3 reasons why you’d livetweet

Photo by Alan Levine - www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog
Photo by Alan Levine – http://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog

I love livetweeting things.

Most of the time, I livetweet for fun and recreation. Those of you who follow me on Twitter have been privy to the joys of co-watching Eurovision, or vicariously experiencing B-grade horror flicks (or C-grade, if you’re lucky).

Increasingly, however, I’m also livetweeting in my current work role. It’s part of an overall strategy to make events and researcher connections more visible and accessible, and dovetails with a ramped up social media (including blog) presence overall.

With my research network hat on, I’ve also livetweeted a fair number of events that would interest that membership. Doing so makes member activity more apparent to one another, and to those checking out what the network’s about. The network is unfunded, and depends almost entirely on social platforms for presence and members’ connection.

So, what does livetweeting mean?

Livetweeting is defined as capturing and reporting on an event in an ongoing way through a stream of tweets, usually using a defined hashtag. For researchers, this usually means conferences and seminars, symposiums and workshops.

Why would you do it, if you’re not a big nerd like me?

I like to think of livetweeting as doing many things.

It’s partly about having a public record of what took place, from one person’s perspective, and mostly because of the three elements below!

1. Livetweeting helps create a broader conversation, and allows you to take on ‘citizen reporter’ role, for others who aren’t at the event.

Especially at a time in academia when resources are getting even more scarce, I still like to feel that I’m keeping up with key events in my field.

Without presenting a paper, chances are you won’t be getting to many (any?) events. Even if presenting, you’d aim for the most relevant, prominent conferences; you’d probably be able to afford only a few.

This leaves out a whole slew of associated, interesting, expensive gigs that you would still get value from, and this is where good livetweeted stuff comes into its own. There’s something to be said for academic tourism, especially in taking in events that are cognate to your field, but not convened on by your familiar disciplinary associations or societies. The camaraderie / incestuousness of smaller research areas, particularly, could do with a more porous approach to seeing how others do and talk about things. Sure, the Twitter take may not be at the depth that you could get in a cosy seminar room in a faraway venue with pending catering, but it’s on an international platform that can include an exponential number of people. Many of those people will have published or have an interest in the topics. You can all talk about it, and pursue the most interesting threads, long after papers are given and panels are disbanded.

Someone can then Storify these conversations, and they can have a longevity that Twitter alone can’t give them.

The inclusiveness of having livetweeted events also comes to the fore when I think about how many things I’ve missed out on because of home commitments, illness, clashing deadlines, and all manner of other #calendarfails. While there’s a measure of FOMO in taking in too many livetweeted events, judicious eavesdropping and participation can be very rewarding.

2. It’s a great way to build collegial, professional networks.

By being at the event and sharing your experience, and trying to capture content and mood, you provide a service to your academic community. It flags that you understand social media’s sharing imperative, and you’re a participant in that system. These are all good things.

Livetweeting certain events also marks out your intellectual territory and makes you recognisable to peers and potential collaborators. I’ve seen some spontaneous, strong relationships start up and endure after active livetweeting of association or society events, which are often attended by all the major people in your field and many of your colleagues. You may not have a strong publication track-record yet, but the value you bring to your area colleagues reaches beyond the event or track-record hierarchy.

Many academic events that try to build a social media presence hold ‘tweet-ups’ within their program. Tweet-ups are face-to-face meet-ups at the event so tweeters can see who’s behind the @ handles. It’s kind of fun to know how others are interpreting and experiencing the same session you’re at, and you may not know who they are or what they look like. The first time I livetweeted an ARMS conference and we had a tweet-up, I met almost 100% new people. Most of them are still within my Twitter network, and many have become good colleagues, on- and off-line.

3. Livetweeting showcases your expertise and engagement style.

Usually, in a normal feed, we tweet out a few things a day, or often fewer, and it can take a while before people are able to get a good sense of your style. When you’re livetweeting for an event, it’s a concentrated way for people to get to know your ‘voice’ on the platform.

Many people livetweet and editorialise what is taking place before them, others treat their role mostly as reporters of the proceedings. Depending on which hat I’m wearing, I have different views on both. For example, if I’m running an institution-face account, I’ll more likely depend on reporting proceedings and trying to convey what an invited speaker is saying or advising. If I’m livetweeting from my personal account and it’s at a conference that I have more professional/intellectual investment in, I’m more likely to make comments on what speakers say, or link people to other views, etc.

The process of livetweeting academic events is not without controversy and debate, of course. I’m not going to go into it in any detail here, but these links should sketch out many of the issues involved:

Each time I’ve livetweeted a day’s worth of conference sessions or other events, it has built my following and led to various professional opportunities. It also brings home to me – every time – what hard work it is to livetweet a stream that’s consistent, rich, and responsible.

I’m also writing a more practical post on how to livetweet and survive to tell the tale – watch out for that one in a few weeks’ time!


  1. Great post, Tseen. It makes transparent why using the Twitter backchannel can enrich our professional experiences. I agree that research is about sharing, connections, and conversation – http://wp.me/p4TJTj-bK – and that social media allows us to extend that.

    I’m pretty sure live tweeting isn’t just for big nerds, but as I am a big nerd myself, I’m not entirely sure!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I find live-tweeting tricky because I worry about losing focus on the paper being delivered (or also just publicly getting the wrong end of the stick!) – but might give it another go after having read this. Thanks!


    • It is an acquired skill – and I find it really depends on the type of event. If it’s one where I’m really invested in the topics / content, I can get so absorbed that livetweeting falls by the wayside. If I’m less invested, I can be a much better livetweeter, and mindful of my role as ‘reporter’ on the event.

      Also, if I’m invested in the content, I’ll be more likely to Have Opinions, and the livetweeting can be sidetracked by conversations around topics and stray from what’s actually happening at the event…!


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