Monthly Archives: February 2013

Time Spent Well with Olivier Blanchard

sm ROI

Olivier Blanchard was our guest this week in class, who is the author of one of our text books, “Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization.”

Silos and Company Culture

Olivier discussed how certain companies may be divided into various departments or “silos” that can create certain political issues when attempting to pursue a social media initiative. Other dysfunctions include operational issues and lack of insight on what social media is, leading to inadequate funding or incorrect hiring. Another major issue that was mentioned is the lack of training throughout the silos that make up an organization – some departments or teams may not have the understanding of how to use social media tools.

I definitely agree that to implement social media in a company you should have support from executive leadership. Olivier mentioned that culture is extremely difficult to change and is a gradual process. Gaining buy-in from individual silos throughout the organization through implementing social media in their various processes is a great way to start. Showing how social media can meet their needs and improve their business at the department level can gradually “bubble up” to top leadership.

Based on my own experiences, I have seen that executive leadership concentrates on generating revenue through their mainstream business processes. Generally speaking, executives do not care how social media can help with their business, it is up to community managers and social media experts to show them how it can generate revenue and/or cut costs. The lack of understanding by top management and the mentality of “just get it done now” can lead to extremely frustrating work environment where the end result is an inefficient social media implementation.

Noteworthy Discussion Points

There were several questions that were asked during the discussion with Olivier that I thought were very good takeaways. One of the questions asked related to a boss that had no idea what metrics they wanted for a Twitter account they were using for PC support. Olivier provided some straight-forward questions to ask the boss to determine the metrics, but the biggest take away that I go from it was that “if a manager cannot tell you why you are doing something or how it should be measured for success, then there is something wrong with them.” I completely agree with this statement and have found myself asking this question to my previous manager.

I was lucky enough to have one of my questions answered by Olivier. Using agencies to handle your online social media presence seemed to be a generally accepted practice according to Olivier. I found it very interesting that some agencies bring a client’s resource in-house to manage direct communications with their customers. Other agencies seemed to only sell content creation and publishing services, which is not online community management.

Overall, I thought the hangout included a great discussion with some useful information sharing.  Did you watch the hangout?  What did you think?

Social Media Managing with Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder)

Olivier Blanchard

The #cmgrclass had an opportunity this week to hear from one of the top professionals in the Social Media industry, Olivier Blanchard (aka @thebrandbuilder on twitter). It was a very enlightening occurance. Blanchard has over 15 years of experience working in the realm of social media and is considered one of the foremost experts in the field. He shares his experience in lectures, on his blog and in books. In a statement from his bio – “Oh, and I also wrote a little book titled “Social Media ROI,” which is pretty much a blueprint for companies looking to build social media programs that will actually yield results, not just fans and followers,” you may understand how exciting it was to have an opportunity to interact with him.

social media ROI book BING

Blanchard’s unique and powerful insight into the workings of social media ROI and community building have great value for those that will take the time to study it. His pearls of wisdom that were shared helped me to gain a better insight. Let me reveal a few of the golden nuggets now.

Blanchard starts out by identifying the fact that social media is frequently thought of like a “fifth wheel.” Companies “know they need to have it” but may not be sure what to do with it. Starting with internal factors that could benefit from social media use, and working with the decision makers can be a good place to start. Another way to initiate a SM campaign would be to start with internal workings by department. By focusing on each departments needs, SM can help to create dialog between the members of that department and then integrate the individual departments into a company wide support system. For example: Public Relations, Marketing and Product Management may currently be operating independently without much interaction, but they may share some of the same obstacles in regards to reaching out to the consumers. Through the use of social media,  good online community involvement could help to alleviate this impasse by connecting to the community.  There are times when social media is not properly coordinated, though. When this happens, there may be an eminent #FAIL on the horizon. This #fail can be avoided with the buy-in from the top down, sharing of information and support and direction from a position of influence within the company. (Olivier Blanchard has done a video that talks about what a Facebook “LIKE” is really worth. Isn’t this something you always wanted to know? To find out what he has to say take a look at this video.)

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Using solely KPI  metrics and not looking at other returns on investment can lead to artificial readings of success without a true measurement of capital return. It is important to the value and possibilities that SM can bring to a company when it is properly managed. In Blanchard’s book, he states ” A fully deployed social media program is a completely  integrated communications mechanism that amplifies the impact of every function within an organization by leveraging the power of human networks via social networking platforms.” This is great advice!  You must sell the value of a SM campaign internally. Only then can you understand the true value and the possibilities that may be there for the asking.

What questions would you like to ask of Olivier Blanchard? Would you like to understand how to “put the puzzle pieces together”? If so, take a look at his website for the answers.

 

Understanding the Value of Social Media with Olivier Blanchard

As a first year Information Management graduate student looking to pursue a career in social media either as a social media strategist or a community manager, I found our class talk with Oliver Blanchard, author of “Social Media ROI” to be very informative. One question in particular which Oliver was asked that was most intriguing to me dealt with the idea of “how to make companies understand the value of social media.” Furthermore, as a low-level worker involved with social media, when reporting metrics and success of your work to higher-level authority, how do you truly convince and explain that social media is important and leading to success?

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Oliver Blanchard’s response to this question was very interesting. He explained that it is very stressful trying to sell the value of social media, however he believes a good place to start is internally. Blanchard suggested meeting with decision makers within the company, and asking them what you can do to help them. He continued to explain that by listening to their answers to this question, in most cases you will be learning how you can help them sell things using social channels and your community. Blanchard goes on to say that in understanding what everyone wants and wants to accomplish within the company, they will have to start thinking about social media and your social activity as a tool and driver for whatever they are chasing. Therefore, they will start to come to you with questions and requests and in the end you will start looking at data and content differently.

I found this suggestion to be very accurate and a great way to start in convincing your company that social media is of value. In an article from the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Measuring—and Capturing—the Value of Social Media” three other ways in which you can show the value of social media are outlined.

1. Going with the Flow

2. Forming R.E.A.L Relationships

3. Getting Engaged

The first way the article describes that is useful is called, “going with the flow.” Essentially what this means is that by looking at the flow of information, social media “can actively express brand value through the newly visible flows of non-monetary economic value that traverse social networks. Perhaps most important, these flows can now be identified, measured, and converted into financial equivalents, thus enabling organizations to aggregate the disparate forms of returns into a more traditional view.” The flows of information suggested to watch for include, data, labor, capital, and customer’s attention which all represent flows within a business system.

The second way, “forming R.E.A.L. relationships,” explains that it is important for companies to “strive for relationships with customers that are “R.E.A.L.”: Reciprocal, Empathetic, Authentic, and Long-lasting.” Relationships that contain these values, help a company provide efficient and consistent communication and collaboration, and can therefore provide better opportunities to increase profitability. The third and final way, “getting engaged” relates to forming relationships. Essentially, the more engaged your company is, the greater the ability to “win the hearts, hands, minds and wallets of its market.”

To truly express the value of social media, start internally, as suggested by Oliver Blanchard. Once this step is taken, work on developing relationships with your clients which will ultimately lead to a better understanding and grasp on your market.

 

 

Looking Beyond Superficial Measurements

cmgrclass roiHaving Olivier Blanchard join us for our #CMGRclass hangout was a great opportunity. He had insightful comments and answers to our questions. His book, Social Media ROI, is about managing and measuring social media efforts and it was helpful and interesting to hear directly from the author.

This response from Olivier really stood out to me:

You need to know how to measure and operate outside of superficial measurements such as follower numbers. Because once social media efforts start failing, organizations can buy followers to keep those numbers up, but they don’t really mean anything if they are not real.

The first step in figuring out what your company or organization needs to measure is figuring out what your main goals are. Here are a few examples:

  • Increased participation from community members
  • More sales of your product or service
  • Increase awareness of your company/organization
  • Monetary donations from your community members

Social Media Engine has a great article on “Social Media ROI: How to Develop a Strategic Plan” that will provide you with more information on how to define and develop a strategic plan for your organization.

Although followers on social networking sites are important, those numbers only go so far. You may see an organization that has tens of thousands of followers on Twitter, but do they know anything about their followers, are they interacting with them, are they engaging?

In addition to measuring follower numbers, here are a two (of the many) things that I believe community and social media managers should be measuring and tracking:

1. Social media interaction

facebook insightsAs your community grows, it is important to track what kind of content they like. Does a certain type of Facebook post get more likes than another? Did you have an unusually low or unusually high amount of retweets on a particular tweet? Did a blog post get a crazy number of shares? If you track the interactions you have with your community members you will get a better idea of what they like and don’t like. That way you can produce the content they are looking for.

Suggested tools: Facebook insights, HootSuite, Bit.ly, Google Analytics.

2. Number of online relationships that turn into real life relationships

tumblr meet upGaining followers online is just the beginning; developing a relationship with each follower is the difficult part. A really great way to connect with your online community on another level, is to host events. Although online relationships are valuable and can be very strong, they cannot completely replace the importance of interacting with someone in person. When you host events, keep a guest list and track who keeps coming back. Chances are the people who attend your events are also the ones who are highly active in your community online. Building real live relationships can make your online community that much stronger.

Suggested tools: Meetup.com, Tumblr Meetups

 

What measurements are most important when managing your community? What are your favorite tools to use? Please share!

 

Measuring Social Media Success, With Olivier Blanchard

This week in #CMGRClass, we were lucky enough to have Olivier Blanchard, the author of Social Media ROI, join us in our biweekly Hangout on Google+. We were asked to write some questions down ahead of time, relevant to his book and expertise. Given my current position as a social media strategist at SU’s IT Services, I was eager to hear Olivier’s commentary on using data metrics to improve your social media efforts.

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One of the issues I’ve run into at work is that my boss and coworkers are unsure of what sort of goals they have for their social media presence. Part of the issue is that no one person is really devoted to working on our social platforms, it’s more of an extension of our phone support services instead. As such, when I asked about specific metrics that I should be looking at in my daily work, they wanted to defer to me to figure it out. That’s not something I would mind doing, but I’m still rather new to this particular organization, so I’m not well-versed in the overarching strategy and goals that already exist. I’m flying a bit blind until I learn them or help my superiors develop some more concrete wants and need in terms of data.

So, when the conversation with Olivier turned to finding and demonstrating value in your social media efforts, I knew it was the right time to ask the question burning in my brain: what questions can I ask to help my employers figure out what they want out of social media? If they’re paying me to look at Twitter all day, I’d love to give them some data and results that they can in turn act on to improve their services and better address customer needs. Olivier’s response, borrowed from Brains On Fire, was “What would you like to be celebrating in six months?” He went on to talk about how social media for customer service might prove to be a better medium for resolving issues, and one person on Twitter may accomplish just as much as three people on phone calls. Speed of response and speed of resolution were other metrics he recommended looking at, but he also brought up the point that if a leader can’t tell you why you’re using social media for business, there’s a problem with the leadership that should be fixed. I agree with that point, and I’ve gotten the impression that social media was adopted in this office more on a hunch that it would be useful, rather than with a clear goal of extending our service mediums to better meet our customers’ needs. Now that we have these accounts, and I’m in a position to influence our direction, I would like to help establish real goals, and I think the language Olivier offered will be helpful in having that discussion with my superiors.

As this problem has been on my mind for a few weeks, I’ve done some research of my own into what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) similar organizations use, which metrics work, which are just for show, and so on. I found an article on a Harvard Business Review blog, entitled Why Your Social Media Metrics Are a Waste of Time, by Ivory Madison. Madison writes that pageviews and unique visitors, Twitter followers and Facebook likes aren’t exactly relevant to running a business on their own. Instead, she advises that actionable metrics that align with clear business goals are better, something you could present to your CEO with no further explanation. I’m inclined to agree.

What KPIs are most relevant to your business? Were they difficult to establish?

When Building an Internal Community, Start Small and Grow Big

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Olivier Blanchard uses Pinterest as an example to promote exclusivity when building internal communities. 

On Tuesday, February 12, 2013 the #cmgrclass instructors made it possible for Olivier Blanchard, author of Social Media ROI, to be guest speaker of the bi-weekly Google+ hangout session.

Prior to the hangout, participants were asked to submit two questions to be asked during the chat. Here is one of mine:

We’ve learned that building an internal community is equally as important as forming online communities. As a Community Manager, how do you go about establishing an internal community within an organization?

Blanchard offered incredible insight. Here’s what he had to say:

In establishing an internal community, don’t be blunt about your motives. If you go around announcing to the organization you’re looking to build an internal community, your colleagues will be pretty unresponsive. Blanchard strongly suggests engineering it as a scarcity model. Initially, you should interact with people within the organization with whom you already have internal relations. These people should, ideally, already see value in community management and the importance of creating an internal community.

By making a small, private group, others will begin to take notice and inquire. It’s not a snob club, but let’s face it, scarcity and exclusivity rise people to want to belong. They suddenly urge to be in the know and become active internal community members. This will happen over time as you give your core group permission to invite others and allow the internal community to grow organically.

Blanchard uses Pinterest as an example. In the early days, Pinterest required newbies to be invited by a current member in order to be eligible to create an account and become an active user. Use this exact model when establishing your internal community, the core group you begin with will reinforce the value and drive adoption amongst other colleagues. As Jenn Pedde would say, “Start small and grow big.”

In terms of value, Blanchard suggests selling value internally as well. Companies tend to hire people to run social media. They see how relevant is has become, but aren’t necessarily sure how to began creating a presence on various digital outlets. Community managers need work at convincing companies, especially those in high leadership positions, of the value and possibility social media can add.

Schedule meetings the decision makers, which can include, but certainly isn’t limited to department leaders, team leaders, product managers, marketing managers. During this meeting, ask how you can help them. How can you be an asset to what is it that they’re trying to accomplish? These leaders will begin to share their long-term goals, what they need more of, and what they’re trying to sell more of. As a community manager, aim to meet that goal using social channels.  By seeking to understand what everyone wants to establish within a company and understanding the desires and motivations of top leaders, you can allow them to see value in what you do. Use social media as a tool and driver of what the big decision makers are chasing. They’ll then begin to come to you with questions and requests. Report to each leader with wins and hurdles and be vocal about what you need from them in terms of content to produce successful outcomes.

How were you able to create value within your organization? Share your story with #cmgrclass!

To Outsource or Not: Community Management Work

The concept of a company hiring an advertising, public relations or social/digital agency to fulfill the role of community manager, as discussed in our Google Hangout by guest expert Olivier Blanchard this week, was intriguing.

Discussion of the plan to staff the function interested me because I’ve worked both as an agency provider to clients as a client buyer.

When I worked here,  i was involved in selecting, hiring, collaborating and sometimes firing agencies and consultants for marketing, advertising, and political consulting work. I experienced how some agencies who hit the mark with their work, and how others just never “got” the precise messaging and branding needed.

oneidaindiannation.com

paigemarketingcommunications.com

paigemarketingcommunications.com

In my next professional life, though,  I was a  agency staffer and I discovered that clients don’t always articulate what they want. I also found that, sometimes, agencies aren’t particulary good at interpreting that, or in meeting expectations.

So Blanchard’s comments about companies and organizations using agencies to fulfill social media and community manager work roles was a bit of a surprise. It’s an area especially worth consideration for me, since I’m now a solo communications practitioner who is studying social media at the iSchool. And this is an area of service I’ve considered offering to clients.

The author’s observations resonated, and here is how I consider them very on-point: sm ROI

  • He says there is “actually no problem” having agencies handling your social media
  • He cites some agencies (referencing Edelman) that “are starting to do it really well.”
  • The cases of success seem due to the hiring of “good people” by the agencies and the embedding of those staff in the client’s physical and cultural operating environment.

Sauce for the Goose/Gander

Google+HOA, #cmgrclass, 021613

Like any new employee, Blanchard says, people from an agency hired for this work also need

#cmgrclass Google HOA, 02/16/13

#cmgrclass Google HOA, 02/16/13

time to acclimate to the physical, cultural and organizational factors of the brand, so they:

  • Become immersed in the company/brand culture
  • Understand the product and the brand personality well
  • “Speak the language” of the organization
  • Adopt the company voice and importantly, capture the message tone
  • Become aware of the customer expectations and acceptable interactions

Embedding a social media/community practitioner gets them “on brand,” according to @thebrandbuilder. He cites a couple of potential problems when an agency handles the social/community work for a company, however:

  • The agency rep may be unable to do “peripheral engagement”
  • The result may be more a content creation package than true community engagement
  • The effort  may not convert brand preference or path-to-purchase (sales)
  • The client could pay “an incredible amount of money for what amounts to really crappy lazy content management online.”

 What Does Embedding Get?

Isafamedia - Creative Commons

Isafamedia – Creative Commons

In theory, “embedding” could be a smart move for both client and agency.

Think of the vividness achieved through the reporting of embedded journalists–those in tanks with soldiers– in Afghanistan or in Vietnam. In theory, the heightened reality of being “in that world” should translate.

From my personal experience, I’d say that whether agencies succeed or fail, whether they are “in synch” or “out of touch,” is ultimately reliant on the skills of the “interpreters,” the agency staff people assigned to the account. And I can see some downsides for both parties:

  • The organization may try to hire away the agency rep
  • The organization may decide to cut costs by replacing the agency rep with a full-time employee, leaving the agency person experienced in a narrow way that may not apply to other accounts
  • The client risks losing the voice it established if an agency person leaves (the same risk is present with any employee)
  • If the employee is handling more than one account, it may be hard to switch between organizational voices.

This record of change regarding agency life and death illustrates the fleeting nature of agency-client relations.

chobani.com/products

chobani.com/products

The Chobani company used high-profile agencies, and climbed to become the No. 1 seller in its category. Still, here’s what happened with its agencies:

March 28, 2009:             Chobani TapsTDA Advertising and Design

7 months later:                GothamWins Chobani

September 23, 2011:     Chobani Decision Nears, 3 Shops

March 14, 2012:              Leo Burnett NY Replaces Gotham

July 31, 2012:                  Chobani Takes King in the Yogurt Aisle

November 21, 2012:    Chobani’s Head of Marketing Doron Stern Exits

dreamstime.com

dreamstime.com

So… please provide your feedback:

  • How do you think a brand can maintain its voice and consumer connection in terms of the normal flux of personnel?
  • Would you be comfortable hiring an agency and embedding an agency staffer in your organization for social/community engagement?
  • If you were an agency, would you be comfortable hiring out staff to do community engagement for an organization?

 

 

The VALUE of Social Media

Value by alshepmcr

Photo Credit: by Ashepmcr

Everyone in the business world talks about the importance of creating value, but many would probably have a hard time explaining the meaning of their value’s without resorting to vague explanations like, “We value our customers.”  That’s great, but what exactly does that mean?  How do you conduct your everyday business to realize that value?

There is no shortage of articles, blogs, and books available to help companies develop, define, measure, set, and communicate their values.  It seems almost absurd that a word that is so pervasive in society (and seemingly simple on the surface) would require so much thought and explanation.   The author of the blog Setting corporate values and brand values suggests that a company should ask itself one simple question, when setting its values, “What do I want people to think about when they think of my company.”  While that seems like an easy and reasonable way to determine an overarching company value set, several questions still remain:

  • How is it even possible that a company would not be in touch with something as precious as its values?
  • Why is value such an elusive concept for many companies to define?

I propose this simple answer:   It is precisely because it is a concept, which is not concrete by nature, but inherently abstract, general, and subjective since it is often be based on individual experience and bias.  Consequently, value is in the eye of the beholder, whether that beholder is the CEO of the organization, or the customer with which that organization serves.

Now, let’s pause for a moment to consider value in terms of a company’s social media practices.  Many organizations, big and small, struggle to figure out how to integrate the social media element into their business without the benefit of understanding why they need it, how it works, or how to apply it in a meaningful, beneficial way.  Because of this, it is almost impossible to assign a set of social media values that correlate to the company’s overall values.  Olivier Blanchard, author of Social Media ROI advises companies to consider building their social media program by first gaining an understanding of the fundamentals around how social media works, with a focus on creating value and desired outcomes (for the company and the customer), as opposed to just creating content.  He asks us to think of social media as a driver to whatever is important to the organization by considering the following questions:

  • What do you ultimately want to accomplish with social media and why?
  • What are you trying to improve within the organization?
  • What is important to your organization?

But it is important for one to always remember, the value proposition works in more than one direction.   Companies must not only ascertain what the value of social media means to them specifically, but also if it aligns with their customers, clients, or communities perceived values as well.  All of these considerations are precisely why the “value of social media” and its power is so compelling!

What values do people generally derive from social media?  What kind of things do you see companies do that don’t create value for their fans or followers?  How can an organization figure out what is truly valuable to their customers?

 

 

Finding Your Community

It’s been freestyle week in #CMGRclass.  There haven’t been assigned readings, and students were asked to provide questions for our February 12 hangout with Olivier Blanchard, author of Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization.  #CMGRclass students came through, asking questions that addressed the execution and monitoring of social media activities within corporate, not-for-profit, higher education, and small business settings, and Olivier spoke to the class for nearly an hour on those questions and more.

Find the puzzle pieces and put them together

One #CMGRclass student, Katie Hudson, asked how a person without formal influence should communicate upward that social media is important and go about selecting the metrics that will demonstrate its success.

Puzzle Pieces

Olivier admitted that it can be disconcerting to see progress from an organization’s social media efforts, thinking that things are going well but lacking confirmation from management.  Olivier suggested that consulting with a company’s decision makers and asking key questions can go a long way toward identifying an organizations’ goals and how social media can help meet those objectives:

“What can I help you with?  What can I help you do?”

This is truly a win-win situation: the social media manager will have a better understanding of the business and its managers’ motivations; the business leaders will in turn understand how social channels can help them meet their needs within the business.  Olivier said, “It’s like finding all the puzzle pieces and putting them together.”

24 hours later…

The night after our Google+ hangout, I had a Junior League of Syracuse meeting.  The organization’s usual monthly membership meetings are executed slightly differently during the month of February, where the membership breaks into smaller groups – “sectionals” – that provide training and education on specific topics of interest.  I was excited to see social media on the docket, but just imagine how I felt to learn that the JLS was welcoming Kelly Lux as the featured speaker!

In the space of an hour and a half, Kelly covered a lot of ground with the dozen or so members in attendance: from the importance and ramifications of having a presence on social media (“If you don’t exist online, you don’t exist.”) to suggestions for platforms that might be useful in different business or personal situations.

JLSWelcomesKellyLux_1_smJLSWelcomesKellyLux_2_sm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year within the JLS, I hold the title of Online Engagement Chair.  I manage the organization’s social media accounts, work with other JLS leaders to understand their activities and goals, and identify content and suggest new opportunities.  I like to think I have a good idea of the platforms on which members are present and, even to some extent, their relative level of activity.  On Wednesday night, though, I must say that I was inspired by the breadth of my fellow members’ questions, their engagement in the discussion, and their tangible level of excitement.

On my way home after the meeting, I thought about something that Olivier had said on Tuesday night.

It’s really about value.

Another classmate, Alaetra Combs, had asked how a community manager can establish an internal community that strengthens an offline community.

Olivier advised the use of a scarcity model.  By starting with a small number of highly engaged community members, the community would provide tremendous value to those within it and be seen as desirable by those outside of it.  (Think Pinterest, when it was still operating in its invitation-only model.)  I wondered if the JLS members in attendance at the sectional would be a good incubator for starting a community of Junior League members.  I considered the potential scope of the community: perhaps the personal growth that comes from civic leadership, or maybe the challenges of balancing personal, professional, and volunteer commitments.

I’m getting ready to embark on a Caribbean cruise without ready access to the internet.  (Seriously?)  I have ample time to ponder these questions and more, but while asking whether the JLS and its members would benefit from an online community, I will keep one comment from our recent #CMGRclass hangout in the front of my mind:

It always pays to start small and grow big. – Jenn Pedde

Belize Beach


(Featured image from Flickr user cameraburps.  Puzzle pieces image from Flickr user designmilk.  Belize beach image from Flickr user JessieHarrell.  Other images by author.)

New to Twitter Chats? This Can Help

large twitter chat

Photo: Labor Day Twitter Chat, by: Us Department of Labor

At the risk of revealing any information that might give the impression that I am out of touch with the world, this week I joined my very first twitter chat.   Now, I know this statement probably sounds overly dramatic.  I could easily choose 50 friends and family at random and be quite positive that none of them had ever participated in a tweet chat before, so my dramatic declaration comes from more of a personal sensitivity that I felt out of touch and out of alignment with everyone on the chat.

The chat I joined centers on Community Management and is usually held weekly, with a focused topic of conversation.   This week the group discussed, “Transitions: Gracefully Exiting your Community.”  I knew this in advance, so I spent that morning preparing my thoughts by doing some research on the similarities and differences between leaving an online community vs. leaving a typical job, with the hopes that  I could participate intelligently if the opportunity arose.  However, I was completely (and very quickly) caught off guard by the chat process.

My observations, as a twitter chat beginner:

  • I was not ready for the pace of the conversation and found the constant steam of tweets very difficult to keep up with.  (There were almost 40 posts in just the first 10 minutes).  I had to read along at a pretty good clip, and I still felt behind the conversation the entire hour.
  • I was using hootsuite rather than the simple twitter feed.  Each time it refreshed, I lost my place when it spilled 20-30 more tweets into the stream.  That was very frustrating.
  • It was a challenge to keep up with answers and comments within the conversation, especially if they were not directly related to the moderated questions.  Basically, I am referring to tweets made in response to others’ tweets.  For example, if someone tweeted:“@yyy @rrr @mmm I love that idea. Thanks Mary!”  I wanted to know what Mary said so I could follow the conversation, but I could not find Mary’s original tweet (partially because I did not know who Mary was so I did not know who to look for, and partially because Mary’s tweet may have fallen into the stream 20 tweets before) so I had no way of knowing what “idea” was loved.
  • All of the above issues left me unable to gain a strong enough comfort level to tweet any of my own comments.
  • The pace of the moderated questions was easy to follow and I liked that they were re-tweeted several times.  That allowed for a good sense of conversation re-focus… even when there were tweets that had nothing to do with the questions steaming in between the “answer” tweets.

At end of the chat I sat back, surly I had missed something.  People who participate in twitter chats love them, but I just felt like I was lost in a very unfamiliar, crowded room.  So I took to the internet to see what I could find on the following topics:

  • How to navigate or better manage a fast paced tweeter chat,
  • Advice from others who encountered the same frustrations as myself

Much to my surprise, there was very little out there.  It seems that no one else was talking about the opportunities that I had encountered!

What I did find though was a lot of good content that focused on How to participate in twitter chats with helpful dos and don’ts.   So I dug in a little deeper and started playing around with different keywords combinations.  I then came across a blog by Bruce Sallen, How to participate in #dadchat or any other chat.  In it, I finally found a little validation. He suggested using services like Tweetgrid to help with the issue of trying to keep up with speedy chats.   I checked the service out, but did not care for its format.  So I pressed, on until my search brought me to JD Roth’s blog, GRS housekeeping: comments, follow-ups, and tweetchats.  In it he recommended Tweetchat.

This service seems very user friendly as it links directly to a twitter account through the services “sign in” button, and also has several nice features:

  • Each tweet automatically gets the #hashtag added when one posts (something I could not figure out how to do on hootsuite).
  • It allows the option of a “user control” feature so one can focus on specific people or block spammers.

tweet chat serviceI plan to participate in more twitter chats so I can get more practice.  I know that that will help my comfort level.  However, the next time I will be using the technologies of the service:  Tweetchat.  Hopefully, it will help me through some of the opportunities that I encountered today and will make the next twitter chat much more enjoyable.

 

 

So am I the only one in the world that has found tweet chats overwhelming?

Is it just a matter of getting used to the pace, platform, and people participating in the chat?