On Sunday, July 17th, Bazaarvoice CMO Erin Nelson and I were guests on Mack Collier’s #Blogchat, the most active chat on Twitter. We discussed how to handle negative comments, and you can grab the transcript here. I have always loved #Blogchat, and I knew that it played a huge role in defining what Twitter chats should look like—but the report on that week’s amazing numbers (3.6k tweets, 460 contributors, 16 million impressions, 1.7 million reached) made me want to find out what makes #Blogchat tick, and how companies can participate. So I asked Mack.
Did you have any idea #Blogchat would become what it is today when you started it? What need is it tapping into?
No, it happened completely by accident. I would regularly try to get discussions started on Twitter, and one Sunday night I was about to ask a blogging question when I realized that I was going to get a lot of great responses to this question, that I would probably miss. So I just on the fly added the ‘#Blogchat’ hashtag to the question, in order to use it to track the responses. It immediately took off and after about 10 mins people were tweeting wondering how long #Blogchat had been going on and why they had never heard of it before!
I think #Blogchat works because the participation level is so high. The real value comes not from me throwing a question or idea out there, but from you responding, then Erin jumps in to build on your point, then Lisa adds her thoughts and before you know it this amazing stream of smartitude has taken place. I purposely structure the topics to be more 101-level because I think that encourages people to participate. In general, I find that most people are smarter than they give themselves credit for. But if the topic level is too high, a lot of people that have really smart things to say, don’t feel as comfortable contributing. So the participation level falls, and it’s more difficult to have participants building off each other’s points. I think the fact that #Blogchat’s topics are more 101-level really is a key to why it’s been so successful, because it’s encouraged more participation.
Has the scope of the subject matter expanded with audience growth?
Honestly it really hasn’t that much. We still talk about core blogging issues each week, and there are certain more popular topics that we cover repeatedly. For example, ‘how to get more comments and interaction on my blog’ is a topic we’ve covered several times, and will again. But each time we have a slightly different audience with slightly different points being raised.
What value should brands see in Twitter chats like yours, and how should they participate?
To me, the value of the chats are in the interactions. #Blogchat works because I’ve created a way for thousands of people to come together every Sunday night and participate in a discussion about how to improve their blog and blogging. This is information that people are actively looking for anyway. So if a brand wanted to start their own Twitter chat, I think the way to really get value from it would be to host a chat built around discussions that the people they are trying to reach are already having. For example, Kodak shouldn’t start #KodakChat where they talk about their products, they should start #PhotoChat, where they talk about how to be a better photographer. The chat should be geared around the benefits of the products and how they are used.
What advice would you give to a company thinking about starting their own Twitter chat?
I actually wrote a pretty popular post about that.
But past that, and to tie into my above answer, I think the focus of the chat is key. If a company is thinking of starting a Twitter chat to promote themselves, it will probably bomb. But if they can create a chat that will tap into conversations that customers are already having and looking for, then it can work. And additionally, companies need to understand that it takes time and consistency to build a chat.
How do you use data like impressions, reach, etc., to optimize future chats?
Well I look at impressions to see who is participating, and the size of their ‘audience’, but that’s stuff that’s really just there to impress potential sponsors and what-not. The numbers I am far more interested in is who are the most active contributors. These are the people that are helping me build the #Blogchat experience, so the number of followers they have or impressions they are generating is really meaningless. From my end, it’s about identifying the people that are helping me, and thanking them.
Which other chats are doing it right, in your opinion?
I love #LeadershipChat that Lisa Petrilli and Steve Woodruff do on Tues nights. I was a huge fan of #IMCChat that Beth Harte and Anna Barcelos were doing, but they had to stop it due to work issues. I really wish I had time to participate in more chats, I try to check out #CMChat occasionally as well. Participating in Twitter chats is a fabulous way to get more followers. So many people are dying to know how to do that, but participating in Twitter chats is still the best way I have found to do that. Funny isn’t it, how being participatory and social with social media really works, eh?
You can join Mack and #Blogchat every Sunday at 8pm CST.