Colin Delany January 31, 2012

A Curiously Unsocial Social Media Experience: Live-Tweeting the #SOTU

Here’s a message I sent out toward the end of last week’s State Of The Union live-tweeting extravaganza:

A live-tweeting session is a curiously unsocial social media experience – 150 people in a room, w only the speech & the sound o typing #sotu

It was an odd moment — my NWLC colleague Danielle Jackson and I had chatted with a few folks while we were waiting in line to get into the White House complex, but once we all settled in and the speech started, conversation essentially ceased. Listening to a speech takes attention, as does note-taking, and the process of trying to turn those notes into coherent Tweets becomes all-consuming really fast. Hence the silence — everyone was too busy trying to catch ideas on the wing to talk with the person sitting next to them.

Of course one factor was that each of us was live-tweeting individually. About half the crowd invited to live-cover the speech from the White House was in the nonprofit community (Danielle and I were there representing NWLC), while the other half consisted of random followers of the White House Twitter feed who’d signed up to come. So we were all in effect free agents, trying to keep up streams of content to our own individual publishing outlets. But had we been GROUP live-tweeting, with for instance a half-dozen people sitting around a table watching the speech and coming up with messages to tweet out over a single feed, it would have been a much more social experience.

BTW, the night had one very important lesson — always prepare for things to break. My colleague and I each had our own computers, and each of us had a copy of the spreadsheet we’d put together with pre-prepared Tweets on different topics that might come up (written with help from NWLC’s issue experts, and linking to resources on our website). Of course, my aging ThinkPad refused to connect to the wifi in the room…leaving me forced to try to write on the @epolitics feed via my iPhone. I got a few original messages out, but I retweeted far more than I actually wrote. Even then, my thumbs were sore for a couple of days! But fortunately, we were prepared — Danielle could take up my slack and blast NWLC’s messaging out into the aether.

Photos from the White House live-tweeting session below — enjoy.

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