Digital PR: Teasing out the Potential of Twitter Chats (Part II)

By Judy Gombita, Co-Editor and Canadian Contributor, PR Conversations

Conversations are meant to take people to a new place and #kaizenblog has done that for me as the chat founder, and for Elli St. George Godfrey, who will carry it forward.” ~ Valeria Maltoni, Passing the baton

Judy Gombita

If taken to a new place in a conversation, you’ve been influenced. Maybe during the journey you did some influencing. But better to enter each Twitter chat appreciating that you’ll learn more than enlighten.

As opposed to automation, Teasing Out the Potential of Twitter Chats, Part I recommended engaging in Twitter chats for relevance and resonance, perhaps evolving to longer-term influence manifestations of reputation, trust and authenticity. But not all contributions are received or measured equally; indiscriminate and inconsequential chatter also is a form of noise.

Kaitlyn Marie: “Most days I learn more in one Twitter chat than I could have in a year of school!#smmeasure

Like attending an industry PD or networking event, Parissa Behnia is clear on why she participates, “My purpose is twofold: The first is to stretch my mind and learn from others so that I can be a better consultant. The second is my belief that the more I am out there ‘adding value’ to a chat, the more potential business opportunity may come my way.”

Tweet Serendipitous Validation

John Kosic: I feel I’m a Renaissance person and a lifelong knowledge learner. I like to RT people because I see myself as both a Spoke and Hub to my chat groups.

Imagine our pleasure when Parissa Behnia, Judy Yi and I were asked permission by Harvard Business Review product manager, Susan Francis, to publish our #hbrchat tweets in the “Harvard Business Review OnPoint Collection: Guide to Managing Stress” report.

Besides sponsoring the #hbrchat forum for debate, facilitators are mining conversations to complement commissioned articles. Susan Francis explains the HBR guide series: “Our target audience is new managers or more seasoned managers who are embarrassed to ask how to do something or who need brushing up on a subject….  Some of the advice is common sense, but not necessarily common practice—like your remark about lunch.”

Not every chat results in being “published.” But in its own way, being declared a BRANDido is just as thrilling, when #brandchat moderator Maria Duron’s recognizes particularly relevant contributions.

Influence of the Conscientious Moderator

How #usguyschat’s Ken Rosen views his role: “I co-moderate a chat. I don’t own it, but I accept responsibility for its progress while I’m part of it. It came out of a group that was once robust and intellectually stimulating (#UsGuys), but is now trying to find its way and reinvent itself. For this stream to disappear or lose its vitality would be sad to me, personally.”

Why He Feels This Way

“I enjoy getting to know members who are intellectually honest and intense, with shared business interests. Even if #UsGuys stream were to disappear, as long as I’m associated with #usguyschat, I’ll be working to keep it substantive. When I show up to co-mod our little corner of Twitter for one hour I impose on myself a responsibility not to waste the time of those who tune in.”

His Goal

“It’s simple. I want every #usguyschat to be the best chat ever. Co-moderator Joe Ruiz may be more realistic in his aspirations, but he has a similar focus on quality and substance. We may never achieve the ‘best ever’ quality standard wanted, but that doesn’t change the goal. I’ve never once been fully satisfied with a completed #usguyschat … and I suspect I never will. I second guess topics and questions chosen, and my own moderating actions—every time. But we try.”

More Props to the Men

Mark Bernhardt: “My primary motivation is to network. I learn much and occasionally have something pithy to add.” :-) #smmeasure

Twitter chats undercut conventional wisdom about arrogant men dominating social media. Besides offering astute views and informed opinions, males who participate in Twitter chats tend to be deferential and generous to female counterparts; chats are equitable with, “Each gender (re)tweeting half of the sky.”

Weighing in to my “What is your primary reason for participating in Twitter chats?” question, the male co-hosts of #smmeasure differentiate their personalities:

Nick Shin (from @marketwire) Personally: sharing ideas, learning new best practices, actionable insight, thought leadership. Business: brand awareness. If just one thing: to learn.

Sheldon Levine (from @sysomos) Learning, networking, meeting new people, proving whether I’m a thought leader, causing trouble. (I think that’s all the reasons.)

Generously, Nick Shin has issued numerous invitations for me to guest moderate on public relations during #smmeasure.

You’re Being Monitored….

Joseph Fiore, president of RepuMetrix Inc., a social media/reputation monitoring company pays attention to chats covering topics related to his expertise: “From the perspective of raising awareness on the need for social media monitoring, it’s fascinating to see newcomers joining in chats, wanting to learn about how to monitor and manage their online identities, business and/or personal brand. I get the most out of chats where I’m involved as a participant. I find your tweets to be consistent with my own views on social media; it gives the chat instant credibility when I see you participating.”

Is There Room for More Chats?

Dwann Holmes Olsen: “I participate in chats to keep a pulse on those in the community and to gather great ideas and feedback, regarding industry standards and happenings.” #solopr

Although the Twitterverse amphitheatre appears bursting at the seams, some chats have lost steam, focus or relevance. There’s still room, but new chats need differentiation.

Example: In July the new hosts of UK-based #commschat offered a timely chat focused on the closure of News of the World, right on the heels of the announcement. Featuring guest moderators, Mervyn Edgecombe, ex-Fleet Street and Brendan O’Neill, editor at spiked, it was a riveting hour of discussion.

Some other examples:

1. Once again the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is holding a series of one-hour Tuesday Twitter chats during its September’s Ethics Awareness Month. The new 3 p.m. EDT start time was chosen because:

  • The field is less crowded.
  • It’s user-friendly to more North American/international participants: lunch hour for West-coast PRSA members/non-members, evening-friendly for the UK/Western Europe, plus it works for early-morning risers in the Pacific Rim.

September 6: State of Ethics in PR (Deb Silverman, PhD, APR, co-chair of PRSA’s ethics committee)
September 13: Maintaining Public Relations Ethical Standards (Emmanuel Tchividjian, chief ethics officer at Ruder Finn)
September 20: PR Agency Ethics Officers: Who are they and what do they do? (James Lukaszewski, APR, co-chair of PRSA’s ethics committee)
September 27: Fighting the Plagiarism Trend in PR (Mary Graybill, APR, principal, Graybill Communications)

Hashtag: #PRethics; Twitter account: @PRSA.

2. From Director and General Secretary Heather Yaxley, “The Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) is introducing #hublive Twitter chat due to the success of The Hub email for members (see MIPAA website) and the way Twitter has extended the reach of MIPAA workshops. We anticipate motor-industry PR practitioners, journalists and others interested Twitter users around the world to join us in discussing key topics. Our first chat, following the mid-September Frankfurt show, focuses on the future of motor shows. We’re examining a variety of formats and will produce guidelines for members to engage in chats.”

3. Similarly, I’m in talks with Canadian Women in Communications about introducing a dedicated chat. We’ve examined viable times, topics, potential participants and overall focus.

Summary (in More Than 140 Characters)

Daria Steigman: “Twitter chats are great idea labs, drawing in people with different perspectives. I love hanging out and bouncing ideas around with smart people. I often learn something new, and I always sign off with my brain synapses firing.”

The sweet spot in Twitter chats is found by participating in those that make the most sense for your sector and occupation, expertise and interests. Any resulting influence is earned and bestowed; it cannot be calculated or gamed.

Alan Berkson: “My primary motivation is honing my thoughts on issues. It’s a great sounding board…. Tweet chats are like crack for my ADD personality—less prep the better!” #smmeasure #usguyschat

And humility, as per Shannon Kelly, “Meeting cool people, talking shop…to remind your self that you don’t know everything.” Or John Kosic, practising kaizen, “I like the way you made your comment. I listen, observe. Then I engage; repeating the process, again.” #designthinking

Please don’t judge me that I end with Jacoub Bondre: “The whole point of influence. If @jgombita recommends an article, I will likely read the entire thing.” #sm125

See Twitter Chat Schedule and @twchat, created by Robert Swanwick.


Judy Gombita is a Toronto-based public relations and communication management specialist, with more than 20 years of employment and executive-level volunteer board experience, primarily in the financial and lifelong learning nonprofit sectors. She is the co-editor and Canadian contributor (since 2007) to the international, collaborative blog, PR Conversations. Find her on Twitter.

Published: September 1, 2011 By: commproadmin