Category: twitter

Twitter conversations with meaningful impact

NOTE: This piece was originally published on September 2014. No changes have been made to the content apart from images being updated.

twitterchat1It’s no secret: Twitter chats are an essential part of your digital marketing diet. In fact, these online conversations offer valuable information and far-reaching benefits to both seasoned and aspiring professionals from any industry.

And while many will continue to debate whether some of the information gleaned is insightful or insipid,  I can certainly attest to its remarkable power—being part of a team of moderators who manage a well participated, multi-themed chat exploring the limitless possibilities of social media (#smchat).

So you may ask, “Are there a clear set of best practices that can help maximize time and thought investment in this activity?”

From my experience to date, there are some good habits worth noting. And below are some considerations. These are frank, personal impressions which I hope will resonate instinctively and be of help over the long term.

PARTICIPANTS

  • Spontaneity is key, but timeliness is of the essence
    Most chats are prefaced by a round of introductions. Although friendly and reassuring, I personally limit (if not completely leave out) these seemingly endless greetings (actually, I am known to just parachute myself in the midst of a chat). There’s nothing wrong with pleasant hi-there-hello’s but be focused and on point with the limited hour you have in drawing people’s attention to and interest in the discussion.
  • Digression is encouraged, especially if advancing non-obvious aspects of a given topic
    I typically refer to moments of inspiration as “sparks” and will invariably refer to this term from time to time because of its understated, onomatopoeic beauty. If you start seeing chatters branch off into tangents, join them! You will be astounded at what fresh nuggets of insight you’ll be able to sift through these exchanges.
  • Self-promotion can be awkward: attempt at your own risk
    Perhaps it’s because I haven’t actually brain-farted an e-book worth reading. I don’t know. While there’s nothing wrong with the odd, brave ‘shameless self-protwitter-chat-headermotion’ you are, in essence, owning up to two things: a) that you are willing to risk demonstrating a faint moment of egoism, and b) that you have no qualms at all with that decision. Is that really the kind of impression you want to leave?
  • Hashtag spamming is really not a good thing. Really, don’t even bother.
    In almost all scenarios, there will be a random tweet that will piggy-back off the rousing (sometimes frenetic) pace of your Twitter chat. Usually, these tweets are entirely unrelated to the topic at hand. So something like this: 1001 Ways to Improve Your Social Selling – URL – #LookAtMe #ImShameless #TwitterChat will inevitably pop up randomly in your timeline. Don’t be that person. It’s really not worth it. You’re only giving people more reason to unfollow, mute or out right avoid you.

MODERATORS

  • A framework is ideal but sometimes not necessary
    Preparing a brief abstract that positions your theme and substantiates the various reasons why you think a given topic is worthy of discussion is, IMO, the best case scenario. Offering leading questions beforehand also helps incite reflection prior to the actual chat. This makes for more willing (and prepared) participation. However, there are some Twitter chats that simply fire off a topic and questions on the fly. Sometimes this can be equally exhilarating. However, I do notice that these types of chats tend to already have a handful of regular participants who are savvy enough to go with the flow.
  • Co-moderation is a good, sustainable format
    It’s like tag-teaming. Not only do you ensure longevity of your involvement in Twitter chats but also afford having fresh ideas circulate within your team. Online conversations on Twitter are meant to be community-driven. So it follows that having at least two people assigned to a given chat topic makes for a more pragmatic, sustainable approach to your format.
  • Echo chambers are evil. They really are.
    Yes, I myself have been guilty of contributing  to the reverberating hollowness within these accursed chambers. I don’t think moderators actually intend to come off as sounding like broken records. But I have seen a fair share of repetitive question-and-answer banter that trigimages-gellis-Image-Thematic_chatsger eye roll’s and ugh’s like an unconscious twitch. Is it laziness? Did you not have enough time to prepare? Are you justifying using your Captain Obvious megaphone because you want to help new entrants? Whatever the reason, the “define your objectives” meme is a dead horse. If you persist with flogging it to amplify canned loops of thought, you risk boring your participants. Worse, turning them off. Be daring. Ask tough questions and stir the pot once in a while so you can surface truly novel perspectives and creative input.
  • Be encouraging and inclusive
    So no, I won’t take back what I said about keeping your intro’s short 🙂 Although there is something to be said for quickly responding back to first-timers and making them feel welcome. What often works for me is keeping the tweet short and sweet,”Hi! Welcome! Feel free to dive right in or ask us any questions #TwitterChat” Most who are unfamiliar with how Twitter chats work will listen and lurk at first. But once someone acknowledges their presence and interest, they open right up and become surprisingly attentive and collaborative during the dialogue. Also, make sure you share others’ input with an RT, favourite or quote. This helps strengthen affinity and confidence among your participants, especially when they know their presence is valued and their ‘2 cents’ is useful to others, too.

Some view chatting on Twitter to be annoying; they see these random exchanges as polluting their timelines. And while the MUTE button exists for this reason, many either ignore the chatter and carry on unfazed or simply unfollow you.

What has YOUR Twitter Chat experience been like? Do share.

Social media: the profound, instinctive and unquantifiable

There were a few instances this week that reminded me of :

(a) how profound social media can be—a particular depth of awareness and appreciation exists, which we easily take for granted as we are swept away by the immediacy of what fascinates and confounds us in the ‘here and now’, as well as

(b) the prevailing yet invisible evidence that reasoning guided by intuition and instinct remains largely untapped and suitably (if not beautifully) unquantifiable.

Let me parse through the density of these thoughts in more digestible terms:

1 – Collaboration looks easy but really only works with earned trust

imageAt the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will continue to maintain that Twitter is the iconic face of social media. It is, indeed, what I consider the universal core from which all other social networks triangulate and map their respective bearings within the unfathomable grid of cyberspace.

As such, Twitter is where I’ve truly established my public voice and presence – professional or otherwise. Where I’ve organically built my tribe, nurtured online/offline relationships, and depended upon them for support and affirmation.

Clear proof of this is how @andymci and I quickly agreed to revive a startup themed Twitter chat (#canstartchat) and pick up where we’ve left it last spring.

How we reacted ‘in-a-flash’, without hesitation typifies what most call ‘earned trust’. If any of us ever fail to value this non-metric based element, then we’re fretty much pucked.

2 –  The human psyche will always underpin the evolution of social media

First, kudos to TechCrunch for tweeting about emotion-driven marketing and to TheNextWeb for the pyschology of social media tweet.

Admittedly, most of us marketers (well, the cool ones anyway) are properly conditioned to develop a flare for snark. However, my poor attempt at joking about the redundancy of  having “psychology and social media” in one breath is ironically what inspired me to hammer out this post.

What’s even more painfully ironic, is how the above (bolded!) statement makes me sound like Captain Obvious. But you know, there may well be other factors at play as social media evolves,  not least of which is the technology that drives it to transform.

Most revealing for me has been how tech itself is getting closer and closer to mapping out parameters that characterize the human psyche. With promising advancements in automated systems, robotics and AI, we have never been more thrilled nor vigilant about the possibilities.

So lets hope. That the human psyche will continue to underpin its evolution. Not Goo–I mean, Skynet.

3 –  Philosophical consistency is the hallmark of expertise

I often reflect upon one of my tweet replies to @jetude after I once quickly pinged back that “I am a die-hard existentialist at heart.” I questioned this for a nano, only because I doubted how true that statement really was.

Or perhaps I wanted to see if I remained true to this conviction. To be honest, the existential philosophers have strongly influenced my perspective.

But whatever your philosophical leaning may be: rationalist, post-modernist or say-it-in-plain-English-ist, remaining consistent with your personal reference point (your philosophical predisposition) strengthens the logic of your own convictions.

image (1)When @banovsky had a brief lapse about ‘keeping up pace”, I was glad to remind him of his own philosophical consistency. And to avoid second-guessing himself:

4 – Early formative years are more critical than later stages of development

My peers (folks of my generation in the cusp of Boomer and GenX) may agree with me when I say that we have had the privilege of the best years of education (at least here in Canada).

I don’t say this to brag. I say it with big sigh of relief, as I hear horror stories of how challenging learning can be for the young minds of this generation.

In retrospect, my high school years have been the most impressionable and formative. Of course, post secondary schooling and eventually being in the workforce played important roles. But I would not have been as confident had I not undergone the level and quality of training I did in high school.

The same phenomenon applies to how well you bet on social media’s power. Yes, we are betting on it. We are counting on social media to open many doors. Not just for selling, marketing or selfie-ing. But for actualizing democratized and uncensored access to aspects of our life, which we used to never be able to see or hear about. In an instant. In a tweet.

So be thankful.

Sometimes, what you can’t measure, what you can’t tag a price to, can be the most profound experience you will ever have. Or recall to have.

Painting a thousand words on Twitter. With words.

We’re quite familiar with this adage, right? And as far as we’re concerned, use of imagery to attract attention is all too self-evident. You’d even wonder why anyone would flesh it out at all as a social marketing best practice because, well, d’uh.

LAtelier_TheWorkshop_72dpi
image source: http://theatrefrancais.com

But I have noticed recently that some Twitter accounts I follow tend to get a little carried away with having every single tweet tacked on with an image.  What are the drawbacks?

1 – It becomes a tad busy. Right? Suddenly your entire timeline is polluted with imagery and makes it ‘visually cumbersome’ to scroll through (especially when tweeting via mobile)

2 – Your sharing options become limited to ‘Retweet’ versus “Quote”, where you can actually add your own thought/commentary. Sometimes I simply take out the TwitPic link altogether

3 – Images are meant to complement text, not replace the power of words. If you get too image-happy with your tweets, the reader’s eyes  start to automatically magnetize towards the image and not what you’ve actually tweeted. Depending on how well you choose and pair up your pics with your tweet, this may (or may not) be an ‘info digestion’ issue.

4 – Your timeline starts to look like it’s desperate for attention.

Indeed, the power of visual cues is not to be underestimated. However, the “Realm of The 140 Character Limit” typically defaults to text-based content. This is why many professionals in the field of communications, linguistics and psychology have long lauded how effective Twitter is at honing in our writing skills, at being clear and concise.

With the continual rise of many more ways to share content types on social channels, exactly how mindful and fastidious are you with ‘mixing it up’?

Top 10 Under ‘10

Castor and Pollux
photo of Castor & Pollux sourced from wikimedia

A list of possible reasons why we seem driven to review the past and drum up predictions, spin omens, and stir the bubbling culdron of things to come:

  1. Perspective – this one’s self-explanatory. History is all about perspective and paying heed to or ignoring the lessons that come with such perspective.
  2. Hype – so is this one. Without hype, the actual unfolding of what can and could happen would be pretty boring. So the higher the level of speculation, the better (see #9).
  3. Nostalgia – a natural tendency to have an emotional association with impressionable moments/people/things etc. in the past allows us to appreciate its value and purpose in time. Sentiment without necessarily the analysis.
  4. Technology – the speed of technology’s evolution continually pushes the limits of our peripheral comprehension of what is, what can be and what will be. However, in some cases, we tend to go overboard, like declaring something like fax machines as obsolete. They may be used less and less these days but they’re not yet obsolete. The tendency to exaggerate comes with the need to immediately replace with the latest, brighter, shinier toy.
  5. Novelty – the end of a cycle must come with the promise of something new. For now, it is a ‘must’ because surely there must always be something new (good or bad) that is due on the horizon. Subconsciously, we cling to the notion of novelty each time we get out of bed.
  6. Authority – creating a list of trends and predictions somehow proposes that the one(s) who prepare and compile such a list has authority (ergo knowledge and expertise) on the items listed. Hence, issuing said list is much like a self-acknowledgment of authority.
  7. Memory – having a list helps us remember the things we need to pay attention to, much like grocery shopping lists. Now whether or not we are meant to actually pay attention to these things is another story.
  8. Permanence – it’s not so much the act of being permanent, as it is the suggestion of permanence that makes list and predictions appealing. “So-and-so’s authorative list of A, B, C trends that will radically change X, Y and Z” has a definitive sound to it. The more definitive it sounds, the more sure and secure we tend to feel.
  9. Excitement – this is the Pollux to hype’s Castor. Hype breeds excitement. Forecasts, foretelling and crystal ball style banter makes it more fun to look forward to the unknown (or dread what it may portend).
  10. Ease – and the lamest– i mean, most subtle of them all stems from sheer laziness– i mean, need to be efficient. Lists of this and that are like a series of symptoms that make up a larger prognosis. While we may have some sense of what the symptoms are and may be close to arriving at an accurate prognosis, the compilation of all symptoms do not necessarily depict what may in fact happen. But, somehow a list can easily act as a placebo. It’s easier for us to have a vague notion than be left completely in the dark.

So there. Musings from a pile of coin that’s been sitting in the corner. What drives YOU to go nuts over lists?