Election 2016 may go down as the Year of the Tweet, as the miniature messages have become a weapon of choice for all the candidates running for president. Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) has become particularly known for his pithy zingers, but Secretary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) and third party candidates Gary Johnson (@GovGaryJohnson) and Jill Stein (@DrJillStein) also employ them.
Just in case you have been away from your computer for the last decade, a “tweet” is a message composed via the Twitter service, limited to 140 characters plus certain attachments.
Although you can tweet your messages whenever they strike you, from your computer, phone or tablet, perhaps the most rewarding and effective method of using this technology is the “live tweet.” A live tweet is connected with an event, such as a speech, a sporting event, a concert, or a TV show, that is occurring as the tweet is broadcast. This allows your message to be seen by people who have focused on the same topic as you and facilitates back-and-forth discussions.
I have been live tweeting during a late-night political talk show for a couple of years. During this process, I have made friends, learned things, and have found techniques I’ll share for setting up to live tweet, what software to use, and how to be a more effective Twitter communicator.
Most events will have a “hashtag” associated with them. A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by what was once called the number sign on a keyboard: #. On the left side of the computer version of the Twitter screen, currently popular or “trending” hashtags are displayed. As I write this, #NationalGirlfriendDay and #JoeBiden are trending. Not sure if there’s a connection there.
For a live tweet you will want to open Twitter in two tabs on your browser. One tab will be for writing messages and the second tab will be for monitoring messages which contain the hashtag. In the second tab, you type the hashtag into the “Search Twitter” field in the upper right of the screen. This returns search results with a menu across the top. The default status for this menu is “Top,” which shows you the most popular tweets containing the hashtag. You’ll want to select the second option, “Live,” so you can see the tweets in a conversational mode.
If this will be a recurring live tweet for you, you can save the hashtag search by choosing “More options” from the search result menu. Towards the bottom of the dropdown menu will be an option to “Save this search.” This will make the search term available from within the search field at the top of the screen for future use.
Revving It Up
Besides your browser, you may want two additional types of software to help with live tweeting.
You’ll find that in live tweeting certain phrases or words may be popular or useful multiple times. A note-taking program allows you to save linguistic gems or corny jokes to have ready to cut and paste. I use Microsoft OneNote for this. Free alternative note-takers include Evernote, Google Keep, and Zim. As a bonus, these note-takers can prove invaluable in organizing your digital life whether you live tweet or not.
The second type of software you’ll need is a clipboard utility. When you highlight something and copy it, it remains cached only until you copy or cut something else. If you dive deep into live tweeting like me, you’ll find yourself wanting to copy multiple items and combine them into one tweet.
To achieve this easily, I use Copy Recorder. This saves my live tweet hashtag, other popular hashtags, the Twitter handles of friends or celebrities, and anything else I might need. Instead of having to go to the source and recopy something, I just need to click on it in Copy Recorder and it is back on the clipboard, ready to be pasted again.
There are many similar programs, both free and modestly priced. If you go to CNET and search for “clipboard” you’ll find hundreds of variations on this type of utility.
Now you have the software you need. Next, there are human factors to consider. If you are live tweeting during The Big Bang Theory (#BigBangTheory) this won’t matter as much, but if you are trying to reach people during a presidential debate, there are three things to keep in mind.
Don’t be a troll. You won’t change anyone’s mind by insulting people. I’ve received responses to my tweets such as “You live in a fantasy world” or the ever popular “You’re stupid,” usually misspelled “Your Stupid.” None of these tweets did anything to change my mind. Save your keystrokes.
Be helpful. I recently responded to a tweet in which a person expressed frustration that the federal government was spending money on ships for the Navy: “What do we need ships for anymore!” In my response I explained how naval power supported troops deployed in combat zones. I received a tweet back thanking me for taking the question seriously and answering in a constructive manner. I think my tweet helped that person and improved the level of dialog.
Lastly, maintain a sense of humor. Humor is usually the best way of pointing out things that are wrong in the world. Although people have become hypersensitive about comedy recently, if you can make people smile or even LOL, you can connect and communicate more effectively, as in the tweet below: