A Good Idea Gone Wrong

by John Cloonan | Sep 27, 2021 | Blog, Marketing & Branding, New Ideas, Technology

I participate in a few Twitter chats and even founded one a long time ago. For the uninitiated, they’re a great way to engage with a group of folks that have common interests. If you’re trying to build a Twitter following, they’re an excellent outlet for sharing your knowledge and finding others to follow – many of whom will follow you back: it’s generally a win-win scenario. 

 Only recently did I participate in an industry chat that went horribly wrong – a disaster of small proportion.  

Why small proportion? Nobody saw it. We were tweeting into an empty echo chamber with only our own opinions keeping us company. Here are a few lessons from that chat for anyone considering Twitter chats as a marketing tool:  

  • Promote – To have a successful Twitter chat, you have to promote it. Just because you built it doesn’t mean they’ll come. Just like anything else where you want people to be there, you have to touch them multiple times in different channels to ensure you’re getting eyes on that chat. Unless you have a really large, devoted audience, just promoting on Twitter won’t work. Make it a part of your other channels, and make sure to engage audiences with similar interests in the places you already know they go. 
  • Know your audience – I should have known the chat was going to fail when a well-known voice in the industry tweeted “Why are so few XXXXX using Twitter and how do we get them to engage?” If you know that people in your industry are not on Twitter, why are you there trying to engage them? Take the hint and go where your market is.  
  • Be careful with guests – The wayward chat in question had a guest who was well-known in the industry, and surprisingly, that was probably the biggest disaster of all. He wasn’t credible enough on Twitter, as he had fewer than 20 followers – his account had been set up just for the chat, and it showed. His inexperience with the platform and engaging with others on Twitter shone through, causing him to: 
  • Sell hard, which is social media taboo. It also made him appear arrogant and inauthentic – not really a guy you would follow, and definitely not a guy you want to engage. 
  • The moderator had prepared questions.  The guest had prepared responses. They seemed canned and did not invite discussion. They were generic and didn’t offer insight specific to the industry. 
  • The guest seemed to be actively ignoring questions from other participants. Any other users who did stop by the chat would see their obvious back-and-forth and probably think to themselves, “Well, they wouldn’t pick my question anyway – it seems scheduled from the start.” Spontaneity is Twitter chat’s friend, and exclusion is its natural enemy. 

The moral of this story? Make sure your guest understands Twitter and that he’s supposed to be conversing, not selling.  

  • Engage – The chat moderator for this one was in a bit of bind but obstinately pushed forward as if nothing was wrong and made no attempt to engage the audience themselves. There were some great questions being asked by the other chat participants, and the moderator could very well have responded, or asked the other participants for feedback. Spoiler alert: they did not. Opportunities to turn the chat around seemed to be offered, but none were taken because of the road the moderator chose. It’s okay to have a voice as a moderator, particularly if your chat guest is going south fast, so make sure you have someone at the helm who knows when to take a detour when they need to. 
  • Provide opportunity for further discussion – In the case of this chat, the moderator may have decided that since the chat went sideways so completely a transcription would only further embarrass them, but using a service to transcribe the chat and releasing the transcription to the audience often generates more discussion. No one is perfect—especially on Twitter—so no matter how south you think it goes, it’s best to bite the bullet and publish the transcript. Who knows? You may find your next guest that way, or at least keep yourself part of the conversation. 

Twitter chats can be unwieldy but having the right preparation can ensure your chat is the buzz of the party – not the weird guy talking to himself in the corner. Make sure you know your goals beforehand, take a look at the tips above, and you may be the belle of the digital ball. 

Marketing Guy & Strategic Polymath | Website | + posts

John’s the founder of Audacity Marketing. When he’s not racing motorcycles, he’s building marketing strategies for Audacity clients and anyone else who’ll listen.

John’s worn all the marketing hats, from consultant to agency owner to executive to university professor. He’s held leadership roles in industries from staffing to behavioral health to capital-C consulting. He’s branded or rebranded over 100 companies.

John buttresses 25+ years in marketing with an MBA from Georgia State University.

John lives with his girlfriend Suzanne, his dog Seamus, and his daughter Annie when she shows up from college.