Tweet chats: a love/hate relationship

I recently participated in a Tweet chat hosted by @CIPR_UK exploring the relationship between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and public relations (PR). It took place over lunch and motivated roughly 30 PR professionals to eat and tweet together for an hour under the hashtag #CIPRchat.

Over the years, I’ve participated in and/or hosted dozens of Tweet chats. Yet, if I had to classify my feelings for this particular social media tool, I would choose “It’s complicated”.

On the negative side, Tweet chats always leave me feeling a bit disappointed (i.e. did I really just spend my lunch break doing THAT?!) for several reasons. First, 140 characters allow little elaboration space. I mean, how much can you really say (of value) about CSR as it relates to PR, or the role of gender in climate change action, or how to find and claim your passion, in 140 wee characters? List of ongoing Tweet chats.

Second, Tweet chats are less like an actual chat with a statement and response, and more like multiple streams of consciousness being shared live without filter. For example, while @stuartbruce is asking a new question, @rebecca_g is answering a previous question, and @CarysSarah is just joining while @Davidcoethica is agreeing/disagreeing with a previous comment and @samwilding66 is making a comment about something seemingly unrelated*.

For those expecting a real conversation, a Tweet chat can be as frustrating as a conference call, an experience hilariously demonstrated in this must watch video:

But on the positive side, there is also much to love about Tweet chats. Despite the disjointed nature of the forum, I still left the #CIPRchat having accomplished several tangible things:

  1. I followed 12 new people on Twitter based on our mutual interest in the practice of #PR.
  2. I joined the CIPR CSR Linked-in group to stay involved in a (much more substantive) conversation on CSR and PR.
  3. I signed on to receive notifications from CIPR about news, upcoming training, events, etc.

If you consider the CIPR definition of PR, that

“Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

then the #CIPRchat was a PR smash hit!

CIPR successfully gathered a group of people (its publics) together to discuss a topic of mutual interest. In doing so, it built its own network and further established itself as a thought leader in this area. In taking part in this chat, I became invested, and therefore became more willing to further increase my involvement with CIPR (FITD technique). In just one short hour, CIPR managed to build its authority and influence, connect with its publics, connect its publics to each other, create goodwill thanks to the network development opportunity it provided, and promote its brand and service offerings, all for FREE. Like I said, a PR home run.

It would seem that the old comparison of social media to a cocktail party, holds true. If you focus on the quality of the conversation generated via Tweet chats (or cocktail parties), you may be disappointed. But if you focus on the networking, engagement and overall PR value of the interaction, you’ll be looking for the next opportunity to host or participate in one.

*All of @samwilding66‘s contributions to the #CIPRchat were on topic. I was just using her as an example for the sake of the post. Sorry Samantha!

Related articles:
The Ultimate Guide To Hosting A Tweet Chat
5 Ways Twitter Chats Can Help Your Business
How Twitter Chats Will Open Your Mind and Network

11 thoughts on “Tweet chats: a love/hate relationship

  1. Hi Hilary,

    The conference call video is hilarious and very true to life!

    Being part of an organisation involved in the renewable energy/sutainability agenda we try as much as possible to host conference call meetings rather than, say, travel down to London for a face-to-face catch up.

    However, this leads to some pretty farcical situations, for instance people taking conference calls in very busy offices where you can here the amplified noise of photocopying going on in the background, or people forgetting to press mute and then having a completely seperate conversation with a colleague in the room that everyone is then party to. I have also personally had the exact scenario of the dog loudly barking in the background that was outlined in the video.

    Great post, and will be sharing this video with my colleagues at work!


    • Thanks Gavin. I know, the video is hilarious. My favorite part is when the guy gets disconnected and is talking to the wall outside the room. It’s funny cause it’s true. About 65% of all conference calls I’ve attended have been a 100% waste of time.

      Thanks for the comment.


  2. Great post, Hillary! I must say, i do have a similar issue with Tweet chats or most ‘conversations’ on Twitter – sometimes it does seem to be less a conversation and more ‘listen to how insightful (and correct) i am whilst i ignore everything you say’. This is particularly frustrating when it’s evident the person venting has a limited understanding of what they are talking about (as demonstrated ably by the many people who seem to think Russell Brand is a credible option for UK Prime Minister…)
    With regards to companies and brands however, i do think Twitter is a great channel to get across what you stand for and to connect with stakeholders – it does need careful community management though and too often, it seems brands and companies are leaving their Twitterfeeds in the hands of monkeys for all the thought that goes into some tweets. So with that in mind, i do wish some companies would really think about what they want to say and achieve by being on Twitter, rather just jumping on the bandwagon and essentially spouting rubbish for the hell of it as that’s only going to damage their reputation in the long run.

  3. Fantastic video!

    I once participated in a webnar that had a tweet chat/conference component. At the time, I was quite new the Twitter (still am) and my biggest issue was how quickly I had to respond to a post when wanting to share on the general stream (as opposed to DMing the participant). Perhaps if I had been more experienced, it would have been easier, but with a shelf life of 15 seconds and 140 character limit, it was hard to contribute to the conversation.

    That said – it was incredible how much I was made aware of. Granted it was ‘skimming-the-surface’ kind of stuff, but it was enough for me to know what to look up later.

    All in all, twitter is great for opening the door.

    • Thanks Ramy! I love your blog about failure and look forward to watching it unroll via FB. And who did that awesome kinetic text video ;)

  4. Hi Hilary!

    First off, thanks so much for mentioning our tweet chat listings!

    And this is SOO what conference calls are like. I almost shredded my gut laughing so hard at this. This is great! Definitely sharing this with the guys in my department.

    Thanks for a great laugh!

    Eric Bryant
    Gnosis Media Group – Your #1 Source for Tweetchat Info on the Web

  5. Hey Hillary, I love your post! Its very insightful and is very good at pointing out the value of Twitter beyond its ability to confuse new users lol. I also love the video of the conference call! I must confess that I have never participated in a Tweet chat, but will remember your blog post for when I do at some point!

    • Thanks Rachel! I hope you’re able to discover more of Twitter through this course and on your own. It’s still a love/hate relationship for me, but I think the hate is worth the love :)

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