6 Do’s and Don’ts I learned about live-tweeting a candidate forum

For those of you who don’t know (and that shouldn’t be many of you) Twitter is not only used to monitor play-by-plays of your best friend’s week; it has also come in handy as a media source and is definitely playing a role in the 2012 elections.

To the surprise of some, the role of Twitter in politics does not just apply at the national level.  Local debates and forums gather attention as well, though it’s definitely not as excessive and may take a bit more effort.  Shank Public Relations Counselors enjoyed its own night of politics on Thursday, Oct 3 when we assisted in the coordination of the West Side Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum.  By creating a hash tag (#WSForum12) specifically for the event, we anticipated and encouraged users to hop onto their social media profiles and join the conversation.

Lucky for me, my role in the night’s event was to live tweet on the @Shank_PR handle, which actually requires more brain power than you would think.  Yes, I use Twitter daily (maybe even hourly) for my own personal use, but live-tweeting an event is a whole new ball game. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts if you really want to engage your audience.


  • Utilize your hashtag: Create a memorable hashtag and don’t forget to use it! Not only will it help you reach users who want to engage in the conversation, but it also helps spectators follow the stream and stay connected.
  • Highlight diverse points: When live-tweeting a political event especially, it is essential to cover the points and candidates from all represented parties.  Make a conscious effort to quote people that you know are from different backgrounds and have opposing views.This way you’re sure to connect with a larger audience!
  • Keep the conversation afloat: Watch out for trending statements among audience members and then react to them. If a candidate makes a strong statement that triggered a lot of attention among audience members, don’t be hesitant to tweet about it and ask for the opinions of users. If it caused that much of a stir, you’ll want to tweet about it. Prime example: #bindersfullofwomen. That hashtag was trending for more than 24 hours after it was said.



  • Share personal opinions: remember that you are representing an organization or even your own firm when live-tweeting. Sharing an opinion that may be offensive or even contradictory to the views of your organization will only leave a bad taste in other people’s mouths. Not to mention, you won’t want to get in a cyber brawl over someone else’s Twitter handle.
  • Ignore your audience: This may seem obvious, but even tweeting a “thank you for sharing” or retweeting users will make a bit of a difference. Remember that you are live-tweeting to expand the event’s reach and to make connections. If you want to keep users engaged and excited, it is a MUST to interact with the audience.

Because the West Side Chamber of Commerce forum was the same night as the presidential debate (we scheduled first), I didn’t know how much attention our tweets would receive, however, we had good reach.  Just one tweet, which included a photo of two candidates interacting, received 6 retweets in a matter of 10 minutes! Some of those “retweeters” were candidates sitting on the stage.

Concentrated Twitter activity during large events has become common and is even more evident on a national level.  Just minutes after the West Side Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum, Twitter blew up with 10.3 million tweets over a 90-minute period (highest Twitter activity in history) as a result of the presidential debate.  The same thing occurred on Tuesday during the second debate, though the numbers did decrease by about 3 million tweets.

Whether we like it or not, Twitter has become an influential factor in the 2012 local and national elections.  Not only do citizens use the site to share their own opinions, but candidates also utilize Twitter to voice their views and platforms.  Our presidential candidates have verified Twitter accounts, both of whom are active with their followers and that activity makes the difference.

It’s hard to deny the effect Twitter has made in educating younger voters on the issues surrounding the 2012 elections. Perhaps the recent increase in activity is a preview of how many young voters will be out on Nov 6.

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