Fourteen years before Twitter had its debut at SxSW, professor of educational psychology and semiotician Gary Shank wrote a paper titled Abductive Multiloguing: The Semiotics of Navigating the Net, in which he describes the concept of the multilogue:
“It is as if everyone who is interested in talking can all jump in at once, but still their individual voices can be clearly heard. (…) it is as if someone had started writing a piece, but before he/she gets too far, people are there magically in print to add to, correct, challenge, or extend the piece.“
I’ve yet to see a better description of a Twitter chat!
Lately, as a guest of quite a few Twitter chats, I’ve been getting some insight into some of the different approaches to how Twitter chats are run, and getting some notions of makes for a better Twitter chat guest experience.
Plan Pre-Set Questions (And Answers)
Probably one of the most raucous and active chats is#BlogChat, one of the oldest chats around as it was started by Mack Collier (@mackCollier) over three years ago. Instead of having guests on #Blogchat, Mack invites individuals to be co-hosts. He then takes a main topic and breaks it down into two sub-topics, each being the subject of about a half an hour.
Many chats are structured like this: the guest and often the host work up a series of questions. This gives the guest the opportunity to craft some good answers before the event (and editing them down to good 120 character chunks so that they’re easily re-tweeted).
These pre-crafted questions and answers provide a structure upon which more spontaneous give and take can occur. Those questions are often numbered, Q1, Q2, Q3 and so on. Then, the answers can be likewise numbered, A1, A2, A3 and so on. This way, it’s much easier for the chat participants to keep up with the flow of conversation.
On #Bizforum, Sam Fiorella (@samfiorella) likes to come up with a series of statements on which to frame a robust debate. Like any debate-meister worth his or her salt, Sam will take the contrary stance from the chat guest, inviting the “audience” participants to all weigh in.
Being a chat guest can be a harrying experience. During one #socialChat with hosts Alan K’necht (@aknecht) and Michelle Stinson Ross (@SocialMichelleR), we were all on a conference call during the chat so that we could bring tweets to the notice of one of the others. But not even that could help us when Twitter crashed for the entire hour, and we had to reschedule.
Don’t Use Your Smart Phone!
While there isn’t any official tally, I think my friend Brandie McCallum (@lttlewys) could get the prize for one of the most active chat participants. She’s in about 40 to 45 chats a week both as herself and on behalf of organizations for which she is a community manager.
Her first piece of advice is that chat guests shouldn’t try to participate from their smart phone. As obvious as that seems, it has happened.
Roll With It
But more importantly, she says, “good chat guests don’t just answer the pre-set questions, but answer other questions as well, and really engage the community.”
The best guests seem to be quick on their feet, and snappy with their replies. But even if you’re Twitter’s version of Oscar Wilde, it can be helpful to have a friend or co-worker on the chat alongside you. Since it can be easy to miss a good question or side-chat, the co-pilot can often bring tweets to your attention.
My closing piece of advice is to have fun. Sure, being a Twitter chat guest can feel like you’ve suddenly landed a job at Kennedy Airport air traffic control. But the upside is that if you goof up, no one is going to get hurt.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.