are good or bad, deserves the time and space to present their materials without a wall of “co-presenters” metaphorically jumping in to add their comments very 10 seconds.

Good Places for a Tweetwall

Make no mistake, I think that Tweetwalls belong at events…just not behind the speakers.

So what’s a better way to use them?

  • Place Tweetwalls within other areas of your event space so they can be accessed without pulling focus from your programming (such as hallways and lounge spaces).
  • Tweetwalls are a great feature for events where there is no formal programming (like an open house or party). In these cases, the wall provides a natural and dynamic center of attention and hub for on and off line conversation.
  • Get away from the “wall” concept and focus on creating other forums where you can aggregate event conversations. For instance, dedicate a page of your event website to the feed or create a conference-specific mobile app that will allow people to observe and engage wherever they are.

No matter what format you choose, just make sure your Tweetwall strategy is a solid one:

  • Your Tweetwall should be set up to auto refresh, so it is self-maintaining.
  • Your Tweetwall can (and should) be visually branded to match your company or event. (It is a communications tools like any other you would employ.)
  • Your Tweetwall feed should be monitored, (essentially you are inviting people to participate in a dialogue within your brand space – you don’t have to moderate the conversation, but it’s good business sense to at least know what it consisted of.)

You don’t have to do all this leg work yourselves. My friends at Clockwork Active Media Systems recently build a new tool called tweetwally that can do a lot of this work for you. I highly recommend checking it out.

Don’t Forget: Tweetwalls Never Die

It’s tempting to think of Tweetwalls in one-off terms: you build it, post it and then shut it down when the event is over.

But the reality is that your Tweetwall feed is full of valuable content that will continue to live online long after your event has been put to pasture.

So give some thought to how you can mine and capitalize on this content:

  • Are you reviewing the feed post-event and following back anyone who chimed in the conversation whom you didn’t already know?
  • Are you capturing quotes from the feed that you could use for future marketing purposes?
  • Are you following up with anyone who made disgruntled comments to let them know that their voices were heard?
  • Are you generating any post-event blog posts to address the “uber” dialogue that you see running through the feed?
  • Are you pulling out constructive criticism from the feed and relaying it back to your presenter(s) in a format that will help them to improve their presenting skills?
  • Are you shifting the conversation over to a future event’s hashtag so you can effectively end this conversation and begin another?

Tweetwalls are undeniably cool. And I believe they signal the beginning of a natural evolution to a future where events will have indistinguishable on and offline experience.

Just be sure to use them strategically.

Virtual sticks and stones also break no bones, but a mismanaged Tweetwall can certainly hurt you.

*Sadly, this is an actual tweet I saw displayed during someone’s presentation.


TWEETWALLS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE "YO MAMA IS SOOO UGLY…"

November 23, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you: The Tweetwall – the hottest new accessory for events in the digital age.

If you haven’t seen one yet, give it time. They’re quickly becoming ubiquitous.

(How ubiquitous? How about the fact that you can now tweet prayers to appear in an aggregated feed for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?)

For those of you who are new to the concept, a Tweetwall is a projection of an aggregated; auto-refreshing conversational feed, that’s often occurring simultaneously as a real-time event or gathering.

As an events tool, Tweetwalls make a lot of sense.

Increasingly events have “back channel” conversations that are equally as compelling as the “front channel” ones. Incorporating a Tweetwall into the experience allows you to marry these on-line and offline conversations and connections.

Additionally, live streaming, social networking and virtual reality have begun to blur the distinction between being virtually present at an events and actually being there in the flesh. A Tweetwall is an excellent way to give your virtual friends a seat at the table too.

But, like any other technology advancement, there is a wrong and a right way to use a Tweetwall.

Before you jump in, here are some tips to help you avoid making any rookie mistakes.

Tweeters + Speakers = Not a Match Made in Heaven

The first exposure most of us have with Tweetwalls are at conferences or workshops where the feed is being projected behind a live presenter.

At first glance, this seems like a natural and smart move.

But as one who’s coordinated, watched and presented in front of Tweetwalls for over a year, let me be explicitly clear on one thing. In my opinion…

Tweetwalls do not belong behind presenters.

Never.

Never ever.

It’s an ineffective logistics choice from many perspectives:

  • If you have one presenter competing for focus with a wall of moving images, the wall will win every time. The images effectively neuter the presenter and dim the volume on any words that come out of their mouth.
  • By giving the audience play-by-play equal standing as the presenter’s words, you are creating an environment that nurtures a horde of armchair Simon Cowells – each one free to lob critiques at a “performer” who has no idea they are being publicly judged and no ability to defend themselves (as the comments are often appearing literally, behind their back.)
  • Presenters – especially solo presenters — can’t talk, and read your real-time feedback on their talk, simultaneously. And increasingly they are facing rooms full of people who are looking down and typing, so it’s impossible for them to distinguish who is unhappy with the presentation and who is just IMing their friend. If you hate the session, be a grown-up and just walk out. That’s a clue that every presenter can understand.
  • Even if your audience is professional about their tweets, all it takes is for one person to highjack your hashtag and say something inappropriate on your big screen (such as “you suck, get your fat ass off the stage.”*) for you to have a PR nightmare on your hands. Sadly, anonymity tends to breed brutishness in audiences, and a cutting remark never remains alone in a feed for long.
  • Even if a presenter stinks, we should honor the fact that it takes connections to land the gig, time and skills to build the presentation and guts to get up on stage. Any presenter, whether they are good or bad, deserves the time and space to present their materials without a wall of “co-presenters” metaphorically jumping in to add their comments very 10 seconds.

Good Places for a Tweetwall

Make no mistake, I think that Tweetwalls belong at events…just not behind the speakers.

So what’s a better way to use them?

  • Place Tweetwalls within other areas of your event space so they can be accessed without pulling focus from your programming (such as hallways and lounge spaces).
  • Tweetwalls are a great feature for events where there is no formal programming (like an open house or party). In these cases, the wall provides a natural and dynamic center of attention and hub for on and off line conversation.
  • Get away from the “wall” concept and focus on creating other forums where you can aggregate event conversations. For instance, dedicate a page of your event website to the feed or create a conference-specific mobile app that will allow people to observe and engage wherever they are.

No matter what format you choose, just make sure your Tweetwall strategy is a solid one:

  • Your Tweetwall should be set up to auto refresh, so it is self-maintaining.
  • Your Tweetwall can (and should) be visually branded to match your company or event. (It is a communications tools like any other you would employ.)
  • Your Tweetwall feed should be monitored, (essentially you are inviting people to participate in a dialogue within your brand space – you don’t have to moderate the conversation, but it’s good business sense to at least know what it consisted of.)

You don’t have to do all this leg work yourselves. My friends at Clockwork Active Media Systems recently build a new tool called tweetwally that can do a lot of this work for you. I highly recommend checking it out.

Don’t Forget: Tweetwalls Never Die

It’s tempting to think of Tweetwalls in one-off terms: you build it, post it and then shut it down when the event is over.

But the reality is that your Tweetwall feed is full of valuable content that will continue to live online long after your event has been put to pasture.

So give some thought to how you can mine and capitalize on this content:

  • Are you reviewing the feed post-event and following back anyone who chimed in the conversation whom you didn’t already know?
  • Are you capturing quotes from the feed that you could use for future marketing purposes?
  • Are you following up with anyone who made disgruntled comments to let them know that their voices were heard?
  • Are you generating any post-event blog posts to address the “uber” dialogue that you see running through the feed?
  • Are you pulling out constructive criticism from the feed and relaying it back to your presenter(s) in a format that will help them to improve their presenting skills?
  • Are you shifting the conversation over to a future event’s hashtag so you can effectively end this conversation and begin another?

Tweetwalls are undeniably cool. And I believe they signal the beginning of a natural evolution to a future where events will have indistinguishable on and offline experience.

Just be sure to use them strategically.

Virtual sticks and stones also break no bones, but a mismanaged Tweetwall can certainly hurt you.

*Sadly, this is an actual tweet I saw displayed during someone’s presentation.


The Top Five Essentials for a Successful Company Twitterfeed.

November 4, 2009

It’s started.

Companies everywhere seem to have received the “We gotta be on Twitter!” memo and are swarming to the application to fire up a feed.

But does anyone care?

Since I’m a “heavy tweeter” and follow a lot of people, I seem to be on the radar of many of these corporate feeds.

The number of corporate followers I get seems to double each week. While the amount of time I have to vet each follower is growing smaller.

As result, I’ve developed a Twitter litmus test to help me decide which companies I should follow back.

Corporate marketers? Take note:

1. Is Your Company’s Twitter Profile Complete?

Your Twitter profile is your company’s online business card. Make it an effective one.

  • Include a picture. It’s O.K. if that picture is your company’s logo. Just make sure it’s a version of the logo that looks good on multiple color backgrounds. I view my Twitter stream in Tweetdeck against a black background. If you use a gray logo with a transparent background as your avatar, I will literally never see your tweets going by.
  • Tell us where you’re located. I make it a point to follow local companies. Leave off your locale and you could be missing the opportunity to transfer the Twitter conversation to a face-to-face forum.
  • Write a keyword-rich, informative company description. Don’t waste this valuable (and searchable) real estate with dippy slogans like, “We work hard, but have fun too!” or obtuse mission statements like,  “Creating authentic experiences for consumers.” I want to know, in a glance, what you do and if it’s relevant to my business.
  • Include a URL. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a link to your corporate website. But it does have to be a link to a location that will provide me with more detailed information on what it is that your company does.

2. Does Your Twitter Profile Show Your Company Having Conversations with Actual People?

When I’m vetting a company, the Twitter profile page is an invaluable research tool.

  • Do you have hundreds of followers, but follow none of your clients or customers back? (My first impression? You don’t seem like a very nice person to do business with.)
  • Do you follow a ton of people, but have no followers in return? (My first impression? You probably post some pretty boring tweets.)
  • Is your feed full of posts, but includes no @ replies? (My first impression? You like to talk…just not to us.)
  • Is your feed full of @ replies, but no posts? (My first impression? You don’t have much to say, so you use gratuitous, “Me too!” and “LOL” comments to make your company appear “engaged.”)
  • Is your feed full of retweets? (My first impression? You have nothing original to say, so you repeat others’ tweets so you can appear relevant in the space.)

3. Is There a Sense of Human Voice in Your Twitterfeed’s Content?

Nearly all the companies that I see jumping on the Twitter bandwagon are under the mistaken impression that it’s the world’s cheapest and fastest broadcast medium.

Couldn’t be further from the truth, my friends.

If I want to know all about your company’s news and hear how awesome you are, I will go look at your website. If I want to engage with you and learn more about why your business may be relevant to mine, I will go to Twitter.

You need to have something interesting to share with me when I arrive.

You wouldn’t just walk around a cocktail party distributing promotional flyers and call that effective networking. Treat your twitterfeed the same way.

Ask questions. Be helpful. Throw your two cents into conversations. And most importantly, give me a sense that there’s a person behind the Twitter curtain.

I don’t care if that person works in marketing, PR, or the C-suite. I just need to know that they are a human.

4. Does Your Company Use Twitter to “Sell” or to “Brand?”

What is your social media content strategy? If you don’t have one, don’t be surprised if you don’t see a big return on your Twitter investment.

Write your tweets so they sound like the sponsorship messages you hear on public radio, not the ads you hear on a Clear Channel station.

Go ahead and mention your company. Share with us what you do and how you feel about the work, (Feelings? In business communications? Why yes!) and ask people questions about their businesses in return.

Structure your content so that the process of sharing and “telling” your story also serves as the “selling” of your company.

5. Does Your Company Respond to Followers and Follow Backs in a Genuine Manner?

I met a really great business contact recently and had some lovely face-to-face discussions with him. Shortly thereafter, I looked him up on Twitter and started following his company (he manages their feed).

In response to my follow, I received an auto-generated direct message with a generic “thanks for the follow” and an offer for me to download “an exclusive whitepaper which could help me double my follower count overnight!

Needless to say, this person is no longer one of my business contacts.

If I meet you, and you know my name, but you treat me like an anonymous cog when you reach out to me through social media channels, I will treat your business like an anonymous cog in return.

Treat your clients and customers like you’ve had a dirty one-night stand with them, and you’ll see a whole other side of Twitter’s power – a side that has the ability to break your company’s reputation just as easily as make it.