To promote our recent book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Facebook, my co-author, Joe Kraynak, and I participated in a 'Tweet Chat' (also called a Tweetchat) about Facebook. If you have never heard of Tweet Chats and have no idea of what they are, just think of them as online, real-time conversations broadcast via Twitter. They are typically held at a pre-arranged time, among a group of Twitter users, using a specific Twitter hashtag--such as #AskCIG--to identify the discussion and Twitter users are invited to ask questions via tweets using the designated hashtag.

While all this sounds simple enough, conducting an effective Tweet Chat can be a little awkward, especially for the ill prepared. Although this feature is referred to as a chat, it is much more cumbersome than chatting online with any of today's popular instant messaging platforms. Personally, I would rather conduct such an interview on a Facebook Page in the comments area of a Status Update; there at least the discussion is all in one place and easy to follow, instantly archived, and associated with whatever brand's page it appears on. On Twitter, there's no branding, the discussion is not archived in any reasonably accessible manner, and the platform itself is entirely devoid of the type of analytics today's businesses need to gauge the effectiveness of the effort.

Be that as it may, Tweet Chats are another way to get the word out about your business and products, especially if you conduct an effective session. Following are some suggestions on how to do just that:

  • Internet Connectivity: Make sure your internet connection is up and running before the scheduled chat, and have a backup connection; for example, a wireless option if your cable connection goes down or acts funky.
  • Prepared Q&A: If your tweetchat includes moderated Q&A where you know the moderator's questions ahead of time, write your answers so they are ready to post by copy & paste, and make sure they are all 140 characters or less, including the special hashtag.
  • Connect Your Team Offline by Phone: Everyone involved in managing the Tweet Chat should be connected via phone. This enables you to discuss answers before posting them, coordinate the question and answer session more smoothly, and deal with any glitches that occur during the chat session.
  • Browser Compatibility: Test your browser before hand. Twitter is situationally fickle and may work better with some browsers than others.
  • Manage Your Answers: If you've pecked out your answers beforehand and are copying and pasting from a Word or Google Doc, be sure to mark answers that have already been answered. Strikethrough and highlighting work equally well.
  • For Multi-Taskers Only: Bring your multi-tasking A-game. You'll need it.
  • Use a Twitter Management Application: Use a Twitter management application like Seesmic or Hootsuite, which automatically updates the flow of tweets on screen, shortens tweets if they get too long, and truncates any links you may want to add to your tweets. Also, consider using a service, such as tweetchat.com that automates many of the functions for you.
  • Relax: Be prepared to live with the fact that Twitter regularly experiences outages.
Before you get too excited about using a Tweet Chat as a promotional tool, be realistic about what sort of opportunity it really is. Ask yourself whether the time and effort required makes sense.

For Joe and me, it was pretty much a toss-up. We don't expect our little chat to transform our book into a New York Times Bestseller, but the tweets are archived and optimized for search, so this may lead to further sales or promotional opportunities down the road.

Depending on your goals and strategies, however, your time and effort may be better invested in hosting a webinar or teleconference, both of which can be effectively marketed to attract attendees and have the benefit of being recorded for archival playback later on.