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Social media has become an important part of a conference or event. Streaming feeds from Twitter and Facebook or providing text-to-screen commentary lets audiences participate in events and allows brands to collect feedback.

However, the risks to a brand’s reputation are enhanced by the sheer number of people who might view inappropriate material.

Conferences have long used Twitter to gather audience questions and feedback on the speakers, and there’s hardly a TV show left that doesn’t have its own Facebook page, Twitter hashtag feed streamed onto its website, or text-to-screen service.

Political debates, from Obama’s town hall to the London Mayoral debates, use social media to broadcast the event beyond the attending or viewing audiences. Sports events are making the most of live feedback from spectators, either at the ground itself or on the televised coverage.

Times Square's giant billboards have been used to flash up messages from the public. Even the Royal Wedding had its own Facebook feed and live chat on ITV to involve audiences further in the event.

Ad campaigns are in themselves ‘events’. AT&T’s Valentine’s Day campaign this year saw messages of love sent in by consumers being shouted from a mountain top by mountain men (a nice touch was that AT&T gave each consumer who participated a video of their message being shouted out).

But organisers need to be wary. Live streaming left unmanaged can become a way for groups of users to hijack a brand, or, more often, to embarrass the brand by posting bad language or inappropriate content.

In a previous post for Econsultancy, I mentioned that live uploads (whether images, posts via Twitter or SMS or comments submitted via a live chat tool) attract disproportionately bad user behaviour.

There is always a small group of consumers who think it’s hilarious to upload pictures of nudity, or swear on screen, to deliberately try to damage the brand’s reputation or just for the fun of it.

The bigger the potential embarrassment to the brand (i.e., the bigger the audience witnessing the naked picture), the more likely people are to post inappropriate content.

It’s also very easy now for people to try and beat the moderation system and then send the evidence around on social networks via Twitpic or on Facebook. Offensive content can be live for just minutes but be round the world in seconds.

It’s good practice for brands that use social media during live events to make sure they manage it properly. I recommend that if you’re using social media streaming at a live event you use pre-moderation, and use the right kind.

You have two options. The first is to have moderators or community managers 'cherry-pick' from a hashtag or the live chat tool you are using.

This is the right method when there will be a high volume of anticipated submissions: you can select those comments which fit the live action and are editorially balanced - this would be very important in election coverage or at a sporting event for example. It also prevents your stream from being swamped where there is a high number of comments.

The second form of pre-moderation is where you are deleting the inappropriate content as it goes past: a little like quality control on a factory conveyor belt, there is a delay built in before the UGC goes live on your stream.

This would be the best model with a Twitter stream at a large conference, or one likely to be controversial.

Both kinds of moderation require expert dedicated teams capable of great concentration.  The teams need to follow editorial direction live and be flexible enough to scale up and down as the volume changes.  

Some extra things to remember:

  1. Add a filter to cut out much of the inappropriate material before it gets to the human moderator.
  2. Remember to check for obscured words, acronyms and text speak, links, hidden and coded messages (including the name or avatar of the user).  Take the time to scrutinise photos for background detail, presence of minors, copyright items and logos etc, just as you would for any other campaign.
  3. Make sure you have clear user guidelines written into the upload process.

    Note that most people won’t read long Ts & Cs, so although you need them to cover yourself legally, make sure that the most important bits are written in clear language, and are highly visible.

  4. Don’t feel you have to take abuse from users. If behaviour goes against site rules, don’t be afraid to implement them.
  5. If you have a host at your event, then you must respond to both negative and positive feedback, quickly. Twitter users expect a response within minutes of a tweet being sent; you have marginally longer with Facebook.
  6. Consider not allowing anonymous posting. Complete anonymity encourages higher levels of abuse than content requiring users to give their name and possibly contact details.
  7. Don’t allow the conversation to go off topic. Get rid of spam automatically, and consider providing a separate channel for any off-topic but brand-related  posts, to encourage users to stick to posting about the event.
  8. Have a plan in place in case of emergency. People who want to cause disruption are drawn to the media channels with the biggest audiences. 

    A large screen in a major city or a chat based around a popular reality TV programme or worldwide event are far more likely to attract someone wanting to send bomb threats or be the target of activists.

Tamara Littleton

Published 31 August, 2011 by Tamara Littleton

 Tamara Littleton is CEO at social media management agency Emoderation and a contributor on Econsultancy.

26 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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chris kulbaba

This is a fantastic posting, as using social media in real time is a key strength. Imagine being int he audience, and you are listening to the speaker, then you check out their Facebook page, zoom over to their LinkedIn page, and check out their blog - while you are listening! Then, you post to the conference Twitter hashtag and start a conversation.

This post addresses the sanitization from the broadcast end, but the real value is in what you are providing to your audience. You are giving them a chance to have a conversation about your product, while you are right there!

A powerful post on a powerful strategy. Great stuff!

about 5 years ago

Tamara Littleton

Tamara Littleton, CEO at EmoderationSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks Chris for your comment and glad you liked the post. I completely agree that the real value is in what you say to your audience, and of course how good the live event is! The better the event, the more positive the posts.

about 5 years ago

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software development

Cherry picking comments during the moderation process may seem a bit contrived but is a good way to positively promote services and control potential abuse.

about 5 years ago

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Mark Pack

In my experience the practical details of electrical power (are there power points? will batteries last?) and internet signal (is there a reliable connection?) often trip up people.

Checking in advance and having a backup plan has often saved me from embarrassment!

about 5 years ago

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Brian

Great advice! And you are right, the first step should really be an automated filter, since that will eliminate any obviously profane messages, leaving fewer to manually weed out. Unfortunately, though, it is nearly impossible to completely weed out the bad apples who try to ruin things like this. But thats part of the volatility of social media, especially in a live, public setting

about 5 years ago

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James Crawford

Good post but a bit too Twitter related. There are other platforms too.

almost 5 years ago

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Melissa

Great post. We're doing a lot of work with live events now and see some clients who are very comfortable with using the automated filtering mechanism while others still want ultimate control over each update and choose to moderate real-time as social content populates the event screens and microsites. This can be managed easily via remote location with a tool like @FeedMagnet.

almost 5 years ago

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Serhiy Kolesnyk

Interesting observation on "live uploads ... attract disproportionately bad user behaviour".

In my experience (we provide live text on a big screen service) we have had about 1-2% rate of inappropriate message that we had to filter. May be it was because it was a premium rate message (at 1/2 a pound), so people are mindful of the message content. Otherwise they'd end up wasting money.

almost 5 years ago

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Joe Masson

Be cautious, cause negative users experience at event can be immediately reflected at social media, 10x more quickly than positive...

almost 5 years ago

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Jen Summers

Great post Tamara, packed full of helpful advice. I've included your piece in my roundup of the best recent tradeshow blog pieces here: http://bit.ly/oD2oGe Hope you like the post.

almost 5 years ago

Tamara Littleton

Tamara Littleton, CEO at EmoderationSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks very much Jen - I'm glad it was useful.

almost 5 years ago

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Dave

This is a really interesting article. It's becoming a great deal more prevalent at live events and on live broadcasts and on the whole it's an exciting way to create interaction but it can't be left unattended.

These are very useful and practical tips, thanks.

over 4 years ago

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Tim Koo, CEO at TINT

Great post Tamara. Some solid tips here. Definitely learned a lot!

I couldn't help but share with you and your audiences that if anyone ever wanted to stream a live Twitter/instagram hashtag feed DURING their events to encourage audience participation, you could use Tint.

If you want more information, feel free to check it out here: http://www.tintup.com/blog/the-best-twitter-wall-display/

about 3 years ago

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