Improve your engagement through tweetcasting

I’ve very excited to welcome our first guest blogger to SMiCH!

Dave Bourne from the Scarborough Hospital was nice enough to write this post about his hospital’s recent experience with Tweetcasting.

Take it away Dave…


Health care communicators have long known that community engagement is an important part of our role—the challenge has been finding innovative and meaningful ways to do so.

The rise of social media has provided many exciting new options for connecting with our audiences. This blog is an excellent example of how a niche group can now engage and collaborate with each other in a convenient, geographically neutral space. Health Care Social Media Canada’s (#hcsmca) Twitter community is another terrific forum for this same group—the amount of sharing, conversation and collaboration that takes place daily is quite outstanding, and would have been difficult, or at least incredibly inconvenient, just a few short years ago.

Last week, I took the #hcsmca weekly tweet chat a step further, and tweetcasted one of our hospital events. The purpose was to take a live speaker series event and share highlights with a much broader audience on the Internet. Twitter allowed me to tweet out quick excerpts of interest from the presentations, and to respond to feedback or questions from followers.

This was actually my second attempt at tweetcasting; last November I tried a similar experiment with one of our town hall meetings. I learned a few lessons that made this recent tweetcast much easier to manage. Here are some tips to consider if you plan to Tweet a live event:

  1. Plan ahead. If you can get copies of presenters’ speaking notes ahead of time, you can actually put together a rough outline of your entire tweetcast. Trying to listen to a speaker, absorb key points and share them in 140 characters or less is a tough job—trust me. You still need to be alert for deviations from script, or questions from the audience, but having a pre-written outline helps get you through the tweetcast.
  2. Don’t try to tweet everything the presenter says. Where possible, link followers to online resources for more information. Again, this is where advance planning really helps prepare a more fulsome tweetcast. Think of sports broadcasts, where the network weaves in occasional interview clips, stats graphics or announcer analysis—these are all techniques for a giving the audience interesting, value-added material that complements the actual broadcast.
  3. Use a unique hashtag. It’s easier for people to follow along when you choose a hashtag for your event. Append all your tweets with that tag, and you’ll create a conversation thread. It will also make it easier to create an archive after your event.
  4. Promote your tweetcast shamelessly! Figure out who your online audience is, and look for ways to reach them directly in advance of your event. Are there Twitter communities related to your topic? Facebook groups? Share your tweetcast information and drum up some support. It’s amazing what a few well-placed retweets can do to spread your message.
  5. Follow up after the event. Post an archive of the discussion on your web site or blog so there is a permanent record of the chat. Share the link with the same groups that helped you promote your event online. If appropriate, you can also post additional information from the event that wasn’t part of the tweetcast—PowerPoint slides, videos, podcasts, photos—the richer the media, the more your online audience will appreciate it.
  6. Get a dashboard. Free programs such as TweetDeck or HootSuite make it much easier to stay on top of emerging conversations. The dashboard design allows you to monitor the current discussion thread (identified by the unique hashtag you’ve chosen), as well as Mentions, Retweets and Direct Messages. Essentially, a dashboard program allows you to display all those feeds, side by side—an option that Twitter doesn’t provide on its own.

 So how did tweetcasting benefit us? Well, based on the retweets, mentions and DMs I saw, there was a small but engaged group of followers reading the feed. I received four questions from followers, three of them from Direct Messages. During the tweetcast, we picked up several new followers, all of them with a specific interest in aging and eldercare issues. Not bad.

Ann Fuller, who maintains this blog, asked me about our ROI for the event. Here’s where I struggle—and judging by several #hcsmca posts in recent months, I’m not alone). I know how much money was spent to host the live event, how many attendees we had, the tone and volume of our media hits, and the sort of feedback we received from audience surveys. What is difficult to calculate is the true value of the social media component. In our industry, how do you calculate the value of a follower or a retweet?

I don’t know the answer to that. I do, however, know that there is always value in engaging with your target audiences. It takes time, and therefore an implied investment, to build a truly engaged audience. We can’t ignore the importance of trying to determine ROI for our social media efforts, but perhaps the real benefits are less about money and more about improving brand, reputation and goodwill. All of which, I would argue, are excellent—if difficult to measure—indicators of success.

Dave Bourne,
Manager of Corporate Communications
The Scarborough Hospital

2 Comments to “Improve your engagement through tweetcasting”

  1. mikenstn 15 February 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    I regularly tweetcast the monthly OCRI IT in Healthcare event series plus sessions at most conferences that I attend. I am still honing my technique. Couple of lessons I have learned that have helped me include:

    - I have found that taking notes in some form of electronic notepad application (I generally use Evernote on my iPad) without worrying about 140 character limitation helps. Periodically I extract key points from my notes and tweet them.

    - I often follow up my tweets with a blog post. Blogs often reach a different audience and complement the tweetcast. Having captured copious notes to help with my tweeting also gives me a rich source of material with which to compose a blog post.

    Michael Martineau

  2. Felicia Dewar 15 February 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I would also recommend to follow your hashtag and simplify the tweeting process as it adds your hashtag to each one of your tweets.

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