5 keys to successful real-time blogging


As you might expect, blogging is a lot like many other skills – you have to work at it over time before you start to see improvements. Blogging does not at all come naturally to me, so it’s a personal goal of mine to keep working at it until I improve. According to WordPress, I’ve now posted 67 times to this blog and I confess that every time I’m about to press the “publish” button my heart still flutters a little because I’m convinced that I’m about to make an ass of myself . In spite of that fear, I try each time to share knowledge, perspectives or opportunities that you might not get in the same way elsewhere, and I sincerely hope to see comments with different perspectives I could learn from (hint-hint).

How I started real-time blogging

My journey to real-time blogging came from my commitment to evolving the way I engage with my target market (corporate marketers) to meet their role in driving social media engagement in the enterprise. As I outlined previously in “Five tips for ongoing impact at tradeshows" we at SAS are constantly looking to derive more value from participating in conferences and tradeshows.  To that end, I’ve found that some of the best opportunities await in Twitter - especially when the show or the organizer has an active hashtag. The larger the event, the better the opportunity, because that just means a larger audience in one place and/or monitoring the Twitter hash tag. Large shows often have multiple sessions at the same time, or some people can’t be there in person, or there are any number of other reasons that people may be tuned in to that show hashtag. As a result, large events are wonderful windows of opportunity to reach your audience, and the window stays open only as long as the hashtag is active. So, what better way to provide value to your audience than by providing content quickly and substantively in a real-time blog post?

Real-time blogging defined

I’ve tried to learn about “real-time blogging” and related topics, and either I am using the wrong terminology or it simply hasn’t been defined yet. So, I’ll go with the latter and define it here:

Real-time blogging is the act of sharing content while it happens. 

In that sense, the timeliness of real-time blogging is much like using Twitter, but there’s more meat to it. The difference is that with Twitter, you’re confined to 140 characters and a great tweet is a witty attention-grabber with a valuable link to more details and a useful hashtag to make it easy to find. With real-time blogging, you’re actually creating the content that becomes that valuable URL for the tweet. So, with that definition, here are the five keys to engage in real-time blogging:

1.  Start with your topic

When writing a sentence the subject is a great starting point, so the same holds true for the collection of sentences known as a blog post. The key is to do it in advance to enable the “real-timeliness” of the post:

  • Scan the show’s microsite or program guide for sessions of interest and read the description to get your subject.
  • Cut-and-paste those details into the draft for a starting point, and use that verbiage to get the post’s initial title.
  • Be prepared to change the verbiage and/or the title because the speaker has more interesting details that are not entirely true to the session description, or there’s a robust Q&A session.

When your post changes in the middle of the session, you’ve hit the jackpot because that’s the most valuable content opportunity of all – when you can capture what happens spontaneously in the session, or when you gather interesting details not apparent from the session description. Unfortunately, there’s no way to plan for those opportunities in advance, so you simply need to be attuned to them when they arise, and be willing to change your plans on the spot.

2.  Identify the players

Our practice in this blog is to provide URLs to the LinkedIn profiles of all speakers and/or people identified by name in our posts. That can easily be done in advance, which will help you publish more quickly. An alternative is if the event has a page with speaker profiles that has its own URL. Make a note of any interesting details in the peoples’ profiles that may inspire unique ways to enrich your post, such as any books authored, alma maters or affiliations.

3.  Nail down the details

Identify the tags for the post and write the post’s meta description in advance.  That can be done using the session description and modified once you’ve thought out where you plan to go with the post. As is the case with the subject and title, it’s possible the tags or meta description will change, but it’s worth getting some tags identified in advance because it will save you valuable time and enable the real-timeliness of the post. If possible, create an outline that puts structure around what you expect will be covered and which might give you section sub-heads in the post.

4.  Take copious notes

This may be the hardest part of real-time blogging for any number of reasons, but the biggest limitation may simply be the speed of your fingers. Some speakers just go too fast, others may not enunciate clearly and some may stray from their own session description enough that it’s hard to structure your notes in a way that conveys crisp, clear specifics and conclusions. Or you may simply find it hard to balance your laptop on your lap (it’s a challenge for me). Don’t be deterred – it’s worth the effort because you’ll be amazed at how exhilarating it is to be a real-time blogger.

5.  Publish your post the same day

In my idea of “real-time blogging,” publishing within 30 minutes of the session ending is what to aim for, especially if it’s early in the day or on the first day of a multi-day event. And as soon as it’s published, tweet about it using the show hashtag. The quicker it’s published the better, because that gives more time for people to find the post, leave a comment and re-tweet or post to Facebook or LinkedIn.

Another good reason to aim for that 30-minute window is that if you’re like me, you have other sessions to attend and people to interact with at the show. As a result, you can’t devote much time to editing and refining your post until it’s perfect. Ultimately, I needed to “get over myself” and develop the belief that what I’ve written is good (even with a few imperfections) and that the timeliness greatly increases the value of the post.

I’ve included some links below to a few of my real-time blog posts. My hope is that if you read them now, it’s not glaringly apparent that I wrote them in 30 minutes with my laptop precariously perched on my knees.

Real-time dinner with David Meerman Scott at DMA:2011
Leadership lessons for marketers from Colin Powell
Build trust to earn loyalty the Disney way
Top 5 "Moneyball" lessons for marketers from Billy Beane

Perhaps not coincidentally, these posts have some of the highest pageviews of any on this blog, so that makes me happy. As the editor of this blog, I also view real-time blogging as a big opportunity to grow overall readership by exposing new people to it using the show hashtag on Twitter. In case it is not obvious, the big caveat for that to be effective, of course, is that the content has to be relevant for the audience.

To summarize, the key to successful real-time blogging is to be organized, to plan in advance, and be ready to change based on what may come up spontaneously.  As always, thank you kindly for following and please share your thoughts in a comment.


About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - a Digital Marketing Principal here at SAS focused on Content Strategy. I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I stay busy with my wife and I keeping up with my 2 awesome college-age kids, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.


  1. Alison Bolen
    Alison Bolen on

    I have a sixth tip to add: try to make your real-time blogs evergreen, so people will want to read them months or even years later. The best way to do this is to not mention the event in the first paragraph. Instead, try to focus on the content of the presentation and lead with a quote or a key point of the talk. Only mention the conference in the 2nd or 3rd paragraph, and in a bit of an off-hand way: "Speaker so-and-so covered these topics at the such-and-such event recently."

  2. John Balla

    What a great tip, Alison!

    I am going to make a conscious effort of doing that. My normal inclination with a real-time blog post is to begin with some sort of statement about where I am when the inspiration hit me to post about the topic. The reason I do that is because it's my context at that moment in time. As I think it through, I can provide that context for the event audience with my hashtag-laden tweet, and as you say, the post can become "evergreen" (great word, BTW).

    Thanks for the comment!

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