Businesses woo customers in Twitter chats

SALT LAKE CITY — With more than 175 million users, it can be difficult to get your voice heard on Twitter, especially by those in your industry. Because of this, companies like SEO.com, politicians, celebrities and other Twitter users are hosting Twitter chats.

The chats, similar to Internet chat rooms, are started by people who want to speak to many members of an industry all at once.

Twitter

Courtesy of Tribe Count

Twitter users discovered they could put a hashtag, or #, in front of a title to create a group of like-minded tweets to be followed. When they search for the title of a chat with a hashtag, they see a live, streaming discussion, which creates a forum.

One of the longest-running Twitter chats is #Blogchat, which started in March 2009.

Each week the group discusses a different topic related to blogging, #Blogchat founder Mack Collier explained.

“A Sunday night chat will generate anywhere from 10 to 20 million impressions,” he said in a telephone interview.

Though he knew people have lots of questions about blogging, Collier said he did not expect #Blogchat to reach nearly two million people each week.

“The big reason why it has grown is simply because I have stuck with it,” he said. “I love the conversations on Twitter and I love connecting with people … I’ve had so many people tell me that Blogchat has been a huge help for them.”

He advised businesses considering starting a Twitter chat to not focus their discussions on selling products.

“Instead, think about how your customers are going to use the products … Most people enjoy Blogchat because there is so much information” Collier said. “For those trying to get a chat off the ground, the biggest hurdle is having the chat as frequently as possible.”

Twitter chats encourage networking by segmenting the market for you. Those following the chat are already interested in the topic, creating a targeted audience. Finding a chat on a specific topic is easy by searching the keywords in Twitter.

#SEOchat is a weekly Twitter discussion co-hosted by Ash Buckles, president of SEO.com, a professional SEO firm.

Buckles said Twitter chats are effective ways to engage people in your industry.

“SEOchat has grown into a forum where top industry experts discuss their findings and where industry newbies can learn more,” Buckles said. “Twitter chats allow you to help others, which in turn promotes your brand.”

Greg Shuey, vice president of client services for SEO.com, co-hosts #SEOchat. New connections he has made through the weekly discussions have been the primary benefit, he said.

“We created SEOchat because we wanted people to have a place where they could share the latest ideas and discoveries in SEO,” Shuey added. “We also wanted business owners to be able get SEO help for their websites.”

#SEOchat is every Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern time.

“Simply by searching ‘#SEOchat’ anyone can follow everything the chat is saying,” Shuey explained. “The best part for me though is seeing business owners using the chat as a resource. That’s when I know it’s fulfilling its purpose.”

If a chat does not exist about a particular topic, Shuey said it is easy to start your own. Choose a title for the chat and place a hashtag in front of it. Announce you are beginning by tweeting the information to your followers. Mention those who are not following you in your tweets so others will find out about the chat.

Popular Twitter chats for marketing and public relations professionals include: #smbiz, #hcsm, #journchat, #brandchat, #socialchat and #commschat.

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