Twitter Chats: The Digital Water Cooler

twitter chats

photo credit: west.m via photopin cc

Taking an hour out of my workday to participate in a Twitter chat always seemed unproductive to me. Just like my thoughts on congregating around the office water cooler, I likened chatting on Twitter to mostly small talk and not a contributor to accomplishing anything. What ‘actual work’ will I have to push off? Will my answers fall flat? Will my continual hashtags and “A1), A2), A3)” answers turn off my non-participating followers? With a bevy of distractions at my disposal, committing to one thing for an hour in my profession of digital marketing is difficult. All social media professionals undoubtedly have at least a minor case of attention deficit disorder.

But since Twitter chats are part of my job description here at Sprout Social, I had to let feelings of uncertainty dissipate and just dive in.

I start tweeting right out of the gate with a “hello” to all and then individually tweet some faces I recognize. I answer all of the questions asked by the moderator, retweet insightful answers and comment on others to spark further discussion. This is pretty run of the mill behavior. I’ve found it’s really not as imposing or pointless as I once thought. I now participate in two to five chats per week.

Though it was a slow go initially, I’ve found I had some pretty remarkable results from my efforts and I come away from each chat feeling like I just had a refreshing, collaborative break by the water cooler. Here’s my take on making the most of chats.

Develop Offline Relationships Too

I’ve met a lot of the folks in person that I was originally introduced to through Twitter chats (and if not initially, our relationship has grown through chats), and become good friends. We’ve had nights out and doggy play dates. I’ve had Skype calls to garner advice and insight and exchanged phone numbers. I’ve further connected to people on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and even Snapchat. Just from meeting in a Twitter chat and the ensuing bond between two people in this industry!

I think it’s the most rewarding benefit from connecting via social media first. Meeting in real life brings the relationship full circle. And for those fearing getting catfished, it definitely validates the bond.

Keep Your Eyes Open For Opportunities

I was invited to be part of the My Community Manager/Community Manager Appreciation Day  (CMAD) team and contribute weekly by moderating and compiling recaps for the #cmgrhangout chat. I also helped to organize a panel for a Google Hangout celebrating CMAD.

You’d be surprised at how many news sites or blogs are looking for contributors. Use your new connections to spark conversation and find opportunities to further your reach. This could extend offline too, eg: getting involved on boards or networking groups.

Never Push A Sale, But Keep It In The Back Of Your Mind

I’ve met several people through chats and helped get them started on my company’s product. Though they heard of Sprout Social before, it was great to be just a tweet away to exchange emails and serve as a resource as they got set up.

Just like best practices for company Twitter accounts, the same goes for your personal one. Never, and I mean never, try to sell something when you first meet someone via social media. This is widely frowned upon and crass. But if you’ve built a solid relationship or the opportunity presents itself, jump at it!

This is only a fraction of the positives to come out of the relationships I’ve made and I started all of this from the ground. I created @sprout_sarah a few days after I started. I’ve bonded with people over music, work ethics and the polar vortex. We’ve related over Vine videos, YouTube clips and memes. I’ve welcomed others to our office in Chicago solely by the means of a few tweets.

Through many of these people, I’ve been introduced to their connections too. I’ve made friends and learned of new business opportunities, found events to attend and most importantly formed strong, long-term ties that will greatly help in my career with Sprout and beyond. This digital water cooler is a huge opportunity.

If you’ve never joined a Twitter chat, check out this list and jump in one this week. Come back every week and don’t be surprised by all of the new connections on your side, the opportunities that come your way and the benefits to your company.

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  • Develop Offline Relationships Too nwell I agree. With twitter we can have many relation from people we met. With this, we can have many friends over the internet. That's why I love and keep using twitter chat till now :D

  • I love how your linked twitter chat list has updates. I'm gonna add this to my twitterchat bookmarks (i have a couple others in my delicious)

  • I really appreciate this post. I have a love hate relationship with Twitter Chats. I sometimes like them but see them as a lot of work. You put into prospective the effect twitter chats can have. I have also made connections but because of how I have felt about them I stopped participating. My goal is to pick back up and start connecting. Thank you Sara!

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