An Amateur's Guide to Live-Tweeting the Oscars

Are you thinking of jumping into the fray of live-tweeting an event, but not sure what to do, how it all works, or where to begin? Take note: An epic evening of live-tweeting is just days away.

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Are you thinking of jumping into the fray of live-tweeting an event, but not sure what to do, how it all works, or where to begin? Take note: An epic evening of live-tweeting is just days away.

Some have been training for it all season, honing their skills like Olympians on the Golden Globes, the Grammys, or perhaps even the CMAs (not for the faint-hearted, those). Others may simply open their laptops on Sunday night at 7 p.m. Eastern time, or maybe even during the Red Carpet preview, and start typing their 140-character missives as if they'd been born for the trade. And while more encouraging people might say, sure, go ahead and try your hand at it, you'll do great, we are here to warn you: This is probably not the case. If you don't know what live-tweeting is, if you don't yet use Twitter or any of its related app-friends, you should power down your IBM Selectric and take a load off in front of the boob tube with some pals and your favorite processed carbohydrates for the night. Seriously, stop reading now: You don't need this ridiculous business.

For the rest of you: Katherine Rosman writes in The Wall Street Journal that, as "more and more viewers are supplementing the experience of merely watching their favorite TV shows by joining in simultaneous running commentaries on Twitter and Facebook," corporate entities and their ilk have caught on and are amassing their best Tweeters and flooding the field with all manner of social media expertise. This year's Academy Awards broadcast is "poised for a shot at another title: It could be the biggest night yet for social media." Eek! For instance,

  • ABC, which will broadcast the awards Sunday, will have at least two people tweeting about what is happening backstage, including Shira Lazar, a Web-broadcast personality. The preshow red-carpet hosts will be asking celebrities questions that viewers have posted to Twitter. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presents the awards, has a new feature available on Facebook that lets users choose which films and actors they expect to win, and share their picks with friends.
  • During the broadcast, viewer tweets using the hashtags "#oscars," "#redcarpetqa" and "#bestdressed" will appear on and the Oscars app. Karin Gilford, ABC's senior vice president of digital media, says an outside company has been hired to monitor the tweets that will appear on the Oscar site to weed out spam and offensive content.
  • Even snarky comments [even them!] from viewers can be used to the network's benefit. "If everyone is going crazy about one event or moment of the telecast, we know what video clips to post to the site," Ms. Gilford says.

This has all the makings of a tweetnanza. But how do you, just an individual with 140-character length thoughts and feelings about movies and actors yourself (and also a reliable Internet connection), use this potential to win friends, or followers, and curry favor for yourself? A few tips.

1. The most important thing to remember about the Internet is: You be you. After all, some of you are anonymous; what's truer to yourself than that? But, really, the best thing to do is to be authentic, whether that's snarky or earnest or somewhere in between. Unlike all the corporations that are getting involved, you are beholden to no man or woman, and you're really just doing this for fun. So comment about the things that interest you, and get on with the show.

2. Tweet the commercials. The commercials separate the amateurs from the professionals, and the amateurs are often the more entertaining tweeters. Plus, the amateurs have more to gain in terms of followers (and more to lose in terms of losing them). Thus, be committed to tweeting everything, the whole, entire show, not stopping at every commercial break to grab another pig in a blanket or chat with your friend about Angelina's dress. If you have a comment about Angelina's dress, you should be tweeting it, not saying it. Similarly, the commercials are part of the show. Treat them as such. (Truth: We support a viewing-alone policy on certain occasions, for this very reason. Limit your distractions for better Tweet.)

3. Read and retweet others. Preferably, people. Corporations are not people. That is to say, sure, if @TheAtlanticWire has something great to say that made you LOL, you can retweet it. But if you're only retweeting corporations, know that a) you look like a kiss-up and b) your chance of getting followed back is limited. At the same time, if you're only tweeting to get followed back, you've already lost.

4. Don't just tweet back or retweet -- add to the conversation. If someone points out a hilarious fact, like that Uggie the Dog and George Clooney have on pretty much the same outfit, feel free to add to the joke with your own brilliance, retweeting and giving credit to the first. This is how conversations happen nowadays. Collaboration! It's a win-win.

5. Be wary of hashtags. Use the clever ones that you yourself thought of so amazingly only once or twice, maybe thrice maximum. Personally, I don't hashtag things #academyawards or #oscars, because anyone who reads you will know you're talking about already, so why waste the space -- though I suppose if you're being followed by a bunch of people who have never heard of Hollywood you might want to clarify what you're doing. Then again, will any of them care? Further, hashtagging things #oscars, #redcarpetqa, and #bestdressed so that you get selected as a viewer tweet (see above) and are shown on the teevee means you have very different goals than we do, not that we're judging.

6. Balance between insider and outsider. While there's no need to make every tweet a complete sentence, or to set the context of each once you're in the show, sometimes things like "HER HAIRRRRRR!" do not translate. Then again, sometimes they do, and merit 35 retweets. This is a "feel" thing. Go with your gut.

7. Be judicious about deleting tweets. This is Twitter, not your college thesis. So you spelled a word wrong. So you misidentified Gary Oldman as Christopher Walken. Yes, everyone will think you're stupid, but only for a split second. And while you're flagellating yourself over your mistake and trying to dig up the tweet to erase it from the Internet permanently, you're missing seeing that famous actress's face of death -- or Marky Mark's face of death -- when someone else wins.

8. Be willing to forgo the easy Tweet. Listen, everyone's going to make the joke about how Billy Crystal looks like Voldemort. Maybe this blogger herself has been guilty of such comparisons. But while you're becoming entranced with Crystal's strangely pudding-like features and wondering if he looked that way in City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold, think to yourself: What's here that I'm not looking at? That's when you see and are the first to report on the streaker lurking in the background, waiting to pounce, or perhaps give an early alert as to Helen Mirren's unexpected wardrobe malfunction. This is how star tweeters are born.

9. Give it your all. Lauren Hutton once famously said something along the lines of, it wasn't that she was the most beautiful model, she was simply the hardest-working. Take that advice and tweet with it. This is not to say tweet a million times every minute about whatever thing you happen to think. Be judicious; measure your insights out in healthy, regular portions. You will be unfollowed for tweeting too much, and someone will tweet that at you, but ignore them. Simply keep tweeting, but slow your roll a bit. No one wants you to be the only tweeter in their timeline. But if you're consistently the best tweeter in their timeline, you are the best tweeter in your timeline. I think.

10. Sad but true: Practice makes perfect. See you Sunday at 7 p.m.

Image via Reuters by Danny Moloshok

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.