Creating Expert Communities with Tweetchats

In June #MMchat aka #MarketerMonday chat will be held for the 100th time!

Established July 26th, 2010 #MMchat has become a weekly tradition for an ever expanding number of CMOs, marketers and others working in and around the digital social networking space. And all of us @TheSocialCMO were recently very pleased when #MMchat was named one of the 15 Essential Social Marketing Twitter Chats by Mashable.

One of the most elusive goals of transient social networks remains the creation of sustainable ongoing communities of interest. Tweetchats are an excellent way to not only establish such an expert community, but to also keep it engaged and growing on an ongoing basis.

For those unfamiliar with, and who have neither lurked nor participated in #MMchat before, you may wish to check out the #MMchat Master Schedule. This online shared document includes links to all past SPECIAL guests with full transcripts to serve as examples, plus a listing of upcoming chats and topics!

The explosion in Twitter use is what has fueled this growing interest and participation in tweetchats. The use of twitterchats can now be effectively translated to almost any topic or area of expertise whether B2C or B2B focused. If you don’t buy this, just check out the now more than 600 regular tweetchats listed on the Twitter Chat Schedule which list expands daily.

When tweetchats are executed skillfully, communities of experts will gather on a regular basis generating massive activity, genuine participation, crowdsourced insights and quality resources. Another important spinoff benefit of the creation of #MMchat has been a tenfold increase in traffic to The Social CMO blog. Personal development of these online chat techniques began with chat moderation of java chatrooms in the 1990’s and our ongoing involvement in tweetchats has grown steadily resulting in the below #MMchat best practices utilized today.

1) Before you begin: Come up with a great hashtag capturing your chat topic and make sure it’s not already being used by someone else. Pick an optimal time and day of week for your chat based on the audience/geography you’re trying to reach and other tweetchats running at the same time. Make sure you have committed host(s) and a good head start on topics/guests prior to launching your tweetchat.

2) A word on frequency: Daily is likely too often and monthly is usually not frequent enough. Optimal frequency seems to be once a week. Based on experience, if you run a tweetchat once a month people tend to forget about your chat during the large stretch of off weeks and sadly no momentum builds.

3) SPECIAL guests make a difference: Many tweetchats we’ve seen lack focus/direction and the discussion can drift or die without a focus. The most successful twitterchats incorporate the use of SPECIAL guest thought leaders. Not only are these individuals experts on the topic, but tend to draw many more participants than just announcing a topic, especially if they are influencers with a significant following of their own.

4) Maximize efficiency & content with a script: Some may feel it’s counter intuitive or contrived to have a script in advance of a tweetchat on social networks. However given the need to pack your questions and answers into 140 characters with appropriate hashtags makes doing entire tweetchats on the fly difficult. Very few can pull this off effectively and it slows the whole tweetchat down limiting the information which can be shared. Doing an advance script means you can move quickly through the Q & A sharing greater volumes of high quality information and leaving more time for the unstructured Q & A and open audience participation in the latter part of the tweetchat.

5) Capture the output in transcript: Once you’ve prepared an awesome script for your tweetchat, you want to make sure you capture and share the output capturing the participation of all. This is where the positive benefit of the advance script shines through as your transcript will now have a structure and flow making it valuable content collateral. The transcripts I’ve seen from unscripted and poorly structured tweetchats look like someone barfed and are of little ongoing value. But the main purpose for the transcript is many in your community cannot make it every week to your tweetchat and the transcript allows them to review and keep up when convenient to them. Even more significant is that no set weekly tweetchat time works for every location in the world. A complete transcript posted on a timely basis allows those experts with interests in the SPECIAL guest and topics you’re covering to timeshift and “lurk” on your tweetchat when convenient to them.

6) Promote and share about chat before, after and in between chats: Social networks are all about buzz and nothing is better for attracting greater participation in your tweetchat than building up advance interest in your upcoming SPECIAL guest and topic. Announce new SPECIAL guests and topics as soon as they’re confirmed. Blog about the SPECIAL guests/topics and promote those blogposts. Include/link to a recent thought leadership blogpost from your SPECIAL guest on the tweetchat topic. Create and maintain a master schedule of all upcoming chats including links to past transcripts. Execute countdown tweets up until the actual tweetchat begins and then post transcript on a timely basis following the chat with supporting tweets highlighting availability of transcript.

The above just scratches the surface relative to how to plan, create and execute a successful Twitter Chat. If you have serious intentions of starting and running a tweetchat, feel free to reach out to us at #MMchat to further discuss the finer points.

In addition, a number of conferences and other live events are now beginning to incorporate tweetchats as part of their offering to fuel the online social activity surrounding the event. #MMchat has previously been involved in launch events and the combination of LIVE participants tweeting onsite with those around the world can result in a compelling form of spontaneous combustion which network effect will only continue to grow.

Following some of the above tips supported by a solid strategy will ensure your investment of time and brand capital in creating a tweetchat is rewarded. The pay off will be increased influence and reach as you create and facilitate an active community of expert practitioners. Not only will you meet many new partners and friends, this put you and your firm right in the middle of the online social action in your chosen space.

Jeff Ashcroft