Saturday, February 14, 2009

How to host a successful Twitter Party

I'm reading: How to host a successful Twitter PartyTweet this!

You know Twitter parties? Those #hashtag-laden events that produce lots of chatter. So much chatter that it can be start to sound like noise. Or spam. But, you know there are "door prizes" involved, nice ones like laptops, so people have incentive to join in.

Friday night there was a Twitter #party that had,
in my opinion, a high ratio of noise to authentic or useful discussion. Annoyingly high. Or maybe I should call it disappointingly high. Disappointing because I know and like several of the women involved and I think they can do better. If high expectations are a crime, then lock me up now.

I'm writing this post without naming names because the point is not to be, well, a finger-pointer, it's really to look at this constructively.

So this morning when one of the women who happened to be among said #party organizers sent out a tweet saying something about people who spam on Twitter. I sent this public reply:
Ah, but one person's spammy tweets are merely another person's #hashtag-laden twitter party tweets. I later clarified that her party's stream was more noise then spam, IMO.

Edited 2/15 to add: apparently @resourcefulmommy organized the "sitewarming" party on Friday night. I was under the impression that it was someone else. See comment section for full details.

The conversation went on a bit about #parties and then, like most things Twitter, it was over. But after dinner, like bad Valentine's candy, it came back to haunt me.

I'm not out to rehash a play-by-play in a she said/she said kind of deal. My point is that in these discussions, I tried to offer up constructive criticism and was pegged as a Negative Nelly. The discussion was topped off by a tweet from another #party planner saying
@KimMoldofsky is creating a bunch of noise now.


Let's see, this evening I helped one local gal connect with a charity, gave a nod to a great blog post, shared some info on ScienceChicago's weekend activities. That's joyful noise, that's what it was.

A month or two ago, I was a panelist for an #Eden Twitter party. For about an hour I tried keeping up my end of several fast moving conversations about parenting. I'm not sure how successful I was in it. And though I got a number of new followers for my efforts, I also posted the single largest loss of followers that I've ever had in one night.

That affirmed an idea I'd been toying with- that these parties can clog the conversation stream and turn people off.

Yes, they can!

Does that mean they're all bad?


That said, last night's party wasn't the only one to bug me. I've been disappointed before when I've signed on to Twitter and all I see is #this and #that. Sure I can log off, but ... no I can't I'm addicted! I could unfollow, but I'm fairly certain once the party is over, I'll enjoy that person's tweets again.

When a #party is organized around a natural theme like parenting, health and wellness, or journalism 2.0, it can make for interesting reading and can build community, which is the big selling point of social media, right? Or did I miss that day of class?

I don't begrudge fellow netizens the chance to flex their entrepreneurial muscles by organizing sponsored parties, but I do think they need to consider how people react to the parties.

Based on the emails and DMs coming in during this little Tweetstorm, I can say for certain I'm not the only one annoyed by the overwhelming and sometimes insincere streams created by this parties.

One Tweep even suggested a new hashtag #fakegush because there was a lot of that going on last night. Another friend later informed me that partygoers were asked to tweet, "I love*" in order to win prizes, but I didn't stay around long enough to realize this. All I saw was a bunch of disingenuous sounding tweets. And it was a huge turnoff.

As I tweeted earlier tonight in an attempt to offer up constructive criticism, if I was to host a #party, I'd survey a bunch of folks to gauge perceptions and find out what is most agreeable for the most people.

For example:
When should #parties take place?

How long should they be?
What are the end goals for: attendees, followers who are not attendees but will be dragged into the event and, of course, #party sponsors

As a popular Tweeter, surely you don't want to dismiss folks by merely suggesting that they unfollow you.

And the sponsors? No doubt they are looking at hit counts-people who click over to see the site- but they might be looking at developing new customers.

My own words are echoing in my ears right now. Earlier this week I pitched a client on a BlogHer related outreach idea, but then cautioned that social media is not a campaign, it's an ongoing process.

In my opinion, a one-night stand, or rather a quick hour or two on Twitter is not going to make your site a fave with me, especially if it interrupts my Twitter fun. And with a TwitterGrade of 99.7, which puts me in the top 4K of over a million Tweeters, you know I have some fun on that site.

If you want to hold a #party, why not take a few minutes and create an online survey (they are free, cheap and easy, like me on V-Day) to better understand what will work best for you and your client. DM me and I'll be happy to share my two cents on your survey.

And maybe the folks who were quietly emailing and DMing me in agreement today will take the survey, too. You might learn something from the people who keep their negative feelings to themselves, especially if you promise not to disparage them publicly.

Your thoughts? Agree or disagree, but keep to the topic and not the people.

*Made-up name, natch.


Naomi said...

I'm not nearly as Twitter-lific as you are so these parties tend to confuse and bewilder me. When I saw all the hashtags last night I was curious as to what the sponsors get out of it. Exposure? Sales? A budding community? I watched for a while but got bored and signed off. Which is typical of my Twitter usage, in general. I like content and getting from point A to point B. Small talk is great in person but online I would rather cut to the chase.

Renée aka Mekhismom said...

I think that it is important when building community to be open to constructive criticism. Everything can be improved and all criticism is not an attack. I believe surveying folks is a great way to gauge how a larger audience feels about twitter parties.

Personally I participate in a number of different virtual tweet-ups and my followers either ignore me or actually engage in my conversation. I think this is because I maintain my same tone and banter whether I am using hashtags or not.

Also, during twitter parties if a person is afraid of losing followers you can simply alert everyone that tweets will be coming in rapid succession and that may help the matter.

Great topic. I look forward to reading the thoughts of others.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Thanks for weighing in Naomi. Perhaps someone who's a bigger fan of those parties will explain for you in the comments.

I apologize to everyone for the wonky sizing issues which I can't seem to fix right now. I'll peek in tomorrow to see what's going on.

KristiBug said...

Agreed. I will ignore it for awhile but a few months ago I had someone putting (what seemed like) HUNDREDS of irritating tweets in my stream.

I unfollowed her.

I was happy because I got her out of my stream! I did follow her back a few weeks later because I missed her stuff (I subscribe to her blog in my Reader as well) and she hasn't done it lately. Or maybe I'm more used to it.

But yes, unfollowing and then following later (if you remember) is pretty bad. But if you are not interested in it (at that moment) what can you do?

lanaclevermomme said...

Great Insight. Never really thought of twitter party in those terms and my tweets during that time. I like to participate when I can since I am fairly new to this and don't have a lot of time. Love that the "veterans" are willing to share their knowledge!

Rebecca said...

I went to Blissdom last weekend and gained about 100 new followers. Many of those followers were fellow attendees, but a few of them were new folks who appreciated my Twittering about the conference. But I have no idea how many followers I might have lost because of my Twittering about it. (#blissdom09 came up a LOT in my Tweetstream.)

I've not seen too many Twitter parties since I've been Twittering. But this does give me pause for thought. I'm doing a blog carnival in a couple of weeks, and I've sent Tweets about it three or four times in the last several days, which I felt a little squeamish about. I've tried to "give" as much as I've asked to "get" over that time, but I've not had much to say over much of that time. Promotion vs. politeness is a tough balance.

Heather said...

I've only tried to tune in once and wondered why Twitter and not a chat room? I think it's trying to stretch the platform to do something it's not. I also draw a distinction to a genuine topic-driven gathering i.e. photography chat as opposed to those that have more of a marketing/PR/traffic slant.

On the other hand, I do appreciate a string of conference hashtag tweets when I'm not able to attend.

Lisa B. said...

Since you posted the question again this morning in Twitter "For the AM crowd, how do you feel about Twitter" I took your advice and posted a poll on my blog. I'm not trying to steal your thunder, I was hoping you would do it. But I really want to know what everyone feels about this.

Meagan Francis said...

I've also been annoyed by some #parties, not others. I haven't been able to figure out where the difference lies but I think you're right in that it's easy to tell when they cross over into insincere gushing. For instance, I never feel annoyed by #journchat, it's pretty obvious the people participating aren't out to win anything, simply to share thoughts/ask questions/learn. OTOH it leaves a pretty bad taste in my mouth that participants in this one party were asked to tweet something specific in order to be eligible to win a prize. The old cocktail party analogy again: it would be like if I were at a party and noticed that every other person coming up to me was saying "I love Betty's Ice Cream!" and then later I found out they were told to say that in order to have a shot at winning a prize. Would you think you'd gained much from the conversation you had with all the people talking about ice cream? Would you feel particularly confident in Betty's brand or more likely to pick it up next time you were at the store? Social media may be changing the marketing landscape, but I don't think it's changing the basic idea that you grow an audience or customer base via good service, a good product (or content), reliability, and time.

And twitter parties are NOT the same as asking somebody to post something on their blog to win a contest, IMO. With Twitter, once you've followed somebody you are pretty much a captive audience to whatever it is they're saying while you're online, unless you unfollow them. And when dozens or hundreds of people are suddenly flooding your stream with similar tweets that you find overwhelming/annoying, you can either unfollow people en masse or go offline. Either way the person throwing the party has missed out on the opportunity to reach you.

What I always find surprising about these kinds of conversations, though, is the old "well, if they don't like what I'm saying they can just unfollow me." Sure...I guess...but if I were running a business I would definitely rather know if I was annoying somebody or turning them off my product/service rather than having them quietly unfollow and never know. "Well, I don't see anyone else complaining!" they say. Thing is, a lot of people will never say anything directly because it's just not important to them, or they want to avoid any potential drama, or they don't want to seem mean, or what have you. But just because people aren't saying anything doesn't mean that as a long-term marketing tool the party has worked. If it were me, and I was developing a site or growing an audience, I'd definitely rather know than not know if my marketing efforts had fallen flat or annoyed someone.

Another thing to keep in mind: a lot of people don't place winning stuff very high on their priority list. I can count on one hand the number of contests I've entered in the past two years. I am here to socialize and network and have fun and learn something and read great content--and I can't be the only one. Yet so many of these parties seem to place their main focus on giveaways. I think that's great for attracting a bunch of attention for a short period of time, but there has to be something to sustain it, and if you've effectively turned off a big portion of your audience that doesn't care about the giveaways, it's possible it's done more harm than good.

Okay, those are my long-winded thoughts!

Stimey said...

It's tough on Twitter because everyone has different expectations and ways of using Twitter. But I completely agree with you. What I do is use TweetDeck and create a group of people who I want to see their tweets because they're more valuable to me (you're in that group, BTW). Then my whole twitter stream is next to my main group. I pay closer attention to my core group. And if someone gets irritating to me, I move them out of my core group into my "all friends" group as sort of a separation before divorce step.

Kelby said...

I am honestly a little surprised that Twitter parties would be considered so offensive. I attend Twitter parties quite frequently. I should say upfront that I am having one for the Type-A Mom redesign Saturday. I have yet to see one that is done solely for spam or promotional purposes. Maybe I am missing it.

Every party I have attended that is tied to a site has been directly tied to a topic. The panelists have been there to give free advice to those attending, not to mention prizes. Yes, the conversation can stray wildly, but some party hosts do a pretty good job keeping things on topic.

I do know it could be noise if you are a newer Twitter person who doesn't follow many people, but this really isn't different to me than any other trending topic that dominates the Twitter stream. I'm sure many of you remember the presidential debates. Not much ELSE appeared in the Twitter stream those evenings.

Also, there are many, many, MANY benefits to joining in. Most time I attend a party, I walk away having discovered some very cool new people to follow at the party that share very similar interests. I also usually leave with many new followers.

In fact, I typically go back to search the hashtag and follow people who tweeted at the party and who I missed during the fast pace of the party.

For those who aren't interested, I'm not sure why it's any more painful to ignore a party-goer than it is any number of people on Twitter who tweet in a rapid pace about anything. There are also so many tools out there that allow you to filter your stream.

I would certainly hate to see people complain enough about Twitter parties to put an end to them or unduly stifle them. They are a powerful tool allowing tweeters to get followers, promote themselves. jump into a conversation, learn things, become better social networkers and bloggers, and so on.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Thanks for all the comments. I'll be back with my thoughts on them later today after a bit of family time.

Mary said...

Lots to think about, Kim. I love that you always cause me to reflect and use critical thinking. After much thought, I have to say I agree with Kelby. I've found myself worrying a bit lately about the way I'm perceived online and I've realized that you really can't please everyone, just as in real life. Twitter parties are a marketing tactic, yes, but no more so than many of the others out there. And they do offer a sense of community and fun for many, which most agree is the point of Twitter. Who's to say what's "allowed" or "acceptable" on a public avenue such as twitter. With practice, it's easy to train your eye to skip over irrelevant tweets or those you're not interested in at the time. I want to stop worrying about offending others and focus more on interacting with others and learning from others.

ResourcefulMommy said...

Hi, Kim, since you've worked with me on a party in the past, I'm sure you know that the "organizers of Friday night's party" is actually just me - one person - and that it's my livelihood. ( If anyone would love to discuss the parties with me, the sole proprietor and organizer of SiteWarmings by ResourcefulMommy, I welcome all feedback to I haven't gotten one DM, @ or e-mail with criticism (constructive or otherwise) or concerns, oddly enough. I look forward to hearing from you!


Sarah said...

I have to agree with Kelby on this: Twitter parties aren't something that I find offensive. I've attended a few, and spoken on one panel, but I don't attend all of them. And I am certainly not offended when they are going on. If I am not interested, I tune them out. It's pretty simple, actually, since there are always other tweeple who aren't party goers.

(If I do want to attend TweetChat (I think that's the name) is great for following the conversation.)

As for it just being noise, I think generally, Twitter is pure noise -- some of it is noise I want to tune into and some of it is noise I tune out. I think I would be hard-pressed to find anything: classes, meetings, work environments, grocery stores, parties (the real life kind), music, etc, that are really noise-free. You just choose to listen to what you want to.

Just my two cents.

Meagan Francis said...

I just want to point out that IMO there is a difference between being offended by something, and being put off by it, and there's a difference between expressing an opinion, and trying to stifle somebody/something.

Knowing that some people are put off by the way an event is run is just information. You can choose to do with that information whatever you wish, including doing nothing. But IMO it's still valuable to know it.

Based on things I'm seeing elsewhere, which I'm pretty sure are related to this post even though nobody is coming out and saying so, I feel like people may be over-personalizing this.

Naomi said...

I think there is a difference between being annoying and being offensive and I don't think Kim was trying to piss people off, just give some constructive criticism.

The way I use Twitter is MUCH more intermittent than most of the people who have hashtag events, so I usually see them, get curious but can't figure out who's in charge or what's going on. I don't take that as a personal affront and it's not like you're cluttering up a news feed or something that I NEED. I do wonder why asking people to congregate in a chat room or forum wouldn't be more appropriate- RT the invitation but have less non sequiturs floating around. That being said, I do like to enter contests and promote my own contests on Twitter and I haven't noticed any dramatic exodus from Followers one way or another. But I'm not tweeting every other minute, either.

Sharon McPherson said...

Hello Kim,

While I respect your view on "Twitter Parties", there are 3 simple solutions to them...

1. Ignore the tweets containing the # hashtag of the party.

2. Use a free service called that enables you to temporarily block the tweets coming from one of your followers up to 30 days.

3. Unfollow.

If you or your readers would like to learn what a hashtag is, why you should participate in hashtag events, and why you should create your own hashtag event, you can do so in my blog post, Social Media Coach Explains What Twitter Hashtags # Are & Why You Should Use Them

Sharon McPherson

Kristina said...

I don't pay much attention to #parties. I dive in and out of Twitter and rarely stay on it for a prolonged period of time so it doesn't bother me. What I don't like is the insincere gushing (I am not referring to Friday's party, as I wasn't on Twitter then and didn't know about it...just in general...the overt marketing on Twitter sometimes puts me off).

Kim Moldofsky said...

There's a lot to respond to, but Amy gets my feedback first. I had no idea she had organized Friday night's sitewarming party.

The stream I caught on Twitter, was nothing like the party I participated in. The party I was a part of focused on parenting Q&A. I'm not saying last Friday's party didn't, but I am saying the stream I caught was all about promoting a specific site in what appeared to me as #fakegush. I think Meagan makes a great point about this in her first comment.

Oh, and apparently I missed repeated references to @resourcefulmom in the gushy sitelove.

Given that the #party concept will be increasingly borrowed/copied/stolen, anyone who wants to "own" a certain time slot has to work at it. I don't calendar in nor devote mental space to which night is #journchat or #editorchat or #gno, etc.

@Rebecca, I think it's different when a large set of tweets comes out of a conference. I really enjoy those because they help me virtually attend those events. Also, in true Twitter style, in that case you are tweeting what genuinely grabs your attention.

Ah, but as some have pointed out, there is no "True Twitter style." We are all shaping this medium every time we log on.

I tend to follow @Heather's line of thinking. Why not move to a chat room? Though I can also answer that- they'll be fewer people.

As several of you had mentioned, it can be fun and interesting to jump into these conversations. Participation often leads to new connections and broader networks.

But people have to keep it real.

Thanks @Sharon for the information on the snooze program that temporarily unfollows. I think once I really get moving on Tweetdeck. I'll likely take @Stimey's tip about just shifting party chatter out of my stream if it annoys me.

That said, I really like being on Twitter without the help of apps. I feel like I happen on to more info that way.

Thanks for your thoughts. As some of you mentioned, I was annoyed, not offended. I wasn't out to ruffle feathers with this post, but I was out to clarify my thoughts and perceptions.

Others might not agree with my perceptions, but I'd like to think we can talk about our differences. Granted 140 public mini-posts might not be the best way to go about this. But sometimes it works.

And if this post causes people to refine their party strategies in a way that works best for a larger number of people, well then all the better.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Wait, no, wrong again. Friday night's party was all about promoting a site, not parenting info. I don't dig deep enough into these parties to differentiate them, I guess. I do differentiate things like #journchat, though.

I'm forming one of those Unified Theories of Everything right now. But my head might explode if I try to explain it this late at night.

Marketing Mommy said...

I think you just explained why I've been staying away from Twitter more and more. It's just so much noise! I unfollowed a bunch of people to try to slow the volume, but I still feel like it's an enormous, chaotic dinner party where half of the attendees are trying to sell me something.

FreeRangeMom said...

Sure Friday nights can be quite noisy on Twitter with parties and marketing events. But I guess I love that about Twitter. It's a wide open frontier that all of us are exploring and staking out our positions within it.

I personally find that during busy hours, TweetDeck is the only way to manage the feed. It allows me to watch what everyone is saying on a topic (and find new people to follow), it allows me to filter out people who are too noisy on a subject who I don't want to unfollow. And it even allows me to see what just my friends are saying on a topic (which can be handy during #journchat that just has too many tweets to keep up with if you try to follow what everyone is saying.)

The is no "right" and "wrong" way to use Twitter. 6 months ago everyone was up in arms about people that went out and found hundreds of followers in a few weeks. They were called spammers. Most of the newcomers to Twitter, however, have taken that approach. So what last year was "bad manners," is this year a "smart approach" to building a twitter community.

My advice, focus on building social capital with your Tweeps. Sharing, retweeting, commenting and replying. All are the key to building a strong Twitter community.

Robyn -- Who's the Boss? said...

This is one of the reasons why I stay off Twitter a lot of the time. I don't mind people creating #parties, but for the most part I find those to be noise. What bothers me more is the fake tweets about loving a site to win a prize. We've all promoted a contest or something using twitter -- but I've never asked my fellow tweeps to give a false opinion about a product or site.