Hosting a “Live Tweeting” Event

Posted by: Lindsey Hardegree on Aug 27 2010 / Comments (0)

This spring I hosted a “live tweeting” event for the Alliance Theatre‘s production of Lookingglass Alice, and it was a huge hit.  This was the first time that the Alliance Theatre did something like this with Twitter, so it was as much a learning experience as it was a great way to spread the word about the show.

Preparing for the Event

We spread the word about Twitter Tuesday via Facebook, Twitter, and the Alliance Theatre’s website.  Interested parties were told to email me with their Twitter username.  I did a little bit of screening because we weren’t just giving free tickets to anyone – we wanted some quality tweeting!  The rough guidelines that I used were that the participant must have posted a tweet in the past month, must have made a minimum of 10 tweets overall, and must have at least 20 followers (or 30 followers if their account was private).  By doing this we were able to weed out people who hadn’t tweeted in a year, people who joined Twitter just so that they could get the free tickets, and people who didn’t have any followers, and therefore wouldn’t be helping with our word-of-mouth.

People who were eligible were given two free tickets.  Their guest was welcome to tweet as well, but it wasn’t required.  The day before the event I sent out a reminder email to all the participants with a brief description of the show they were going to see, some guidelines for the evening (tweeting must be done via cell phone, phones must be on silent, no photography/videography during the show, etc.), details about where their tickets would be, and some tips I found online at Twitter Journalism about how to live tweet an event.

The Event

On the night of the event, I was in the lobby of the theatre the entire production so that I could greet people as they came in and answer any questions they may have (either in person or via Twitter).  We purposefully sat all of our Twitter Tuesday participants in the rear of the balcony so that all the other patrons at the performance weren’t disturbed by the cell phone use.  I created a packet for each participant containing a handout with the guidelines from my email the previous day, a copy of the show’s press release, and an article that had been printed that day in one of the local papers about the show.  I placed this packet on each participant’s seat so that when they entered the show they had something waiting for them.

Results

When the Alliance Theatre does free ticket offers, typically about half of the people show up (since they didn’t pay for the ticket, they don’t feel obligated to attend).  For Twitter Tuesday, we had 65 Twitterers and guests RSVP, and 89% of those attended, which was fantastic.  Of those 11% not in attendance, only one was a Twitterer – the others were all guests.  As soon as the show was over I went back up to the office and immediately sent an email to all of those who attended thanking them for attending, giving them an offer for 25% off our next show, and providing them with a link to a SurveyMonkey survey about the Twitter Tuesday event.  About half of the participants responded to the survey, and the results were mostly very positive; on an overall scale of 1-5, we got a 4.31.  By far the most common comment was how fun both the show and the live tweeting experience were.

On the less positive side, our comments were mainly about . . .

  • cell phone reception, which we were able to pinpoint to one particular service provider.
  • seating.  Since we had everyone in the back of the balcony to minimize disruption, a few of the Twitterers mentioned that they would have liked to be closer to the stage – a challenge to work on for the next Twitter Tuesday!
  • other patrons.  Apparently the other balcony patrons did not read the signs in the lobby about the event being live tweeted and felt disrupted by the cell phone use.  We would consider a live announcement or program stuffer for next time.

I counted 508 mentions of the #ATLalice hashtag the night of the event and the next day, which was awesome.  We also made it into the trending topics in Atlanta the night of the show!

Tips for Hosting a Live Tweeting Event

From this experience I got several takeaways that would be relevant for anyone interested in hosting a live tweeting event:

  • Make your participants feel special. We got so many compliments on the packet I provided!  By treating our participants as special audience members we were able to put them in a good frame of mind before the event even started.
  • Set clear expectations. By providing some tips for live tweeting, setting up a hashtag, informing participants of the correct spelling for our username, and reminding them of the rules of the theatre we created a friendly environment that worked for our participants and the theatre.
  • Pick an event that is well suited for live tweeting. Lookingglass Alice is an interactive, fun show with lots of visually appealing scenes.  If we had done Twitter Tuesday with one of our more serious, cerebral shows, I do not believe that it would have been so successful.
  • Prepare all of your audience and staff. Make sure that you let your ushers know that for this specific section, cell phone use is OK.  Make an announcement before the lights go down that lets all the other audience members know what’s going on.
  • Make it work for your needs. We could have easily opened this up to everyone who wanted to live tweet, but by screening our participants we maximized our bang for our buck with those free tickets.  We also picked a preview performance for Twitter Tuesday which meant that all of those great tweets and some blog posts that followed were  out there for the general public to see at the beginning of the run of the show.

The live tweeting concept works well for performances, concerts, festivals, conferences, and galas.  I’d love to hear your ideas on how live tweeting has (and hasn’t) worked!

Image by PechaKucha Night Denver

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