Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

"It Throws You into the Ring": Learning from Live-Tweeting

Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

"It Throws You into the Ring": Learning from Live-Tweeting

Article excerpt

Twitter Background

Twitter marked its 9th anniversary in 2015. The service has more than 288 million active users who send more than 400 million messages a day (Isaac, 2015). Developed in 2006, founders Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone created this mircoblogging site. By 2010, it was described as a legitimate form of communication (Silverblatt, 2010) and as a public relations tool with an ideal global reach (Evans, Twomey, & Talan, 2011).

The 140-character limit, the app development, and the supporting apps have prompted explosive growth in Twitter via mobile. This mobile element led to the popularity of livetweeting, which is designed to capture what is happening at a face-to-face experience or a media event. According to CNN's Brandon Griggs and Heather Kelly (2013), "Twitter has become a digital watercooler of sorts for global conversations around live TV events such as elections, the Oscars or the Super Bowl" (p. 1). Many businesses want to be part of that "watercooler" conversation, which no longer has to wait until the next morning but can start in real-time.

Connection to Public Relations

Uses of social media by individuals, businesses, brands and organizations for public relations purposes has become common. Because 42 percent of Twitter users follow various brands or companies, it is an ideal forum to connect to many groups' publics (Luttrell, 2015). According to Wright and Hinson (2014), Twitter use in public relations is increasing: "For the first time since we began asking the question in 2010, Twitter replaced Facebook as the most frequently accessed new medium for public relations activities" (p. 11).

The social media strategy for each brand varies depending on the organizational goals and outcomes (Luttrell, 2015), but the uses follow many of the traditional public relations categories such as community relations, media relations, public affairs, investor relations, event management, and organization reputation. One of the strategies used by an increasing number of brands is to engage with stakeholders in real-time during events with large audiences. Being able to reach a large group at the same time has become more difficult with the changing trends in television and radio, but there are certain events that people want to watch live, not on their DVRs. Brands can reach those who are tuned in during that time slot through Twitter. A number of brands have tried to tie in to major events by using humorous tweets (e.g., Oreo, Arby's, JCPenney). Priego says live-tweeting "should create positive opportunities. It's all about engagement, community building, and widening participation" (2012, para. 13). These are key aspects of public relations programs, and thus suggest live-tweeting should be integrated within public relations and other communication courses to better prepare students for the field.

The goal of this research is to help confirm whether live-tweeting is a worthwhile investment of time and effort as part of the required aspects of a course. The following section will review previous studies regarding Twitter use for education and for public relations purposes.


Hands-on, professional skill-building exercises are needed within mass communication programs to prepare students for their careers. These skills range from news release writing to website creation. Previous research has examined how students can be trained to be better interviewers by using recordings to hear their own mistakes (Grunig, 1990); better spokespeople, reporters and production crew by collaborating on live reporting scenarios with journalism, electronic medium and public relations majors (Carroll & Copeland, 1988); and better multimedia journalists by using iPads (Kraft & Seely, 2015).

One of the newest skill sets employers seek is social media acumen (Wenger & Owens, 2012). Educational uses of social media have been researched by several scholars (e. …

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