America After Ferguson: Lessons in Live Tweeting

Last Updated by Brionne Griffin on

The "America After Ferguson" town hall special debuted last week, giving the American people a chance to come together and discuss this event and consider the larger ramifications of the officer's actions. For many, the story of Ferguson, Missouri has become a symbol of the larger social divides in America, exposing a persistent disconnect along lines of race, class and identity. Through conversations and special reports, "America After Ferguson" explored these complex questions raised by the events in Ferguson.

This special was accompanied by a simulcast on YouTube, enabling those without a TV to view the special, and converse with one another in the video's comments section. Viewers were also encouraged to discuss the program via Twitter, using the hashtag #AfterFergusonPBS. The PBS social media team, along with the producer of America After Ferguson, sped read through the onslaught of live tweets and posted the best to the Twitter ticker at the bottom of the television screen throughout the duration of the broadcast.

aaferguson2.pngNumerous viewers took to Twitter to share their thoughts about the show, in fact, it was the number one trending topic on Twitter for more than 95 minutes.

The PBS social media team said they thought this Twitter success occurred due to three factors:

  1. The timeliness and importance of the topic

  2. The prominence of the #AfterFergusonPBS hashtag on the screen throughout the entire show, reminding viewers to join the online conversation

  3. People feeling compelled to join the online conversation after seeing others' comments on the live Twitter ticker

Although a risky experiment, this social media campaign turned out to be a great success. Yes, there will always be a handful of inappropriate comments on Twitter, but the PBS social media team said the vast majority of these tweets offered excellent commentary. 

If you would like to read through the tweets, check out #AfterFergusonPBS.

Has your local station ever experimented with live tweeting during an airing of a local or national program? How did it go, and what advice do you have for other stations?

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