There is no better marketing than testimonials from someone who is on the ground. This is especially true if you’re running an event, whether that’s a fancy charity gala, a haunted house, a theatrical play or pretty much anything else. Finding a team of well-connected folks who are willing to tweet before, after and possibly during the event can spread your message to a wider audience and help you raise awareness of your event–and ultimately get more people there. As someone who has been an on-the-ground Twitter evangelist for many here’s what you need to know to get a tweet team up, running and successful.

  • Start by picking great people. You need people who are connected in whatever your niche is. That might be parents with young kids, young professionals, theater lovers, whatever. A great place to start with this is people who follow your organization’s Twitter account. This means they have at least some familiarity with who you are and may have an overlapping follower audience. Then, see who’s really influential using a tool like followerwonk, which will tell you about their followers in detail. Learn where they’re from, what kinds of topics they’re interested in and more. If their followers match up with the  people you’re trying to reach, send them a quick DM and ask for their email address. Then it’s time to send more information.
  • Plan ahead. Everybody’s busy; don’t try to get a team together the night before an event. At least two weeks notice is best, but work with what you’ve got.
  • Be clear in what you’re offering. For most organizations, offering free tickets to whatever cool event they’re putting on is enough to get someone’s attention. If that’s all, cool! Can they bring a +1? Should they bring their kids? Are the tickets for a specific date and time or is there flexibility? Where should they pick up their tickets? Put it all in your initial email so everyone’s clear.
  • Be clear in what you want in return. Some events just want you to honestly tweet your opinions about the event. Others request a blog post; others want you to tweet specific phrases or hashtags. Some want you to take lots of pictures to share on Facebook. All of that’s cool, if you both agree. But above all, never, ever ask someone to lie or give a false opinion. By inviting someone to your event, you’re opening yourself up to some risk that they might not like it. Hopefully they’ll be diplomatic in any criticism, but remember: you’re reaching out to this person because of their unique voice and following. Trying to tame them too much can backfire.
  • Have a hashtag. I can’t stress this enough: If you go to the trouble of having a Twitter team, use a hashtag. This well not only help you track the tweets from the event so you can see how the tweets performed and spread, it can also help your Tweeters see what others have shared so they can retweet and amplify the signal. Always have a hashtag.
  • Inform your on-the-ground team. I recently was invited to tweet about an event where we were told to put our cell phones away before we even entered the theater, which was in direct opposition to what we’d been told by our contact. She assured us it was fine if we tweeted about the show beforehand, but six minutes before curtain, we were chastised for having our phones out and doing what we were invited there to do. Make sure your staff is aware of who these people are and what they’re doing. The more they can cooperate with us–even giving behind-the-scenes glimpses–the more we can help you show your awesomeness.
  • Track results. How many people favorited the tweets? Retweeted? Replied? Clicked a link in one of those tweets? Did you see a spike in attendance at subsequent shows or events? It can be hard to draw a straight cause-and-effect line, but you can get a decent idea with a little homework.

Let people tell your story in their own words. With a little pre-planning and communication, it can be a fantastic experience for everyone involved.