Live Blog: Hosting a Successful Twitter Party / G+ Hangout

This session was presented by Jamie Walker and Alyse Mason Brill, founders of FitApproach and SweatGuru.  Together they have over 15 years of experience in social media and look forward to sharing what they learned along the way.  They focused on the technique and benefits of hosting Twitter parties and Google Hangouts.

First, what are the major differences between Twitter parties and Google Hangouts.  Google allows you to schedule time for group video chats.  During the hangout a moderator asks questions about a specific topic to a panel.  Other viewers can tune it to watch while it is live on air or watch a recording later on YouTube.  This technology is going to become more important in the future as you can interact with others.  Right now the platform is not so saturated so Google is actively helping individuals to build their platforms.  With Twitter parties anyone can join in at any time.  This also means that random people can come in and add to the discussion.  Parties typically last half an hour to 45 minutes.  The parties are built around a hashtag.  During the party a moderator asks questions about a specific topic and any audience member can answer publicly.  These are also at a scheduled time.

While Google hangouts take more preparation and work overall, they have more longevity as you can record them and allow others to view them later.  On the other hand, Twitter helps you gain more followers, get your hashtag to trend, and anyone can hop in.

So why do a party/hangout?  There are multiple reasons.  To get more people involved in the discussion.  To open up your community.  To increase your reach and followers and engagement.  You can also ask a company to join in on a hangout with your audience to provide more information.  These activities help you reach out to others and help them feel better connected with you.  You’ll also have the ability to engage and connect with brands.  You’ll find that when you interact with others in Google Hangouts you can actually see them to know exactly who they are and then you’ll recognize them in person when you attend events like Fitbloggin.

Twitter Party Best Practices: Twitter is an immediate medium.  Because of this you’ll find that a party must be always on the go or it will fall flat.  Being quick during the party is better and make sure to  have a call to action at the end.  For example, if you are hosting a party about running you could finish with “let’s get up tomorrow and commit to running a mile”.  If you are working with a brand, offer the audience something at the end (discount or a giveaway).  People like rewards and this acts as an incentive for them to stay til the very end.  Draw your friends in to help bring up participation.

G+ Hangout Best Practices: Before starting, make sure participants in the panel are comfortable on camera.  Preparation is absolutely key!  At least a week out from the hangout get everyone involved prepared.  Give them the questions you are expecting to ask so no one gets tongue tied during the live event.  Select a moderator who is comfortable and easy going, this person will keep the pace and help push people to contribute more.  To guarantee a smooth hangout, make sure you do a trial run with G+.  Host a short hangout to check that everyone’s technology is up and running so there are no snafus the day of.

Tips and Tricks: There are applications you can use to improve your reach.  Use Hootesuite to schedule tweets announcing your event.  Afterward use Hashtracking for analytics.  You can find out the top ten participants, what was your overall reach, who got the most hits during the party.  Hashtagging is a great tool for analytics which will help build your portfolio out. Know that if you do Hangouts well, Google may optimize your page.

Things we wish we had initially when working with brands is a really good sales presentation with case studies of successful campaigns.  Make sure to have a one page price sheet with descriptions so you can easily respond to inquiries.  We use Prezi to put together a creative presentation.  And also include a one page PDF with metrics.  Google hangouts are super new (especially for brands), so spell out the benefit for them.  Try WePay for online invoicing and credit card processing.

Lessons learned: Don’t get screwed!  Set and manage expectations with brands early.  Never promise anything you will not be able to guarantee.  If you don’t deliver, then they won’t want to work with you again or pay you.  And remember that this is not a guarantee, there is always a possibility people won’t be involved.  Make sure to explain all the work that you’ll be doing (dumb it down) to help them understand.  Require payment upfront the first time, if they are reliable and you have a good relationship then you can decide if you’ll allow them to pay later.  Remember that if the brand isn’t a good fit for you, then turn it down!  Those campaigns never go well.  You’ll just screw yourself if you take these things on.

Question – Getting paid to host Google hangouts by brands?  How do you know how much to charge?
This is such a new medium.  I’d say to not even start there.  Just start hosting hangouts first before and get a case study to show brands.  There are a lot of people doing Google hangouts and will help to draw individuals to your group.  When you get to the point where you have a portfolio, charge more than you think you would.  There is a lot that goes into a hangout – curating the community, managing the panelists, coming up with content.  It will always be more than you expect.

When it comes to money, start small.  Offer small brands free or discounted services.  An only with brands that you love!  If you don’t love it, no one else will get involved.  Be passionate and put in everything that you have.  Show brands analytics and return on investments.  Make sure when your hashtag is trending on twitter to get screen shots immediately that you can show brands in the future.

Question – As a brand, we’re unsure of twitter parties and what they will do for the brand and what does success look like.  Can you talk me through that?
Jamie – First think about what are your objectives.
Blue Diamond – We’d like to grow twitter advocates, to help people feel good about themselves and be successful.  We want to make sure our message is coming across from others who believe in it.
Jamie – A twitter party would be great because it starts a conversation and shows a personality from your brand.  During a twitter party it isn’t just question and answer, it is about engaging with people.  Funny things come out and you can really establish relationships that way.  Collect bloggers twitter handles or emails that participate.  By naturally inserting yourself that is already going to be happening on twitter.  Chats are also a great way to stay top of mind.  Google Hangouts are a really new medium and you should absolutely be there because they are just going to keep getting bigger.

Question – What’s hardest from the brand perspective is that it is tough to give money to something without analytics.  How can you convince higher ups to get involved?
Pepper – I heard from the guy who did the Old Spice twitter campaign, he told his managers that we’re going to do this and we won’t have any numbers for you, but we want to see what happens.  The campaign allowed people to interact with it on Twitter.  Eventually they also got famous people involved.  They’ve done some amazing things but they initially had no way of measuring it.  Being someone who did it first will be huge.
Leah– A blogger will have a lot of examples of their previous work.  If they are worth their salt they will have the numbers for you.
Jamie – Say this is an experiment, we’ll see how this goes.  If you want to start a twitter party, join one to learn what it is all about.  Google + is so new, it’d be a great way to start really small.  Cohost or be a panelist.
Nautilus – It is really easy to set up unique discount codes.  This will allow you to measure the success of a campaign, it can be mapped based on the code you’ve given out.

Question – On a Google Hangout how do you feed live questions?  We can chat on the sidebar with others in the chat, but the live viewers see a different chat and I need to get my director to send me the questions from the audience.  Audience can add questions to the event page.
Becky – Have two tabs open at the same time, the other one is a broadcast of your hangout (on mute) so you can see the live audience comments.
Jamie – They have in house people who work on every different vertical of where they think google hangouts are going.  They are very dedicated to making this platform work.  They are really open to helping out their users.

Question – What are you doing after the google chat?
Jamie – Then we broadcast the crap out of it.  Put it on every twitter handle.  Blog it.  Give it to the participants, ask them to share it as well.

Question – It is new so there are technical problems, do you have a cancellation policy?
Jamie – Nothing has failed completely, but there have been hiccups.  It is about how you want to do business.  You want to be the Nordstroms of something.  If we totally fail you, we’ll work with you to figure it out.  Re-schedule, re-fund, whatever you see fit.  This is personal decision you have to make.

Question – how do you deal with something controversial?  If you don’t have the brand communicating with you at the time, what do you do?
Jamie – We worked with a project that was a disaster (a food company). Work with the company to determine how to handle a situation.  Ask the brand what are the messages they want to put across.  It is best to try and keep it flowing and potentially message all the participants later with an authentic message of what is actually happening.  It would be more detrimental to finish the party before it was over, that could cause a negative backlash.  You can get into sticky situations, but it isn’t your responsibility to engage with someone being thoroughly negative. Make sure you interview the brand enough to know what the crises points could be and how to move forward.

CRAP – C is for Communicate. Communicate internally so you have all your ducks in a row.  Promote early and often.  There is not a whole lot of room for error.  Make sure to have your topics and questions drafted ahead of time, then share topics with participants.  Make sure you are communicating well with your channels. When working with brands, set expectations and ask that they are doing their part to communicate and invite people.

R  is for Rewards. Offer a discount or incentive for people to join you, this will increase engagement.

A is for Ask. You shouldn’t be the only person speaking, make it more of a conversation.  Spend plenty of listening and responding, not just talking.  Engage with them like they are a real person.  Laugh at things that people say that are funny.  Make sure you are not just suggesting that you have the best product.  This is not an advertisement but a chance to engage in the conversation.  Promote your followers (embed on your blog) and it will help get the word out.  Reciprocity matters!

P is for Party. Remember at the end of the day that this supposed to be fun.  You may have hiccups along the way, but just keep going.  Don’t get hung up on minor glitches, everything will be fine.

Question – Is there a time you recommend?  Should it be a workday or after work thing?
Jamie – I’ll give you our answer, what we’ve found to be the best time of the day is 6pm PST and 9pm EST.  Tuesdays or Wednesdays are popular choices.  Doing it during the work day would be really hard for the participants and organizers.  Do not try to accommodate people, it will be too difficult.  Be consistent to help people know when to join in.  If it is around an event, then judge accordingly.  Try everything, you are going to fail at a few things.

Question – Have you looked into the ideal length of time?  An hour or half an hour?
Jamie – We keep ours to thirty minutes, but sometimes they go over.  Forty minutes max if there are still things going on.  I get easily distracted so it is difficult to stay focused.  You’ll start trending around 20 minutes in, then it dies out around 30-35 minutes in.
Pepper – be available before the party begins to answer questions and start engagement with your audience.
Becky – We consult with an expert on the Google+ team.  We give out a social media google doc  with information about promotion and tweets to send out.  You can suggest people create a 15 second “hype my hangout” video that will be on YouTube for extra promotion.  Create an event on Google+ to share on there.  It is really important to make sure participants are tweeting.

Create a brief outline of possible questions that your moderator might ask.  Have a line up with who will be speaking.  Each person gets a certain about of time slotted out with time for questions from other participants or personal stories.  Make sure everyone has time to be engaged with other people’s segments, so other participants aren’t just multitasking.  Show what everyone is expected to be asked and what they will be able to contribute on.  Always give an opening and closing statement for each individual to introduce and give their details.

Checklist for your hangout: Headphones and what type of internet supplies people should have so they are ready and prepared for the hangout.  Make sure they have a Google+ profile because you can’t participate without one.  Make sure these things are done ahead of time.

Practice hangout on air the week or a few days before so everyone can jump into the green room together.  Make them more comfortable and debug all technical difficulties.  Check that the link is working for participants.

For twitter parties we have a google doc to line up the companies mission statement.  This focuses on their objectives.  Go through and write down 8 to 10 questions of what they might want to ask before closing with discounts and final comments.

A few final tips: As a moderator you can mute the individual but not drop them from the conversation.  While others are speaking, put yourself on mute.  Remind your participants to smile and seem engaged.  Remind participants to adjust their camera accordingly so you can see exactly what you want to show.  And encourage people to be funky and show their personality.  It is helpful to provide dos and don’ts of how to act during the hangout.  Everything shows on camera that you forget about and it can get weird.  Headphones with a mic are ideal because the computer won’t pick up much.

Best of luck with your Twitter parties and Hangouts!

This session was captured by Michelle of The Running Jewess.