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Post image for Re-Thinking Group Tweeting (Chats)

As an avid Twitter user over the past several years, it has been interesting to watch the evolution of Group Tweet activity or “Chats.” In essence, Chats are unofficial Twitter Groups with huge differences in how they compare to groups on other Social Networks, mostly the others make group activity a big part of their user experience. If you’re unaware, when Twitter launched the founders ignored
group creation.

To be fair, I have no inside information as to how groups originally were addressed by Biz Stone, Ev Williams and Jack Dorsey, but it isn’t hard to imagine them viewing Twitter as one giant group where official “groups” would be redundant. Social connectivity is one of the four pillars of human happiness, and with or without support, Twitter users were going to find a way to form collective social activity – and Chats were the result.

Having spawned organically, there was no set of directions to follow. As humans are apt to do, we just jumped in and started connecting with tweets layered with the same hashtag at the same time and it worked. As Chats evolved, no one stopped to figure out “best practices” for the activity. As happens, charismatic early adopters made use of the new activity and attracted group participants and followers. The Chat evolution flowed from these early adopters and never looked back. Today, most Chats are a mix of free flowing tweets, with the additions of specific topics, focused event Q&A and guests.

There are prominent group tweet programs like #BlogChat and #DadChat that swear by the lack of event structure where a free for all tweet session is encouraged. Others like #BizForum, #SWChat, and #TChat use structured event choreography to ensure participant enjoyment. Many of the most successful Chat groups have added Blog Previews & Recaps, Internet Radio and Webinars to augment their weekly Chat programs and they also have a passionate host or organizer that attracts attention from the Twitterverse.

Even as fun, informative and socially connective as Chats are, the core of participants are primarily heavy Twitter users. This is mostly because being able to Tweet, retweet and contribute Chat content takes Twitter experience and is not easy in fast paced Chats. Our research indicate about 400-500 events occur weekly, with thousands more occurring monthly or as a “one off.” Attendees average 30-50 per program with the well-organized programs attracting audiences of 200-300 (small number average twice that). We estimate between 25,000 and 100,000 people attend a Chat program during the peak months (Fall through end of Spring). These numbers are pretty small compared to the 100 million people tweeting every day.

The key issues that stand in the way of making Chats a more main stream activity, has everything to do with how the Chats are currently presented and consumed. Let’s dial the clock back to 2007 and join Ev, Biz and Jack in that “will we or won’t we” Twitter Group discussion. Using what we know today, let’s strip out the negatives we currently see and introduce programming and stream enhancements that make group tweet activity easy to consume. The founders love the effort and give us the green light and Twitter Groups take their rightful place as the dominant Social Network Group activity creating a big competitive separator for Twitter.

Well, we can’t literally dial the clock back, but improvements can be adopted. We’ve been working on Group Tweet simplicity for the past 1+ years adding stream enhancers, sensory based elements and event choreography to our efforts. In our next blog we’ll map out some of these improvements and announce a release date for our new Group Tweet Application. Bye for now…

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