Editor’s note (5:14 p.m.): the first sentence of this post was accidentally deleted. It has been fixed.

“A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

Patrick Goodman of Red E App has that quote from Seth Godin’s “Tribes” bookmarked and at the ready.

It’s a powerful quote for someone who works in customer engagement. It also helps explain the rising popularity of Tweet chats.

Tweet chats are live discussions that take place on Twitter around a particular topic. Tweets by participants in a Tweet chat are marked with a hashtag specific to the event so that they can be followed by everyone participating.

The most popular Tweet chats take place weekly, at a regular time, and often include Q&A sessions with special guests.
Hop on Twitter just about any time on any day, and you don’t have to poke around too much to find yourself engaged in a Tweet chat. More and more these social opportunities are being used as forums for small businesses and organizations to learn from people in their industry and to network with potential leads.

Goodman calls Tweet chats “digital cocktail parties.”

“Anything you would normally do at a cocktail party – learn, laugh, network – you can do on a Tweet chat,” says Goodman.

Goodman started #MobileChat in August 2012. In his blog post introducing the idea of a Tweet chat for mobile, Goodman writes:

I’ve been to plenty of conferences, seminars and panel discussions in the past. I’ve found that I learn the most when the speaker stops the formal one-way communication presentation to the audience and does Q&A. I want to hear from others in the audience. I want to see what questions they have and get responses from the speaker and from the community. I want to ask the ‘what if’ questions or the really hard questions that take a community to answer, not just one person. I want to learn from others and I want to grow professionally.

Another benefit is that it allows you to foster a network of interested people who are ready to go when you are. “I’ve made hundreds of connections through #mobilechat,” says Goodman. “So when Red E App is ready to scale, there will be no need to make cold calls.”

You can use a Tweet chat for marketing purposes or for communication on behalf of a brand or organization, but the critical component for success for a Tweet chat is that they must be “real, authentic conversations,” says Goodman. “People have always been social. Mobile is just the new medium by which we can do that.” And with the ease and speed of digital communications you can “scale” the conversations at a new, faster rate.

In the baby days of the Internet, people engaged in this sort of digital schmoozing in chat rooms. And the Internet seems to suggest that once upon a time telephone chat lines were used for something other than hooking up. Before that? Shortwave radios and CB’s. Before that? Well, real cocktail parties, I guess.

“What was the first Facebook?” Goodman asks. “The post office.” The postal carriers had been out and about all over town, and people would gather at the post office to hear their stories and look at the bulletin board. “What was the first Instagram? The walls of caves. People have always wanted to share pictures.”

#Blogchat happens every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST and is one of the most popular Tweet chats, with upwards to 2,000 to 3,000 tweets per hour. Goodman describes #blogchat as being very “open mic” style.

Goodman moderates #Mobilechat on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. EST; on his Tweet chats, he arranges guests from the mobile technology world to come and do a Q&A with people participating in the Tweet chat. The Red E App webpage serves as a home base for the chat; Goodman announces guests on the blog and then curates tweets during the Tweet chat via Storify. #Mobilechat attracts around 1,000 to 1,200 tweets per hour on average and has around 80 to 100 loyal chat members.

Following that many Tweets per hour can be a challenge. Goodman likes the Tweetdeck native Mac app because there’s almost zero lag in the API. Tweetchat.com is also helpful for new users.

A blog post written by Constant Contact employee Azure Collier explains Tweet chat etiquette:

  • Let your Twitter followers know before the Tweet chat that they’ll be seeing a lot of messages from you. They’ll appreciate the warning and won’t be confused by your Twitter stream. You could even invite them to the Tweet chat if you think they may be interested in the topic.
  • Make sure you add the Tweet chat hashtag to your tweets (if you’re not using TweetChat) so participants can find your messages in the conversation.
  • The Tweet chat host will mark his/her questions with Q (for question) and the number of the question. When you submit your answer, mark it with A (for answer) and the number of the original question so other participants can link your response with the correct question.

What Goodman’s favorite Godin quote leaves out is part of Godin’s theory of tribes. Godin says that tribes need a way to connect to each other and an idea that unites them, but he also says tribes need leaders. That’s the role that Goodman plays as #Mobilechat’s host.

Tomorrow we’ll look at another “tribe leader” and another way of using Tweet chats to build community when we talk to Louisville Councilwoman Attica Scott.

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3 thoughts on “Building or finding your ‘tribe’: Tweet chats’ growing popularity in marketing and engagement

  1. Twitter is the new narcissism in the world. People who want to talk about themselves, make cowardly comments using false names/user handles on other people’s accounts and worse pretend they are somebody else altogether. Yeah I know it’s not everybody who uses it. Bottom line is most people who use it hope somebody of status will pay attention to them in some form or fashion. The media is hyping it beyond belief so now we get to see what “John” in New York thinks about a major news story on the nightly news (NBC). Well here’s a newsflash: I don’t care! For a business or high profile individual it’s fine and I do look at some of those. But somebody sitting on their couch at home talking about how much they like raspberry danish? Don’t think so.

  2. Twitter is the new narcissism in the world. People who want to talk about themselves, make cowardly comments using false names/user handles on other people’s accounts and worse pretend they are somebody else altogether. Yeah I know it’s not everybody who uses it. Bottom line is most people who use it hope somebody of status will pay attention to them in some form or fashion. The media is hyping it beyond belief so now we get to see what “John” in New York thinks about a major news story on the nightly news (NBC). Well here’s a newsflash: I don’t care! For a business or high profile individual it’s fine and I do look at some of those. But somebody sitting on their couch at home talking about how much they like raspberry danish? Don’t think so.

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