The Cisco Collaboration Solutions Marketing team (@CiscoCollab) was the first group at Cisco to launch a series of monthly tweet chats. The nature of their solutions - collaboration technologies - implied an audience that was already more online savvy than some other segments. Therefore, tweet chats seemed like a natural extension of their existing Twitter activities. Since the first Collaboration tweet chat launched in March 2010, they have created a repeatable process to increase their efficiency around logistics and merged this program into their larger customer and influencer outreach initiative. The results: well-attended sessions month after month and increased name recognition for #CollabChat, the organization’s tweet chat program. To date, the team has had 4 sessions with an average of about 1,200 community post views each.
Kira Swain (@kiraswain) and Laura Powers (@powersla), the Social Media Managers behind these tweet chats, sat down with me a few days ago to help demystify group tweet chats. Here are some best practices they shared along with some additional notes from yours truly.
1. Find Your First Guinea Pig.
If this is your first group tweet chat, do a quick survey among your subject matter experts (SMEs) to see how many of them are on Twitter and what they do there. Those people should be your low-hanging fruit, partner with them first. Not only will they be more comfortable answering dozens of questions at the speed of light, but they will also bring their own followers into the conversation, thus giving this program some viral buzz.
If you don’t have any SMEs using Twitter, then consider some of these options to find your first guinea pig:
A) Look for signs in digital behaviors. Engage with those that tend to be more open to social technologies. You may have bloggers on your team or LinkedIn users. They will likely be more open than others to give tweet chats a try.
B) Take advantage of what’s at your fingertips. Organize your first tweet chat around one of your events. If you have a built-in topic that people are already engaged in, it will be easier to get them to engage in a tweet chat. If you have a speaker at this event, offer the audience to continue the conversation with this speaker after his or her session. Your presenter has just become your first tweet chat panelist.
C) Show by example. If your organization is still hesitating, you may think about teaming up with a third-party expert panel for your first chat. Invite some of your SMEs to the dry run as well as the event. Not only will this help them learn about tweet chats and Twitter in general, this will also make them more comfortable with the process.
In general, social media is most powerful when your social media managers and subject matter experts engage together. In corporate tweet chats, this is a pre-requisite. It’s like the yin and the yang. On one hand, you need people that understand the inner workings of framing, organizing and promoting these events, and on the other hand, you need people who can have a dialog about your market, product, or solution.
2. Select An Interesting Topic.
The key word is interesting. The tweet chat must be centered around a compelling topic that is of interest to your target audience. How can you find that? Key industry trends, major shifts in the market, and discussions about innovative new solutions can be a good place to start. The Collaboration Solutions Marketing team looks for topics in a variety of conventional and unconventional locations. Events, meetings, team discussions, and the like make up your conventional methods. But new ways have emerged to help you find your next agenda. Using social media listening/monitoring tools (like Radian6 or Cymphony) to discover what your customers are discussing online can also provide great topics for future tweet chats. The team’s previous tweet chats and posts on their Cisco Collaboration Community are sources the team now taps into regularly.
3. Train. Train. Train.
Before the event, make sure that your SMEs are trained on how to use Twitter in general and how to use Twitter for tweet chats. The Collaboration Solutions Marketing team uses TweetChat.com to manage their sessions but TweetDeck is another good tool to accomplish the same thing. The team’s training, however, doesn’t stop at the technical level. The team pays special attention to Cisco’s social media guidelines, and they encourage panelists to familiarize themselves with this resource. After all, the same rules apply when engaging in social media as they do in traditional marketing: just because it’s social media, it doesn’t mean that anything goes. You need to know what is appropriate to say in a public forum.
4. Create Consistency. Brand Your Chats.
Creating consistency across your tweet chats helps increase recognition and recall. The Collaboration Solutions Marketing team’s monthly invitation process, program management, and follow-up communications attest to that. Each month they create an invitation with the event details, or framing post as they call it, which is hosted on their Collaboration Community. The format and instructions are always the same, only the topics, panelists, and dates change. Their chats always take place on Wednesday at the same time so people can remember and plan to attend. In addition, they have adopted #CollabChat as the hash tag which not only helps the target audience recognize and remember the event, but it also helps the team monitor and respond to the conversations.
5. Spread the Word.
Yes, it’s a TweetChat, but you don’t need to feel limited to Twitter as your only promotional platform. One of the successes behind the Collaboration Solutions Marketing team’s CollabChats is that they leverage all of their social media platforms and partner up with other Cisco teams to help cross-promote their chats. They also spread the word through their own personal accounts. And last but not least, they include the details in their newsletters and other traditional communication vehicles for extra exposure.
6. Appear Seamless to Your Audience.
This is one of the biggest challenges for B2B’s. In many situations, you will have more than one subject matter expert on your tweet chat. In the case of the Collaboration Solutions Marketing team, they have many regular SMEs, one rotating special guest, and one social media manager, who is the moderator of the show. So the team needs to carefully orchestrate their engagement tactics in the background to appear seamless to their audience. How do they do it? A few minutes before CollabChat starts, the panelists join a WebEx meeting. When the moderator kicks off the session using the CollabChat Twitter handle, the rest of the team is standing by for the first question. As the questions start appearing on the screen, the panelists decide live on the phone who is going to take which question. Once the decision is made, the chosen person responds to the question using his or her personal Twitter handle. So the panelists work as a team in the background but respond as individuals. See an example here:
7. Humanize the Experience.
The point about allowing people to respond to the questions using their own Twitter handles is very important. “People want to talk to other people. By bringing a human element into the conversation, we’re making Cisco more human, more relatable,” says Kira Swain. Alternating between the @CiscoCollab Twitter handle (which is used for moderation) and the individual responses gives a nice balance to this program.
8. Continue the engagement.
The chat is over, but the engagement is not. The Collaboration Solutions Marketing team does a last run through the conversations to make sure no question went unanswered. After that, they post the transcript to the Cisco Collaboration Community to share it with their audience, and are off to prepare for the next chat.
We hope to see you on the next one!