Sometimes it freaks me out that I’m a member of the last generation that will know what things were like “before the Internet”.
Yes, there were newsgroups and online bulletin boards, but most of us were spoon-fed our first taste of the Internet, and with it the profoundly intoxicating experience of “talking” to friends and strangers, anywhere in the world, in real time, through this:
Even the graphic shown during those painfully long, screechy moments while your modem connected promised the welcoming embrace of other people when you arrived!
AOL gave us the ability to establish an online identity and chat with our “buddies” 1-on-1. Or, if you were adventurous, you could explore the chatrooms, where interests you never knew existed spawned communities that spanned the globe. Cool!
So, against that generational backdrop, it doesn’t surprise me to hear people of a certain age complain that there’s no real “community” left on social media – that everyone is just blasting out quotes and links and selfies 24/7, instead of engaging in real conversations and building real communities.
Conversation and Community in 140 Characters?
So is it fair to say that Twitter killed conversation and community online?
In fact, here are 3 signs that conversation and community are thriving on Twitter:
1. Influencers are Intentional About Conversation
We recently looked at the social media habits of 30 top marketing and PR leaders at big brands as part of a Social Insights study we did with Purematter. Over one-third of the execs we profiled were using Twitter primarily to engage with others.
These “Conversationalists” included an “@ mention” in over 95% of their tweets. These are people who are intentional about creating dialog and engagement on social media, and are in a position to influence their teams and brands to do the same.
2. Tweet Chats are Super Hot
Tweet Chats are scheduled online “meet ups” where Twitter users discuss a particular topic, using a designated hashtag on the tweets that are contributed to the “chat”. Hundreds of Tweet Chats happen every week, covering topics from agriculture to yoga (and, of course, marketing topics like content marketing, branding, and social customer service).
Tweet Chats let brands build communities by “hosting” the conversation, bringing in good guests, and moderating the conversation to ensure everyone feels welcome (and comes back next time!). If you’re eager to see the kind of enthusiasm and participation these events can generate, check out #BufferChat (Wednesdays, 12pm ET/ 9am PT), which recently broke its own record for participants and tweets in a single hour-long chat:
— Nicole M. Miller (@nmillerbooks) November 26, 2014
Tweet Chats are a real throwback to a lot of what people loved about chat rooms: having a real-time, interactive way to connect with others, meet new people with shared interests, and learn from experts.
3. Hashtags Turn Into Community Hubs
Since their arrival on the Twitter scene in 2007, hashtags have been used as a way to group tweets and make them easily discoverable by others who want to follow that topic or discussion.
Most hashtags have a short shelf life, but others persist, grow, and become the virtual watering hole for an entire ecosystem.
Fast forward to today, and they’ve got a worldwide community of talent professionals and brands posting content with the #Tchat hashtag 24/7. There are similar “always-on” community hubs for search marketers (#PPCChat), community managers (#CMGR), and customer experience professionals (#CX).
How do you find real conversations on Twitter? Have you tapped into your own community? Have a favorite Tweet Chat that we should know about? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments or tweet us @Leadtail.