I miss all the conversations I used to have on Twitter. So a few weeks ago I created a Twitter Chat called #DayChat as a virtual social media water cooler where my friends and I could hang out and chat about marketing vs just sharing links with each other. I also did it as a little social media marketing experiment. Today, I want to share the early learnings of the experiment in hopes that you’ll find a few nuggets you can apply to your own sales & marketing lead generation program development.
Old Habits Die Hard
When I launched the Twitter chat I had a set of ground rules — amongst them was no RT’ing tweets (unless you removed the hashtag) and no link sharing. Both of these rules were immediately and repeatedly broken. INTERESTINGLY though, in most cases #DayChat participants would note the violation before I could even address it. And in all cases, especially with link sharing, the violator simply hadn’t read the rules.
The RT’ing thing though — that is simply a habit that is utterly ingrained into Twitter users and I’ve given up trying to break them of the habit.
But there was also one other habit — my own — that I surprisingly lapsed in to rather quickly. Trying to grow the conversation and audience.
Remember, I didn’t start the hashtag to build a social media audience or anything like that… I was just looking for a way to stimulate more real conversation on Twitter to improve my experience. So I didn’t solicit folks to join or make sure to @reply folks who might want to join a particular conversation. I didn’t follow up with those who had joined previous conversations in hopes of getting them back or building a #DayChat community.
But boy did I think about it ;-)
It was like a Pavlovian Response — that ingrained instinct to build this little Twitter Chat, grow it, and maintain it — even when I wasn’t there.
Stay true to your goals, especially when you’re trying something new. Your instinct will be to fall back on the tried and true. But when you’re experimenting, you have to understand that failure of an idea is just as important as success — maybe even more so.
Love Your Core
As in core audience that is… from the beginning a few key folks gravitated to #DayChat. Some I knew already but a few I had never met or conversed with on Twitter or any social media platform at all. They just liked the idea and from time to time would pop in for a chat.
If I was trying to turn #DayChat into some kind of social media community — maybe something like Mack Collier’s super successful #BlogChat – I would need to identify these folks, create a special column for them on my Hootsuite and make sure I paid special attention to them. In doing so, I could create a far stronger relationship that would certainly prompt them to invite more folks to #DayChat.
As I said, I didn’t really do this and yet, there were “regulars” inviting or telling their followers to join in on a certain chat topic or just to keep #DayChat on their radar screen because it’s cool.
Therefore, any company that is looking to use Twitter Chats as a community builder needs to plan for an appropriate level of effort outside of conducting the actual Twitter Chat, if they hope to make that chat truly successful. In the beginning, you’ll see some initial growth because it’s “new” but over time, you’ll see those random drive-by posters fade away. What is left — your core folks need to be hugged tightly.
Prod Versus Argue
Twitter, and maybe people in general, favors soft debates. What do I mean by soft? Let me try and explain.
My natural debate style is aggressive. I tend to attack and speak from positions of great strength and conviction even when walking in the land of opinion. When faced with an equally aggressive opponent, the resulting discussion can be fast, furious, heated but most of all — intellectually exciting.
But what #DayChat taught me is that most folks aren’t aggressive when they discuss or debate a subject. So when you forcefully make your case, they tend to shut down. I’d like to think it is because they realize I’m right ;-) but I highly doubt that is the case. A more likely scenario is that they just don’t like the tenor of the conversation and feel uncomfortable debating in that style.
If you’re going to use Twitter Chats as a way to explore community or consumer sentiment… as pseudo research… walk and talk gently. Approach the task from a Socratic Style designed to get folks talking through the answering of questions without you passing judgement on those answers. Instead of meeting a point with a counter-point, meet it with another question designed to elicit another answer.
When I took my own advice and fell into a Socratic Style — the conversations lasted longer and included more participants. I think this is an important piece of learning for any company trying to use social channels to learn from customers and prospects.
Stay True to Your Goal
I started #DayChat to have conversations. But the truth is, I’m not on Twitter every day. Often times I’m traveling to speak at a conference in support of my book, The Invisible Sale. Other times I’m teaching my client’s how to Painlessly Prospect for new customers. And other times I’m just busy being a dad and a husband. Whatever the reason, I’m not on Twitter that day.
But #DayChat was supposed to be just that — every day. So I began letting that public commitment to a regularly schedule chat override the initial goal — have more conversations on Twitter. And after some reflection, I’ve decided that it is more important to me that folks link #DayChat to “Tom’s online and wants to talk” vs just another hashtag chat.
So from now on, you won’t see #DayChat every day. But when you do, you’ll know I’m actively on Twitter at that moment looking for a good convo or someone to have a drink with me. So if you see the tag and you are interested in either — be sure to talk back.
We can tell each other a few more secrets.