Live-tweeting makes Select Committee work more open and visible. But what's the best way to do it?
We devised a template, and then tested it on three committees. Here's what we found out.
This is the template that we have been using:
.@Speaker: Text #hashtag
Here's an example:
What's the thinking behind this template?
There are three key factors behind its design.
i) Identifying the speaker
Our first priority is for quotes to be clearly attributed to the person that said them. The first section of the template therefore identifies the speaker in order to eliminate any ambiguity.
ii) Direct speech rather than reported speech
When live-tweeting, you can either quote what someone has said (direct speech) or describe what someone has said (reported speech). Reported speech therefore involves paraphrasing - and in some cases, interpreting - what someone has said.
To increase impartiality, this template is in the format of direct speech: just the words that someone has said, and nothing more.
iii) Reducing variation
Finally, there is the question of why we should use a template at all. The answer is that uniformity reduces the effort that users have to go to in order to interpret what's happening. Once accustomed to the template, a user can follow the events without having to think.
How successful is it in practice?
We tested the template with three committees: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA), Scottish Affairs Committee, and Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC).
We looked at 63 live-tweeting sessions, comprising a total of 1,469 live-tweets, and measured the relationship between the use of the template and the average number of engagements per tweet. If all the live-tweets in a session used the template, it scores 100%; if half use it, it scores 50%, and so on.
Here's what we found:
Given that the content of a session affects engagement so drastically, the correlation isn't perfect - but it's there nonetheless: the sessions that use the templates more tend to get higher engagement. This relationship is observable across all three committees we measured.
What does this tell us about live-tweeting?
There is no single, best way to live tweet in general. But specifically for committees, one is more effective and appropriate, which is the template we have adopted.
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