How to Livetweet a Conference, featuring the Workshops, Panels, and Papers of #MHA2016 on Twitter

By June 16, 2016

Today’s post on livetweeting a conference comes from Eliza N. She is an editor who lives and works in Salt Lake City. She grew up in the Midwest and misses the cornfields. When she’s not working, reading, or watching Netflix, she enjoys running, playing volleyball, and hanging out with her dog. Eliza tries her best to follow these Twitter tips @EtotheNev.

You can see the archived tweets from #MHA2016 at the links provided at the bottom of the page! If you have tweets we missed please post them in the comments. If your tweets or session appear in the links below, please share on Twitter and Facebook (and tag either @MormonHistoryJI or our Facebook page).


Etiquette for Tweeting a Conference, or Seven Tips for Making Your Live-Tweet Game Sizzle

As younger generations and technology invade academia, audiences for conferences like this past weekend’s Mormon History Association’s grapple with what the heck certain platforms are and how to use them. Perhaps the most popular for MHA, Twitter is a useful and fun tool that might baffle newcomers. It takes time to learn its tricks, cadence, and inside jokes, but we can help you catch up on some of the particulars for live-tweeting a conference like MHA.

Tip 1: Learn Twitter’s technical quirks.

If a tweet starts with a Twitter handle (that @[name] thing), the tweet will be treated as a reply directly to that handle’s account, and it will therefore only be seen by that recipient and in that recipient’s followers timelines. If you want the tweet to be publically viewable (showing up in all of your followers’ timelines and not just in those who follow the handle being mentioned), you have to put some kind of punctuation or a space before the handle at the beginning of a tweet. This will eat into your character count, so another option is to rephrase the tweet so the handle is not at the beginning.

It’s also useful to learn how to thread your tweets. This means replying to your own tweets (delete the @ reply handle so it’s just a blank draft) so that tweets on one subject are connected in one chain, making it easier to read a tweet storm that’s all part of one thought or conversation. This also helps cluster the tweets and prevents too much cluttering up of the feed.

Tip 2: Learn your hashtags and use them wisely.

Most conferences have a commonly used or even an official hashtag. Check conference materials for an official hashtag, or do a quick search on Twitter to see what hashtags are already in common use.

Be thoughtful in your use of the conference hashtag. Consider whether your tweet is relevant to the wider record and conversation on the hashtag or whether it might be better for your specific followers. You may want to save snark and sass for your followers (who know your pet issues and sense of humor) and avoid bruising feelings or burning bridges on the hashtag. Also consider the timing on the hashtag. A goofy or funny tweet that might be harmless could seem in poor taste if what’s live on the hashtag is heavy or intense in some way. (You’ll need to be aware of what sessions are in progress while you’re tweeting, or you can check the hashtag stream and see what’s being tweeted live at the same time you’re thinking about tweeting a joke.)

Tip 3: Gifs, Memes, and Videos!

A fairly recent new feature on Twitter is that you can search for and embed gifs right in your tweet drafts. Twitter’s gif database is pretty good, and it’s easily searchable by tags. I can usually find the perfect gif for the situation after very little scrolling, but the nature of the database means that you’ll also run into some pretty weird gifs on occasion. Be very thoughtful about the kinds of gifs you choose to use. Avoid gifs that are insulting to people of color, women, and other marginalized groups. (This ought to go without saying, but hey, the internet gives humans a lot of opportunity to do weird and terrible things.)

Tip 4: Give your followers visuals.

If a presenter took the time to put together PowerPoint slides, try to take the time to snap pictures of the slides (be careful to get good shots!) so that followers can get the visual context as well as reading your written descriptions of presentations as you live-tweet.

Pictures of presenters speaking are also great for giving followers a sense of what it’s like to be at the conference.

Tip 7: Include presenters’ names in tweets.

When live-tweeting a conference presentation, include the presenter’s handle, name, or initials (gotta watch that character count!) at the end or beginning of tweets. As specific tweets get retweeted and as the conference hashtag feed gets perused later, it’s nearly impossible to place tweets in context of which presentation they came from if there’s no identifier.

Tip 5: Everything in its sphere: Facebook is not Twitter.

Both social media platforms have their benefits, but don’t try to use one for what the other is meant for. In short: don’t try to live-tweet on Facebook. It just clutters up your friends’ Facebook feeds and gets annoying.

Tip 6: Be consistent.

Because of Twitter’s quickly moving live-feed nature, consistency is key. The beauty of Twitter is the way you build a community with who you follow and who follows you. If you only tweet at a conference and your account sits dormant for the other 51 weekends of the year, you’re not going to have a good Twitter community and no one will notice when you do tweet. You don’t have to be a Twitter fiend, but try to have consistency in your tweeting life.

Tip 7: Be like @_Kristine_A and @BenjaminEPark.

These two are the Mormon History Association resident live-tweeting pros. Peruse their timelines (especially their #MHA2016 tweets) for great examples of how to handle live-tweeting a conference as well as great not-conference tweets.

African American History Tour

Women’s Activism Tour

Lower Lights

Opening Plenary

Sacred Books, Sacred Rites: Text, Ritual, and Cannon in Mormon History

Deny Not the Spirit of God: Charismata in Mormon Memory and Practice

Priesthood: Policy and Practice in Africa and South America

Of Myths, Memories, and Missions: The Practices of Modern Mormon Missionaries

Mormonism in Practice: Insights from LDS Church History Department 2016 Releases

Membership Luncheon

The Council of Fifty: An Initial Scholarly Appraisal

Gendering Nineteenth-Century Mormonism

The Perils and Pitfalls of Mormon Biography

Mormonism and Social Practice in Nineteenth-Century France

Holy Theatre: Mormon Performance, Identity, and Representation

Twentieth-Century Mormon Practices in Eastern Europe

Panel Discussion: A Chosen People, A Promised Land: Mormonism and Race in Hawai’i

Granite Mountain Records Vault

Leonard Arrington & the History Division: Lessons to be Learned

Awards and Student Reception

MWHIT Breakfast

Smith-Pettit Lecture: Grant Wacker on Religious Biography

Contested Memories of the 1838 Mormon-Missouri War

The Book of Mormon: New Views of an Old Text

Joseph Smith, Josephine Lyon, and the Puzzles of Nauvoo Polyandry

Ezra Taft Benson and the Rise of American Conservatism after 1960

YouTube as Historical Archive for Lived Religion and Digital Pedagogy

The Practice of Mormon Mothering

Mormon Feminist Social Networks in the Late 20th and early 21st Centuries

The Legal World of Early and Contemporary Mormonism

Mormon Studies Pedagogies

The Elections and Travels of LDS Church Leaders in the Twentieth Century

Presidential Address: Laurie Maffly-Kipp

Sunday Devotional

Article filed under Conference/Presentation Reports Miscellaneous


  1. Thanks, Eliza!

    Comment by Ryan T. — June 16, 2016 @ 6:42 am

  2. A few random comments.

    Even attending the conference and being busy visiting and attending events, it was helpful to follow the twitter feed, so many thanks to all of you, and to Eliza for this write-up.

    It was slightly amusing that the hashtag #MHA2016 also brought up content from a Mental Health Association.

    I like a longer format, so I shared some session and tour information at BCC and tried to avoid duplicating the efforts of the regulars there.

    Is there any way for the person who’s running the official MHA account to correct or amend the tweet that says that Green Flake drove Brigham Young into the Salt Lake Valley? It makes a great story, but Green Flake was in the advance company, arriving in the valley several days ahead of Brigham Young along with the two other enslaved African Americans in the company, Hark (Lay) Wales and Oscar (Crosby) Smith. Wilford Woodruff drove Brigham Young into the valley. The confusion may have arisen because Green Flake later noted that he was the first person in the company to drive a wagon into Emigration Canyon.

    Comment by Amy T — June 16, 2016 @ 7:33 am

  3. Amy: I’ll contact the social media manager and let them know! Thanks for the heads up.

    Comment by J Stuart — June 16, 2016 @ 7:48 am

  4. This was great, Eliza!

    A few other things I’ve learned abt live-tweeting over the past few years:

    -Presenters are often anxious that live-tweeters will misunderstand and misrepresent what they’ve said – but out on the internet it looks like they said it word-for-word. So be careful. My character limit made so I couldn’t provide full context to a quote from Oaks & Title IX session so Eliza was able to reply and build on it and make it less sensational. I appreciated that. Some topics are very sensitive/spiritual in nature and the medium doesn’t always match the tone, so being aware of that is key. Sometimes’s it appropriate to add a personal experience to a topic, like bearing testimony of a principle during #LDSconf. I find this less applicable to more academic type of conferences, though.

    -Sometimes I’ve seen some people try to quote almost every sentence out of the presentation. Instead of that approach, I’ve found it helpful to take notes in another tab on my computer and try to catch the bigger ideas, like if it were an outline form, and tweet those. So my tweets may not always be immediate, because I’m trying to train myself to take a minute or two and accurately rephrase. Remember: quality over quantity.

    -Some people’s presentation style combined with the topic or paper make for poor live-tweeting. Recently I’ve tried to recap Spencer Fluhman, Gina Colvin, and Ben Park, etc. and the content was so dense and at such a quick pace I knew I would do the topic a disservice to even try to do a serviceable job. So at times I admit defeat, sit back, and just try to absorb the information and enjoy the moment.

    -I liked the part of being aware of your fellow tweeters and adjusting during the conversation. When there are 8 others in your own session tweeting I take a step back and slow down. If everyone went full speed it’s harder to understand the narrative. If I’m the only one in the room tweeting I fill the story in a bit more.

    -I love this aspect of attending conferences. First because there are often multiple good sessions I’m choosing from, I usually have one tab up for tweeting – and another tab up with the live stream for the whole conference so I can keep an eye on what I’m missing. Having that other tab up and watching the stream helps me see if I’m duplicating part of a message. Another thing I like to do is keep an eye out for my fellow live-tweeters and introduce myself. Some of my greatest friendships have come from meeting someone who I first knew online. Plus I feel more comfortable starting a conversation or asking questions on others’ posts if I’ve stopped to introduce myself.

    -I’ve found Ben’s coverage on twitter to be my favorite. Sometimes I’ve reviewed mine and seen I’ve gone too fast and it doesn’t fully make sense, or there are typos. It’s best to be quick but also careful. I’m learning myself.

    This was a great post, I hope to see more people join the conversations on twitter. It’s where the cool kids are. 🙂

    Comment by Kristine A — June 16, 2016 @ 1:58 pm

  5. Great point on 2, the sensitivity. I ended up not tweeting probably a dozen drafts because I figured my snark and cynicism might not be well received or understood by a wider audience who don’t actually know me. Thanks, Eliza, this is helpful.

    Comment by Saskia — June 16, 2016 @ 2:26 pm

  6. Great post and a great way to re-experience mha (and all the panels I missed)!

    Comment by Jeff T — June 16, 2016 @ 2:43 pm

  7. Good write-up, thanks!

    Good news! The “. @” quirk is going away in the coming months, so we won’t have to worry about that soon:

    Goodbye, .@: These changes will help simplify the rules around Tweets that start with a username. New Tweets that begin with a username will reach all your followers. (That means you?ll no longer have to use the ?.@? convention, which people currently use to broadcast Tweets broadly.) If you want a reply to be seen by all your followers, you will be able to Retweet it to signal that you intend for it to be viewed more broadly.

    Comment by BHodges — June 16, 2016 @ 2:52 pm

  8. Amy: the tweet has been deleted.

    Kristine: you are a master of the craft!

    Thanks for the update, Blair!

    Comment by J Stuart — June 16, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

  9. Eliza, you are smart and wise. These tips were sizzling!

    Comment by AimeeHeff — June 16, 2016 @ 5:41 pm

  10. Thanks for these great tips and for storifying the sessions!

    Comment by David G. — June 18, 2016 @ 5:31 pm


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