Twitter chat: Is anybody listening?

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2012/06/10 · 36 comments 12,092 views

in c micro-blogging Twitter,e marketing 101 serving a need

Update 2012-06-10 – It gets worse, see how many Twitter bots follow brands (comment with link to paper) – Dell, Ikea, Southwest.
It certainly seems as if Twitter activities generate a low return on investment (ROI) for businesses
Is Robert Scoble right in claiming Twitter is the new ghost town and Facebook is…?
Does a Twitter chat represent value for your target audience?
Recently, Marita Roebkes, an esteemed colleague, wrote me an email containing several imporant insights, including:

From what I see, there is still a gap of four years between acceptance and usage between Europe and the US.
Still a lot of “blasts” and buy my stuff offers in the social web (on both sides of the ocean).

So what about Twitter chat, is it something people use to blast their messages or a tool by which chat participants thoughtfully respond to the expert or moderator’s tweets?

How Twitter fails in a crisis situation

Blasted messages or a stream of thoughtful tweets?

On Twitter I do not always have the time to read people’s personal replies to others, and things get especially confusing if I have not seen the previous messages that led to a thank you, and so forth.

Click on image - Do we need this type of chatter in our Twitter stream?

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Is Twitter a news tool or social space?

The number of tweets have gone up. Unfortunately, this means that people are getting overloaded, resulting in most poeple following no more than 80 people – why follow more when you cannot keep up? Controlling the amount of ‘noise’ is also much more difficult on Twitter than on Facebook, for instance.

Scoble would probably reply that while Twitter may not be a ghost town yet, the more it gets used to gain insights and news, the less attractive it becomes for the majority. For me, it was and always will be more of an ‘information utility’, and as Scoble points out, less of a social community. Therefore, it might become more and more empty.

Click on image - Get research report as pdf file - Kelly Global Workforce Index - Social Media - Networking Report

Three or four potential problems for Twitter chat

Are Facebook and Google+ going up in your world?
What about Twitter – are your numbers of followers and/or replies staying flat?
How about the time spent reading other people’s content – on the up- or downswing?

Your thoughts – PLEASE click here and leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

Click on image - Social Media Influence 2012 Conference - Twitter Chat

Are Twitter chats lame? What do you think?

Do people actually:

  1. – read the material prepared by the expert beforehand (e.g., questions, slides by Bernhard Warner – see image above), and
  2. – stay on topic during discussions?

Here are some of our results.

Event Statistics

  • Number of Tweets = 992
  • Number of Contributors = 91
  • Reach = 268,000
  • Number of Impressions = 2,600,000

People blast their message in the hope of having an impact. Of course, few stay on topic and even fewer try to engage:

– the first 110 tweets listed in the archive were sent before the chat started, telling us a bit about why people could not make it and their disappointment,
– from tweet 110 up to and including 156, people talked about getting ready for the chat;
– another 50 tweets contained random thoughts…

Fact: The first 200 out of 1,000 tweets offered no relevant content – where is the beef?

Find the archive of the 2012-05-31 chat with Bernard Warner and our discussion on Xing Social Media Monitoring about Twitter Chat.

Bottom line – take-aways: Four reasons Twitter chats can fail

Four things to keep in mind:

1. Spread the news: Chats are a good way to spread news to a larger audience about a conference, new book or other event, such as a client appreciation day. Of course, it also helps build experts’ visibility and reputation.

Click on image - Read the archive of the tweets.
Click on image - Read about the post on the LinkedIn group for the Social Media Influence conference 2012.

2. Post additional insights before chat: Questions, slides, video, white papers are just a few that come to mind – they all help prepare your audience and focus the chat.
3. Secure value proposition for your clients: Chats can allow us to learn from each other. To facilitate this, keep the number of attendees relatively small. Otherwise, some clients will likely get stressed out with so many tweets every single minute for an hour.
4. Measure and tune your engagement: If you want more people to sign up and pay to attend for a conference (see above chat), see if they do. Thus, define and measure the outcome. Better to fail quick and drop Twitter chat, than continue without much success.

More resources on Twitter success and failure:

– Debra Weinstein’s favorite chats and then some
– Huge chat list – all the information you need to tune in
Company failures: Why is Twitter so difficult?
40 more blog posts and some with tips, tricks, Twitter tools…

A question for YOU

How do you decide which chat to attend? Please leave a comment! ;-)

Tip: Search for more ComMetrics and CyTRAP sources on good practice, measurement, social media social CRM, reputation, ROI (click to query).

Urs E. Gattiker, Ph.D. - CyTRAP Labs - ComMetrics.

The author: This post was written by social media marketing and strategy expert Urs E. Gattiker, who also writes about issues that connect social media with compliance, and thrives on the challenge of measuring how it all affects your bottom line.
His latest book, Social Media Audit: Measure for Impact, is scheduled to appear from Springer Science Publishers in Summer, 2012.
Connect with ComMetrics on Google+ or the author using: Email | Twitter | | Xing



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  • Urs E. Gattiker

    Marco Camisani Calzolari @marcocc:twitter   compiled a study into 39 brands on Twitter.
    He used an algorithm to determine the behaviour of followers.Using key indicators into what type of behavior was likely that of a bot, he found that up to 46% of followers were likely to be automated bots
    The study took a sample of each brand’s followers and scored their ‘Twitter behavior’ whereby a follower that logged into her account through different clients (e.g., Tweetdeck, Buffer, Twitter webpage) or a profile containing a name with an image and physical address where all factors that were scored (if yes, 1, 2 or 3 points).

    Calzolari, Marco (June 2012). Analysis of Twitter followers of leading international companies. Quantitative and qualitative study of behaviours demonstrated by humans (users which are presumably real) or by bots (users which are presumably fake). Milano: Speakage Srl. Working paper. Retrieved, June 9, 2012 from: (click and download paper – also see image below for a table from the paper
    Thanks to to Marco

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  • Olga Henggi

    Dear Urs,
    I like the examples of Twitter chatting that you included in your blog. They show what works and what not.
    Being overloaded is one of the reasons why people tend to reply in a short and maybe very pain way. But time is money as they say. However, a conversation should be meaningful in any case.
    I like the way you explain potential problems for Twitter chat – very clear and useful tips. Everyone can definitely learn a lot and I did the same.
    It’s interesting that it’s not easy to see people’s emotions and you can only guess how they felt while chatting. I tried to show how emotional a discussion can be in my latest blog devoted to the related topic “How to listen to customers” (thanks for your great comment). But Twitter is different  – very short messages and little space.
    And you are right – people hope to get replies that sometimes never appear on their screens. Maybe you should learn how to listen to emotions …
    Best wishes,


    • Urs E. Gattiker

      Dear @5968f5947815ced3338c913ce110e180:disqus 

      Thanks so much for your comment.  Yes the listening is the big challenge with a Twitter chat and most media.  In its simplest form you use a reply such as ” @OlgaHenggi:twitter I saw your tweet, thanks…” However, to acknowledge the many random thoughts as shown by the streem of tweets going by makes it hard to reply and acknowledge and receipt of the message.  
      In other words – conversation is a two-way street – but a Twitter chat does not really work in letting us have a conversation.

      On top, if your followers are bots as happens much with brands as Marco @Marcocc:twitter found with his research (see comment above), how can you have a conversation with machines?

      I believe that:
      – Facebook users get news from family & friends, while
      – Twitter users get news from journalists and/or content curators (e.g., bloggers, scientists)

      If the above is true though, Twitter will usually not be able to satisfy our need to get acknowledged and replied to properly.

      So let us continue using it to share great content, research and insights but not for communicating …. about serious issues is my advice :-)

      Olga, thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time I value your input.

      • Olga Henggi

        Dear Urs,
        Thank you for your reply that shows you are a good listener. And I know your chatting skills on Twitter are great – just admire your professionalism and energy.
        I agree that Twitter chats don’t let us have a conversation but look at the button “view conversation” on Twitter.
        Maybe you can see not more than two replies there and this could mean there is no any conversation but it’s possible. Anyway, what I want to say that Twitter encourages their members to have conversations. The difficult point is that two strangers maybe won’t have a long conversation even if they reply each other, say, once.  
        Anyway, it’s very difficult to write a thoughtful message (140 characters) and send it to … the whole world :-) Any communication requires a well thought strategy.
        Best wishes,

        • Urs E. Gattiker

          Olga, I agree wholeheartedly, 2 total strangers are unlikely to have a long face-to-face conversation unless they hit it right off. If they do not, they will quickly move on.
          Of course, if you share a common background, for instance, such as having gone to school together you can more easily talk. And we all have experienced the situation where we have not seen somebody for years, met again and after 2 minutes it felt like we had the last conversation yesterday.
          @olgahenggi:twitter based on the above, makes sense that 
          – Facebook users get news/pictures/gossip from family and friends, while
          – Twitter users get news from journalists and/or content curators (e.g., bloggers, scientists) 

          Accordingly, I just cannot see having a conversation using Twitter…. but maybe with a friend on Facebook, a customer replying on our blog and so forth.

          Thanks for listening and having an online conversation with me Olga!

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