Six Reasons Twitter Group Chats Create Social Virality
What is a Twitter Group Chat?
When you first start out with Twitter, you find that you can post status updates, and your followers will (may?) see them. Then you learn that putting an “@” sign before someone’s Twitter name creates a reply. Conversations with more than a couple of people get pretty awkward with only these tools.
Luckily, some folks figured out that by adding a “hashtag” (#), you create a unique phrase that is easy for Twitter Search to find. This is what enables Twitter Group Chats to work. For instance, searching for #hockey will find an on-going stream of Tweets about hockey.
It didn’t take long for people to realize that you could organize a group chats with hashtags. Twitter Group Chats are highly socially viral. They encourage lots of social interaction, and spread quickly, assuming the topic is interesting.
Twitter Group Chats are socially viral in a big way, and here are the six reasons they spread so quickly!
1) Starting a Twitter Group Chat is “Too Easy”
Invite someone else, or a bunch of people, using Twitter, email or whatever other means, to chat with you. Tell them the topic and the hashtag you’ll use.
Here is the hard process involved in starting a Twitter Group Chat. Are you ready? Have you got at least half your morning coffee in you? (Just kidding…) Ok, here we go.
To start a Twitter Group Chat, send one (1) Tweet with your chosen hashtag. It’s done. Twitter Group Chat in motion. That’s it. Have a great time!
Your followers may appreciate a Tweet that tells them you’re starting a chat, and that they’ll be seeing more traffic from you than normal. Here is an example:
“I’m about to join a Twitter chat about education, so you’ll see more Tweets than normal for a while. Feel free to join in #education.”
2) Great Tools Make it Easy to Follow the Conversation
There are a variety of tools, including the “Search” option on the Twitter web page. I tend to use TweetChat for Twitter Group Chats.It’s easy to use, “just works” and has a really simple interface.
To use TweetChat, go to http://www.tweetchat.com and type the hashtag (without the #) into the smaller text box at the top of the screen. Then click “Go.” Watch the conversation unfold. That’s it!
If you want to send Tweets as a part of the chat, click “Sign In” (you’ll only have to do this once in the session.)
I usually click “Toggle Font” which makes the font smaller, and shows more Tweets on each screen. You can change the update speed, which by default is every 10 seconds. The rest you can twiddle with and figure out. It’s pretty straightforward.
TweetChat will automatically add the hashtag from the search textbox to every Tweet you send in Tweetchat, and will keep refreshing the list with new Tweets. You can click Pause if the chat is moving too quickly. TweetChat will auto-pause as you scroll the list, which is a nice touch.
3) Seeing Part of the Conversation Makes Friends and Followers Curious
So what’s with this virality thing? The magic of Twitter Group Chats is that your followers see only a part of the conversation. They only see what you Tweet. (You might want to consider this in phrasing your Tweets, so that they will make some sense to a person who isn’t seeing the question or other parts of the conversation.) They will see interesting snippets, and if they know about hashtags, will jump in on their own. If not, they may @ or DM you to ask “what’s this about?” You can quickly tell them about hashtags, and then they’re in too!
As opposed to other sorts of viral spread, which typically happens slowly, over hours or days, the viral spread of a Twitter Group Chat is fast, and often within 15-30 minutes all sorts of never before seen people have appeared as a vital part of the conversation.
4) People Join the Chat to be Social!
Unlike watching a video, or joining a “page” or scrolling a list of Tweets from hours or days ago, people join Twitter Group Chats to be social. This increases their involvement, and increases the chance that they’ll both want to participate in another one, and to tell their friends about their experience. This assumes that you have chosen a great topic and been a good facilitator, however that you can also learn with practice!
5) When Friends and Followers Join, Their Friends and Followers Get Curious
Once your friends join, and the other participants’ friends join, then their followers get curious, and it keeps on spreading. Having repeated discussions at set times can build real-time community quickly.
6) Transcripts Are Easy
People who could not attend at the time of the chat will often want to read a transcript, and given the open nature of Twitter there are many ways to create and post a transcript of the conversation.
The Downside: The Floodgates Thing
There is one downside of Twitter Group Chats. If you Tweet a lot, and don’t provide context for your followers, or if they decide that the topic is not to their liking, you can get your followers irritated and find yourself un-followed. The easy solution to this is to remember that while you are in a chat, your followers are still seeing every Tweet, so be respectful, provide some context, and try to keep your comment volume moderate.
A Few Things To Know
You may want to do a quick search on your hashtag before announcing it, to see if it is being actively used. If so, just make up a new hashtag so your conversation isn’t mixed with others in Search. There is no ‘regulating body’ controlling hashtags, since they’re just text. However you can find commonly used hashtags in various directories such as http://hashtag.org/.
Large groups can chat a lot and pretty quickly! Do not be disheartened if it seems hard to keep up at first. You will find that there are some skills involved in scanning chat quickly and following the conversation in a text chat environment.
Conversations will veer off topic, and that’s usually ok. As facilitator, you will need to decide how strong or light a hand you’ll use in shepherding the discussion. Be consistent and respectful. Sometimes allowing the group to careen around will generate valuable and surprising ideas, but whether that is appopriate is entirely your choice to make.
It is very common to have multiple discussion threads going on at once in chat. Again, how you handle this as facilitator will depend on your style, the conversation goals and the group of people involved. A once in a while reminder that “we’re trying to follow ‘topic x’ ” may be all it takes to pull things in if the discussion goes too far afield.
Remember to use your favorite URL shortener if you’re tight on space (and how many Tweets are not?)
Have a blast with Twitter Group Chats, and have fun meeting people you never expected to find in 140 characters!