How to use twitter chats in your tourism business

For every person who is active on Twitter and loves it, I find another who says, “Yes, I have an account, but I really don’t get it.”

What if I could find one thing that pleases both? Something that helps the tweeting aficionado step up his/her game AND that helps the 140-character-challenged twoosh with joy (a twoosh is a tweet that is exactly 140 characters.)

I’m talking about Twitter chats.

Chats Are For Beginner AND Advanced Users

For the 200 million active Twitter users who already sling the “@” and “#” with abandon, a chat is an opportunity to plug into discussions and networking with entirely new groups.

For those who still think Twitter is a time-suck about what you ate for lunch, chats are a surprisingly efficient way to do a huge amount of learning and professional development in a short period of time (one hour) plus meet and network with other chat participants. That’s important because the value of Twitter is in finding and following smart people, then learning from them.

Breaking news: we are ALL smart, so don’t be intimidated and don’t spend forever lurking. Jump in!

Chats Are Good For Market Research

When I co-founded Tourism Currents with Becky McCray, I needed to learn a lot….fast….about the tourism/hospitality industry and specific issues related to destination marketing. One way to do that was by listening carefully to the people in our market, so we began following hashtags from tourism conferences and participating in #tourismchat when it launched in early 2010. What we’ve learned there – directly from the people in our industry – has been invaluable to growing our business.

If you’re interested in learning more about a topic or finding experts in a field, there’s a chat that can help you. Here are a few examples:

  • #TNI / Travelers’ Night In and #TTOT / Travel Talk on Twitter are full of travel enthusiasts.
  • #AgChat is popular with farmers, ranchers and those who live in small towns and rural areas.
  • #BuiltHeritage appeals to those interested in historic preservation.
  • #SoloPRchat is helpful for independent public relations professionals and consultants.
  • #BeerChat is for anyone who wants to know more about the burgeoning craft brewing scene.

Chats Can Make Money….With Some Caveats

What a lot of people don’t know is that Twitter chats also offer an opportunity to get paid for connecting brands and audiences. For example, one of the biggest and longest-running chats is author and consultant Mack Collier’s #blogchat – it has had a series of sponsors including Paper.li, OfferPop and Club Med.

Mack is very careful about who sponsors the chat. If he doesn’t think a particular brand can bring value to his #blogchat community or just isn’t a good fit, he doesn’t accept the sponsorship.

He says,

“My advice is if you want to monetize, make sure there’s a clear benefit to your community from doing so.  I have turned down several sponsorship opportunities simply because I didn’t see how the sponsor’s involvement would benefit #blogchat and make it worth the community’s time.”

Twitter has a long cultural history of being rather resistant to advertising, and users are often ruthless in calling out excessively spammy intrusions into their Twitter feed. Always serve and protect your audience above all; you don’t want your chat to be seen as selling your community’s eyeballs to the highest bidder.

BIO:  Sheila Scarborough is co-founder of Tourism Currents (training in social media for tourism and hospitality) and a proud founding blogger with the Perceptive Travel blog. Hear more about chats in her session How to Create & Use Twitter Chats Effectively.

Photo credit:  Jay-P via flickr