Monday

How Twitter Chats Can Build Topical Understanding and Community #GenerationSilos


In 2009, when I got the idea that online customer service via Twitter would be the future (and an idea for a book), I wanted community input. I found a like minded individual, Jeffrey Kingman, to join me in a #custserv (customer service) chat.

The #custserv chat was a success and has been running on Tuesday nights at 9pm ET for over five years. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of participants have joined in the chat. Each sharing opinions that have helped form the practices in customer service today.

When I postulated another idea, I was inspired by the large amount of social media engagement surrounding the generations. It seems that Millennials, Baby Boomers and GenX-ers all have their own hashtags; I was culpable too, as I had written a chapter about marketing to the generations in my customer service book.

But what bothered me about the current conversation was that the hashtags and the tweets generally served to promote differences, versus the commonalities, of those of us making our way in the 21st century.

Last November, I participated in the launch of IBM Verse with 31 other social business influencers. (IBM Verse is a powerful new email and collaboration tool guided by analytics). During that event, we brainstormed the future of work and the role that different generations played, that conversation inspired this chat.

#GenerationSilos was born

I was lucky enough to team up with @IBMSocialBiz for the #GenerationSilos chat and with Jason Eng as co-host. With Jason as my wingman, I was assured the chat would be balanced and would cover varying points of view.

The chat was scheduled for Wednesday, March 18. I fully forgot that the entire social media world would be at SXSW and that the day prior was St. Patrick's Day. We had a lot of promoting to do. Launching a new hashtag means a lot of work and we didn't have much time. Twitter promotion began on the 15th, the Sunday prior, and a framing post went on my blog on Monday the 16th. The theme was "Are we creating silos between generations? Are millennials the future of work? Tune in to find out!"

When you plan an online chat, be sure you have a list of questions that cover the topic, ten are good for a one-hour chat. Planned questions enable the moderators to keep participants on topic. Without questions, a crowd will often splinter into individual sub-discussions.  We prepared questions that opened discussion on the topic, the trend to siloing the generations.

The chat was held on CrowdChat, a platform that enhances the conversation, allowing comments to share on Twitter, automatically with the #GenerationSilos hashtag. Comments longer than 140 characters are posted truncated on Twitter with a link back to the chat platform. It is very efficient.

Five minutes prior to the chat, I watched the chat page and there was three of us in the room, Jason, IBMSocialBiz and me. I wondered if anyone would even show up. By 6pm PT a crowd began to fill in. We welcomed the community and the questions began.

By 6:37 pm, the chat was trending worldwide on Twitter and the conversation was interactive and eye opening. The two top questions in the chat were
  • Millennials say they have challenged the status quo. Does this differ from the mantra "Don't trust anyone over 30"?
  • What are the biggest myths you hear about millennials?
You can visit the transcript and find the answers here on CrowdChat. We ended up with 3,227 views, a reach of 23.6M and a total of 484 posts.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to share their ideas. It proved that Twitter chats can really be a place where ideas are exchanged and solutions can be found.