Expanded chatting with Google+

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Have you tried Google+ (Google Plus) for your small business? While there are many reasons to do so this one jumps out from the others in a couple of notable ways. First of all let’s say what Google Plus is for those of you new to the name. If you are in small business marketing or simple want to market your own small business this can be a powerful, free tool.

Google Plus is Google’s new social networking division which incorporates a re-invention of some of the best of Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks. It is fast-moving like the Twitter stream or the recently modified Facebook stream but in the stream it allows videos, photos, long posts, short posts, links with thumbnails, and +1’s which are similar to Facebook Likes and Twitter re-tweets. If you don’t use those social networks I would be very surprised to find you reading this article!

With me and my readers the question always is, “how can this be used or leveraged for or by small business?” Really the full answers are yet to be determined but the chat feature is something we really have been waiting for. On Twitter you can chat with anyone. It should also be understood that everything on Twitter except Direct Messaging is completely public. To Direct Message with someone you have to be “following” them and they have to be “following” you.

On Facebook you can also send private messages and to almost anyone but you cannot chat with them unless you are “friends” or in the same group together. Being friends on Facebook is not always the most ideal situation and let’s face it, getting to be a member of far too many groups on Facebook is way too easy to accomplish.

With Google Plus in order to chat with someone else you only need to be in a common circle. But listen … that’s to chat in *any* Google site. Including the chat from GMail. Well that explains it then! You noticed all those people online you had never seen before and now you know why, people from your Google+ circles now appear in your standard Google chat.

What’s changed with Chat?

  • Previously you could only chat with someone if you knew their email address. Now you just need to have each other in Circles.
  • When you and your contacts have each other in Circles, you’ll be able to chat with them across Google properties such as Gmail, Google Plus, iGoogle, Orkut, and the Google Talk Client.
  • Instead of displaying all of your contacts in your Google Plus Chat list, we’re displaying contacts from your most recent conversations who are online now. (You’ll still be able to use the search box at the top of the Chat list to find contacts that aren’t displayed.)

The above is straight from Google.

One tip you can take away is to set your chat status to something relative to your business. Right now mine says “Coding like mad! http://icobb.com” to let people know I’m working (well, I took a break to write this) and to let them know what I do.  It’s your 5 or 6 word calling card. You can set it to anything you like.

So, what do you think about this? Do you like it? Did this feel like an invasion to you? How can you use it or suggest it be used for small business?

How to host a successful Twitter chat event

If you’re average you didn’t read this article. If you’re above average you read the title and got this far thinking, “I thought Twitter was all chat”. Welcome, you’re going to love this if you read this far.

Twitter, in case you do not know, is the wildly popular global, open stream, 140 character text chat system. If you have been around long enough to remember the AOL chat room with 25 guests maximum image that with thousands of guests but limited to 140 characters including spaces called “tweets”. If you do not yet have a Twitter account here’s what I suggest:

  • Spend a minute thinking about your Twitter “handle” aka your nickname on Twitter. Mine is@thekencook because @kencook was take. The @ symbol is automatically pre-pended so you do not have to include it when registering for your handle.
  • It would be advisable, also, to keep SEO in mind and incorporate a keyword but that’s less critical than actually *having* a Twitter account. As you tweet and converse you can use keywords, especially in links, to help boost your SEO. Google does index Twitter tweets.
  • Personally, I would double check to see if there is a domain name to match your Twitter handle available. For example I have thekencook.com to go along with my Twitter handle. You may want yumacondos.com or sencondchancehomes.com if you catch my drift.
  • Keep in mind the shorter your Twitter handle the less characters your name will take up when people ReTweet (forward) your messages. My friend Jeremy Blanton has JB140 so his only takes up 5 characters. Jeff Turner has respres. I do recommend the shorter names if you can get one that works.

There is more to it that just these but for starters you should be good to go with those. (You actually can change your Twitter handle later if for some reason it is necessary like when I was employed by AmericaHomeKey and ran their account and they terminated my division – I just kept it and changed the name to RefLeads http://twitter.com/refleads for example.)

 

Twitter Chat

Now that everyone has a Twitter account, ahem, let’s look very briefly at how a “Twitter chat” is different from “chatting on Twitter” and a basic look at how to do one right.

When you chat to an individual on Twitter in the open stream, not in Direct (private) Message, you prefix their handle with the @ symbol like @thekencook would come to me. You will also see words that are prefixed with the # symbol like #smedge. Those are called hashtags and are used to set tweets apart to be followed by the #hashtag. #smedge is the hashtag for Social Media Edge.

To host a chat, let’s say for example a chat about new homes you may want to create the hashtag #nhs (keeping it short so it does not consume much of your 140 character). Prior to just creating a hashtag, though, it is important to make sure it does not already exist or is not being actively used for another purpose. One way of doing so is simply to use the Twitter search function and searching for your hasthag like so: #nhs

That hashtag, #nhs, for example, is highly active because it has something to do with Nationalized Health Care in England evidently.

Another way to check, which does essentially the same thing but includes a nice little activity chart, is by visiting hashtags.org and doing the search from there. For example doing the search there for #blogchatshows a fairly active hashtag. Pick a hashtag that has not been used for several days to help ensure you aren’t stepping on anyone’s toes.

Once you have your Twitter account and have found a hashtag that will work you need to start building community around it. Firstly let all of your friends know. Do a Plancast announcement as well if you have followers there. You should also create a Facebook page with the name of the Twitter chat and invite your friends from Facebook who would be interested.

Some Twitter chats are outrageously active and it’s very difficult, at best, to follow the entire conversation stream. There are tools to help but even then it can be difficult. One of my favorite tools for very busy chats is  TweetGrid which allows you to monitor multiple Twitter events simultaneously. I create a 1×3 grid, 1 row of 3 columns, and I follow the hashtag, the organizer and my own handle. There is nothing to download and it’s not a tremendous drain on system resources like some of the thrid party solutions you have to download. You can also save your configuration so every time you join a chat you already have your columns set!

Mike Mueller is a big believe in Seesmic. Honestly I have never used it. I have tried TweetDeck and I can’t stand it. Maybe it’s because it is so resource hungry because of the number of connections I have on Twitter. Be that as it may I love TweetGrid.

If you are joining a smaller chat say with 20 participants or less, there is also TweetChat which simply monitors the hashtag and lets you interact from there. With both of my preferred solutions you do not need to type the #hashtag every time because it is included in your Tweets. On TweetGrid you will add it in the bar near the top. On TweetChat it is there by default on any hashtag you are monitoring.

Have your Twitter Chat at a regularly scheduled time. If it’s every third Thursday at 9PM CST then make it know. This way people who enjoy it will make arrangements to join again. I have a few favorites I try and join regularly, too.

Have your questions prepared ahead of time. Have a guest to join you if you can. Heck, ask me or one of my co-hosts, we’re usually interested. Six to eight questions is usually plenty for a one hour chat. Three or four can easily fill a 30 minute chat. Don’t start with questions the very minute the chat starts allow people the opportunity to introduce themselves and say “hi”.

Once you have a few people who have indicated their participation, say 4 to 5 minutes past the starting time let them know you’re about to ask the first question then ask right after. It is recommended to number your questions and remember you need to leave room for your #hashtag, too. So let’s use #hashtag as our tag and here is a sample question:

Q1 when calling expired listings how do you start the conversation with the property owner? #hashtag

When people answer they should answer with A1 I always blah de blah …

Here are a few important points to help make your chats successful:

  • Be consistent with the time you have the chat
  • Make sure your chat is not a secret and empower people to help like having a chat co-host
  • Keep your chat highly relevant to your audience and in a topic with which you are intimately familiar
  • Have guests who will bring visitors with them

The goal of Twitter chats may vary buy host. For me it is to expand my network and to meet an ever increasing number of people. So far, so good!

Happy chatting! When you’re ready to have some professional assistance with handling your online influence you know where to reach me! If you don’t, try this link for amazing web solutions!

 

What are hashtags “#” on Twitter?

The topic came up this morning at Social Media Breakfast Atlanta in a round about way. During a discussion about how to “organize” tweets and streams on Twitter we tackled hashtags. You know – the pound sign. Number sign. Tic tac toe sign – #

I love “mind pictures” or “object lessons” and they are most valuable when speaking of an intangible but interactive event. A la Twitter.

One of the most common ways I speak of social media in general and Twitter in specific is like going to a party or to the mall. For this example let’s use the image of a party at someone’s large home. At our party there are hundreds of people all chatting, dancing, singing … a major cacophony. Entering the mansion where the party is being held it is difficult to separate out individual conversations from all the commotion.

You see a friend with whom you would like to speak across the room. While you certainly could shout to her from across the room the conversation would likely be a very short one and details could be missed because of all the noise in the room.

You work your way across the room until you are standing in the smaller group with your friend and you can now exchange pleasantries and engage on a more personal level. Although you can hear the other chatter and noise from the party you can still converse.

A topic comes up that requires a little more seclusion but not necessarily privacy. In other words you need a place where you can talk without a lot of interruptions and away from the noise to conversation ratio you are experiencing with the main body of the party.

You know the place pretty well so you pull your friend away to a parlor just out of the party. You leave the door open and people can come in and go out and they can, if they are so inclined, over hear the things you are saying. What you are talking about it not private – so private it would be “bad” if others overheard – so you’re fine with this arrangement.

That parlor is the Twitter equivalent of a hashtag. Everyone can still read what you are publishing because it is public. The hashtag you are using simply separates out what you are saying from the stream and gives it an identifying mark that allows you and your friend(s) to isolate that conversation from the stream.

Three simple ways which I use to isolate these hashtag identified/marked tweets are:

  1. Tweetgrid is one of my personal favorite third party sites for Twitter. There are no downloads therefore fewer memory and security issues. It runs in a web browser just by visiting their site. In one of the monitor panes I type my #hashword and Tweetgrid allows me to define a hashtag for my tweets so I can “stay in the quieter room” until my conversation is finished.
  2. In the Twitter search bar on the Twitter.com site I type my #hashword. Twitter is kind enough to show me only those tweets. I then can reply and manually add the hashtag to my tweets to keep them isolate.
  3. Tweetchat is something I use for longer chat sessions when I truly want to be isolated. Although everyone can see my tweets I will only be able to see tweets containing my hashtag for this conversation.

It is very important to remember that a hashtag does not hide your tweets. Everyone can still read them. If you want privacy use the Message function and sent a more private, direct message.

I hope this answers your questions about Twitter and hashtags to be used for a more secluded but not private chat.