Today, live events and social media go hand in hand. Get your social media management right and you can enhance the live event experience not just for attendees, but for those watching via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

Social media can contribute to the success of an event, whether it’s a conference, a sports match, or live chat during a TV show.

But with people posting to different channels from all angles, it’s hard to know where to begin managing and curating all that content in order to improve the experience of attendees and viewers, and not swamp them.

Fret not: here’s how to run a tight ship.

1. Preparation  

Create guidelines

If you’re hosting an event, set clear boundaries for social media use. Stick rules where they can’t be missed, and be unambiguous about what’s acceptable and what’s not. And don’t forget it’s no good laying down rules if you don’t enforce them – otherwise you’re compromising your integrity and reputation.

Set expectations

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. If it’s a big event, most contributors won’t see their posts on screen, so there’s no point pretending otherwise. You’ll only end up annoying people – and they’ll have no qualms about saying so.

You can avoid ‘participation frustration’ by having a separate display of frequently posted comments, or by grouping questions into ‘themes’, so you cover many variations on a popular question with just one answer.

Curate the content

During a major live event you’ll be hit with an avalanche of content, so you’ll need a strategy for bringing a sense of order to proceedings.

Create a system to collate and highlight the best comments – in the way newspapers have ‘Editor’s picks’, for example.

2. Engagement

Ask questions

As a rule, you’ll get a better response if you ask a question during a live event rather than invite a comment. Something like, ‘Who’ll win tonight’s showdown?’, makes it very easy for people to reply.

Be human

You’d think this would come naturally. But some people write totally differently to how they speak and can come across as impersonal. If you’re hosting a live chat and responding to comments, you’ll connect with people much more easily if you sound like a real person – someone participants can relate to.

Be responsive

Contributors love a name check and knowing they’ve helped steer the conversation. Obviously, you can’t respond to everyone. But you can lessen contributors’ disappointment by co-ordinating with the moderator and addressing any complaints promptly.

Remember: when it comes to engagement, it’s all about quality, not the quantity.

Avoid arguments

Don’t waste your time discussing individual acts of moderation. You’ll open a can of worms and end up using valuable resource that’s better spent elsewhere.

If someone’s hacked off, just direct them to the rules. They’ll get the message eventually.

3. Moderation

Allocate resources

Without robust moderation in place it’s possible that your event will be hijacked – there’s always someone who wants to post spam to a hashtag stream, or get a swearword posted to a public screen.

Set up a team with proper rotations and cover for breaks.

Choose pre or post-moderation

In other words, decide whether to let content go live before it’s reviewed (post-moderation) or cast an eye over it before posting (pre-moderation).

In our experience, live-event moderation is less about filtering out unsuitable comments (although there will be a few), and more about cherry-picking the best comments to publish, so pre-moderation is recommended.

When you screen content for bias and appropriateness, you end up with better-quality content and improve the whole experience. And if you’re set up right, there shouldn’t be any great loss of immediacy. Moderated content can appear live on the right platform in seconds, if you’ve allocated resource to it.

If you’d rather post-moderate, remember that even when content is only up there for a few seconds, that’s enough time for a re-tweet or screengrab.

With some channels – Facebook, Google+, YouTube – pre-moderation isn’t an option, so post-moderation must be super-rapid. You can lighten the load by using technology filters to help reject inappropriate content.

And of course with Twitter there’s no moderation on your live feed, but what you can do is moderate Tweets before you publish a stream (using something like Twitterfall) curated from keywords or hashtags. 

Talk among yourselves

It helps for the organiser, host and community management and moderation teams to be in constant contact. This allows the community manager or host to respond quickly to any issues arising from the event or chat.

They should also be giving instructions to the moderation team, and asking for feedback on issues that contributors want to talk about but haven’t yet been covered.  

Control the flow

The moderation team needs to control the throttle when publishing comments. The typical participant won’t be able to read more than 150 -180 words a minute, depending on the display.

Assuming the average message is 20 to 30 words, a scrolling rate of six to ten messages a minute is appropriate.

Balance the conversation

Cherry-pick between different media and opposing opinions. Make sure the content reflects what’s happening at the event. And beware the agenda-driven hardliner trying to narrow the debate to a single issue.

Don’t let those who shout loudest drive the conversation.

Encourage brevity

Shorter messages mean more messages make it on screen. They also spur greater engagement.

Ban abuse

There’s no justification for abusive comments. Ever. And make sure you’re consistent with what’s acceptable and what’s a no-go.

For example, if all swearing is off limits, don’t let a minor expletive slip through just because the rest of the comment is right on the money.

This post is based on eModeration’s latest white paper, Managing social media around live events.