There are well over 500 Twitter chats right now (here’s a list of almost 600 of them). These chats cover literally every topic under the sun, and represent a wonderful chance for companies to not only learn more about their customers, but to better connect with them. Here’s some ideas for how they can get started:
1 – Lurk N Learn. This is my affectionate term for when people don’t actively participate in Twitter chats, but instead watch the conversation happening. This is a great way to learn more about how the chat works, as well as learn from the conversation happening. Companies can do this to glean insights about their space and themselves, but seeing the conversation being created by others.
2 – Actively participate in Twitter chats. As I always say, participating in a conversation changes that conversation. Often, after people have lurked on a chat for a while, they will stick their toes in the water and start participating. Companies can benefit from this by getting direct feedback from current and potential customers. For example, if you are in the fast food industry and you see a Twitter chat devoted to healthy eating, participating in that chat could be a chance for you to educate participants on some of the ‘healthier’ options your chain has added recently to its menu. This would also be a chance for customers to chime in and give you feedback on these items.
3 – Sponsor an existing Twitter chat. This is a good option especially if the company is considering starting its own Twitter chat. Since I moderate #Blogchat, I am constantly talking to other Twitter chat hosts about the sponsorship issue, and many of them are getting interest from companies. If executed correctly, the sponsorship can pay big dividends for the company. I think the best way to handle the sponsorship is to leverage it as a way for the company to create value for the regular participants. Maybe that could be something as simple as awarding a few gift cards at the end of the chat, but the last thing you want is for the company to use the sponsorship as a chance to promote itself excessively during the chat. That makes both the sponsor and the chat organizer look bad.
If positioned properly, the sponsor can make the conversation in the Twitter chat it is sponsoring better AND help establish itself as a leader in its space. If your company would like to talk to me about sponsoring #Blogchat, please do email me. If you see another chat you’d like to sponsor, contact that chat’s organizer as I’m sure they’d love to talk to you.
4 – Use Promoted Tweets with an existing Twitter Chat. Here’s an example of what this looks like, as Toyota did this with #Blogchat:
Obviously, I’m not a big fan of this approach for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a nuisance for most of the chat participants. For example when #Blogchat starts, we are discussing a particular blogging topic. We aren’t discussing the cool techno-wizardry that Toyota has up its sleeve. So this promoted tweet is a total disconnect and it makes Toyota look clueless. And the more savvy Twitter users know that with Tweetdeck all they have to do is mark the tweet as Read and then filter the column for read tweets, and its gone anyway.
Second, a sponsorship of the actual chat would be a much better fit for Toyota. I’m not sure how Twitter charges for promoted tweets like this (I believe it’s still PPC), but most individual Twitter chats can be sponsored for $1,000 or less, cost really depends on the size of the chat and its popularity. By working with that chat host on a sponsorship, the company can find one that not only gives them ‘more bang for their buck’, but that also creates value for the participants of the chat. Which makes the sponsor look a lot smarter than this does.
But again, I run a chat and want sponsors of that chat, so it’s possible I am a bit biased against this approach.
5 – Start your own Twitter chat! While it’s not easy, starting a Twitter chat is a great way to not only get feedback from current and potential customers, but it helps establish your expertise and thought leadership in your space. I would suggest that companies go through at least the first two steps above before they jump in the water and start their own Twitter chat. It is a LONG process, and like starting a blog, it takes a while to build a following. But if you can commit to it, a Twitter chat could pay big dividends for your company. If you want to go this route, here’s a post I wrote on 10 Steps to Creating a Successful Twitter Chat.
So there’s some ideas for how your company can leverage a Twitter chat. Above all, please remember that people love Twitter chats because it gives them a chance to learn from each other. That’s why we are so incredibly devoted to them. When thinking about how you could be involved in a Twitter chat, remember that it’s best to check your marketer’s hat at the door, and don’t view Twitter chats as a chance to promote yourself, but rather as a chance to learn more about your industry, and the people that are and could be your customers!