Live Blogging

Live blogging (e.g., Tweeting, time-stamped news feed updates) holds great promise for retailers looking for a new and better way to engage core customers. It’s a novel way for brands of all sizes to deliver valuable and interesting content to receptive consumers actively seeking information on products, and interaction with retailers offering those products. What’s more, live blogging can be a low cost, highly rewarding marketing strategy.

The appeal of live blogging is easy to understand. Retailers hosting events (i.e., sales, charity events, holiday specials) want to make the most of them, which can now include sharing the experience online. This marketing strategy offers an opportunity to position your company as an engaging thought leader, a valued resource, and a fun, lively place to shop. Giving people a peek behind the scenes can also result in some highly coveted earned media coverage.

Live blogging may also be easier than you think. There are great tools out there that make things easy to set up. Software platforms like CoverItLive and ScribbleLive allow for an online experience that replicates the interactive experience of a panel Q&A or roundtable discussion, and most options are inexpensive or free. Blogging content management systems like WordPress often include plug-ins that allow for speedy blogging during an event as well. And of course, there’s also the option of simply using Twitter.

Live blogging can take place over the course of a short, one time only event, or it can be an essential part of a larger happening. One great example on the grander scale was Chicago Ideas Week, held in October 2011. The seven day event was designed to bring together the best and brightest minds from around the world. On Twitter, search for the #CIW11 hashtag resulted in scores of tweets about the discussions occurring simultaneously all over town. All it took was the creation of a hashtag and a little encouragement on Twitter to get users talking about it.

While live blogging can be an effective, cost efficient way to extend influence in social spaces, efforts should be managed with care. Recognizing the considerable marketing potential of live blogging and tweeting events, brand managers are often tempted to jump in without considering a few essentials: tactics, strategy and logistics. Consider the following factors to successfully harness the brand building power of live blogging, become a thought leader and generate lots of media attention:

1) Staff appropriately. Active engagement depends on having the right kind of person behind a brand’s social media presence. Your brand’s “Wizard of Oz” should be enthusiastic, knowledgeable and have a penchant for detail. People want to engage with and listen to brands with personality, and whose interests are perceived to be in line with their own. Small business owners, sometimes you are the best for the job! After all, who knows your business better than you do?

2) Promote. Publicize that your brand will be attending and live tweeting an event via your social channels and website(s) leading up to the event, including regular reminders as the event approaches. Don’t forget to follow up with an in-depth blog post for those who missed it live.

3) Plan ahead. Ensure you’ll have reliable technology in place no matter where you’ll be live blogging from, including access to steady WiFi or 3G service if needed.

4) Mix it up. Include photos, direct quotes from customers, and even a short video in your coverage. It will make the audience feel more connected than merely following a stream of text.

5) Feel the flow. All things in moderation, social media included. Keep your posts concise, share only the most important parts of the event, and leave readers wanting more (perhaps persuading them to drop by the store). Make an outline of important happenings at the event beforehand, to keep you on track. Most importantly, listen to feedback from your followers for future live blogging events.

Jacqueline Zenn is Social Media Strategist for SociaLogic, a social media marketing agency in Chicago.