Twitter Parties : Good or Bad Marketing?

Twitter parties divide the Twitter community straight down the middle but they are becoming more popular for marketing purposes with open and closed parties.

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A twitter party is a group conversation held on the Twitter platform for an allotted period of time (usually an hour) and tweets are accompanied by a hashtag (#) keyword.  Twitter parties are usually hosted by a couple of moderators who have an agenda with some questions or conversation starters to include in tweets.  Twitter party attendees join in the conversation using the hashtag in their tweets and interested Twitter parties can follow the conversation by viewing the hashtag stream on the Twitter web platform or in a column using a third party client (e.g. Tweetdeck, Hootsuite).

Using the power of social media, holding a twitter party is a great way to generate interest and conversation around a particular brand or organisation. Because of the natural outward ripples of Twitter many people will see the conversation forming and may even join in.  One of the aims of a Twitter party is to 'trend' on Twitter (the top ten trends appear on the Twitter home page and can be filtered to a specific country or even area of country) and extended conversation from a lot of users on Twitter will create that trend, therefore highlighting the activity to yet another audience.

However, because Twitter parties take their strength from guerrilla marketing techniques that doesn't suit the needs of all users of Twitter.  After all, we all use Twitter for different reasons inclusive of business and pleasure.  

I have taken part in many Twitter parties, have won prizes (sometimes the only incentive to join in, if I'm being honest) and have also assisted in hosting one.  It is an intense hour where your concentration needs to be fixed on the conversation to have any valuable input or to take anything away from it.  And this is where people who aren't joining the party can feel excluded.

Spam is another consideration when taking part in a Twitter party.  Some Twitter accounts and/or users are programmed to react to trigger keywords (they tweet you a spam link when you use that keyword) whilst others look for Twitter trends and send their links out using the trending hashtag.  These links are possibly monitored and account holders are paid per click.  The spam is invasive (as ever) and can create an environment where the spam tweets take over the brand activity.

As is the nature of Twitter, if I want to broadcast any piece of information I don't @mention someone at the beginning of the tweet.  Twitter parties are also usually targeted towards a niche user of Twitter; an area where many people may have similar followers.  Sometimes this can feel inclusive or even exclusive and that can be from a negative or positive point of view, especially if the party hashtag is used instead of an @name (a broadcast tweet rather than a conversational tweet).

There are a number of actions that you can take during a twitter party:

If you are attending:
  • @mention the host or another party attendee at the beginning of the tweet when you join in the conversation
  • Announce your involvement in an upcoming Twitter party so that your followers can filter the hashtag out if possible

If you are not attending:
  • Filter out the hashtag keyword (only possible on a third party client, not Twitter web)
  • Ignore and carry on as normal
  • Turn Twitter off

A couple of recent Twitter parties within my community have generated negativity.  The first entailed an envelope appearing at my home address with a hashtag on an A4 piece of paper.  You can read my thoughts about this on Typecast in a blog post entitled 'PR Win or PR Fail'.  The second was an exercise organised by a PR company to coincide with the release of a film on DVD.  A few prolific tweeters were sent an activity pack and asked to watch the film together and tweet their thoughts (with no spoilers).  This is beneficial as it generates interest in something brand new and is available on Twitter search however some Twitter users felt that it invaded their timeline and felt as though they were excluded.  Personally, I feel that it is no different to tweeting about a certain television programmes which is a current popular social media activity.

What do you think about Twitter parties?  
Do you host them?  If so, are they beneficial to your brand?
Do you join in with Twitter parties or not?  Let me know your reasons why.