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Tweetjams: Tactical suggestions for this high-impact marketing tool November 10, 2011

Posted by Lynn Christiansen Esquer in Marketing and PR.
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Want to increase your number of engaged Twitter followers? Boost your website’s SEO? Increase awareness, brand esteem and perceived value for what you do? Extend the reach of your thought leadership? Promote your products/services and increase sales conversions? Showcase your brand enthusiasts and reach key influencers?… All for a few hours a month, and largely for free?

A secret weapon of marketers, Tweetjams (or Twitter chats) do all this and more — when done effectively.

A Tweetjam is generally defined as a fast-paced conversation held on Twitter around a general theme. A format that has been gaining traction quickly, these live events are a way to showcase your organization while furthering discussions already happening in your industry.

Although there are many ways to conduct a Twitter event — from the completely unstructured, “everyone-and anyone talks about anything they like” approach, to the highly structured panelists-only approach — for business effectiveness I recommend a middle ground, in which a handful of core panelists are invited to discuss a predetermined subject for an hour, while allowing commentary and questions from the Twitterverse. This approach enables full audience engagement, while making sure that there is a small group of industry experts to lend expertise and thought-leadership to the discussion. A moderator kicks off the discussion, keeps it moving, wraps it up and monitors for any irrelevant/disrespectful chatter.

When marketed well, planned with care and conducted regularly, Tweetjams can become a highly successful marketing program all their own. And ideally, you would be planning them two at a time so that you can promote the next event during the course of the ongoing event.

But what are some other considerations? How do you plan one effectively? Here are some tactical recommendations to help your Tweetjam program take off:

One month before your first event:

  • Come up with a short yet descriptive hashtag. This will be your de facto event name and used each time you host a Tweetjam, so be sure it works for you from a branding standpoint. Use of this hashtag will allow anyone in the Twitterverse to follow the discussion and participate if they wish. And remember to keep it short! If everyone has to add #yourreallylonghashtag to the end of each tweet, your 140-character real estate will quickly be eaten up.
  • Designate a moderator. Often, someone in marketing communications is the best choice. Decide whether your moderator will use his/her own Twitter handle, the organization’s handle, or a new handle created just for this use.
  • Choose a topic, along with a set of 5-10 questions to periodically ask your panelists to keep the discussion moving. Make sure that it’s a subject that provides value to participants, panelists and the passive audience, either by being thought-provoking, or by providing them with information or perspectives they did not formerly have.
  • Consult one of the several Tweetjam calendars on the web and open to the public to find the best time/date for your event. Perusing these calendars will also help you determine if the subject you have chosen is already being done elsewhere. Here’s a handy one to consult.
  • Draw up a mission and guidelines statement specific to your event. This will be useful in spelling out value statements, firming up goals for the program, and listing expectations. It should also spell out panelist responsibilities, how you’ll moderate comments, and how you’ll any damage control issues  that may arise.
  • Create materials: To give to panelists, to use for your website, etc.
  • Determine the appropriate technologies for conducting the chat. There are several free Twitter chat resources designed for just this purpose, Twebevent, Tweetchat and Tweet grid being just a few. Some of these enable participants’ tweets to be automatically tagged with the event hashtag, and make it easier for everyone closely involved to track the discussion. You’ll also need a conference call tool to use during the event to keep communications lines open between the moderator, panelists and any marketing teams. FreeConferenceCall.com is a good resource if you don’t already use one.

Three weeks before your event:

  • Extend invitations to 3-5 panelists — these are your experts, who will lend gravitas to the event and keep the discussion moving. They don’t all need to represent your company; often it will help your cause to bring in experts who will lend outside credibility to your discussion (and, therefore, to you).
Two weeks before your event:
  • Send panelists background information on how to participate in your Tweetjam: What it is, what they can expect, how it will work. Ask their help in promoting your event with their own Twitter followers. Send them the list of questions so they may begin formulating 140-character answers ahead of time (don’t worry: with plenty of public participation, this will just move the discussion along; it won’t come off as canned).
  • Confirm your panelists’ bios, headshots titles and twitter handles
  • Enlist marketing departments from panelists’ organizations to help promote the event, where applicable. Don’t forget to liberally tout and showcase the expertise of your panel. This is an excellent cross-promotional opportunity; take advantage of it!
One week before the event:
  • Hold a prep call with panelists to go over questions, rules of engagement, logistics, expected questions so they can prepare.
  • Publish a blog post promoting the upcoming Tweetjam, along with promotions on social media, email marketing, and other blogs and message boards. Alert your staff and your panelists’ marketing departments to the blog so they can begin promoting it as well.
  • Begin promoting the event daily on Twitter, including the event hashtag and the blog post.
  • Begin writing moderator tweets in preparation for the event.
During the event:
  • Open up a conference call during the chat so that panelists, the moderator and the marketing teams can collaborate in real time during the Tweetjam.
  • Moderator sets up the chat, kicks it off and keeps it moving, and closes it after an hour. Don’t forget to announce when and where results will be made available, and when next Tweetjam is scheduled (and what the topic will be).
  • Thank panelists by phone or email, and definitely on Twitter, and provide them and their organizations with the raw transcript of the tweet capture.
  • Within one day, publish a blog that recaps the event outcome and provides excerpts of the chat, and announces the next chat; promote the link to the blog.
Once your Tweetjam program gets going, it will almost begin to run itself — and you’ll discover that it is not only one of the most valuable marketing programs you have, but that it also serves as a listening tool for gathering additional perspectives and attitudes. Tweetjams are a multi-use marketing tool with the potential for a high level of influence. So start yours… and let me know how yours turns out!
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