In the last year there has been a huge growth in local Twitter networking hours – which is fantastic. But are you using them in the most effective way?
What are they?
If you don’t know what a Twitter networking hour is let me explain. The idea is that businesses from the same local area can get together, on Twitter, at a specific time on a specific day and tweet with each other. The aim is for you to meet and network with other businesses in the area to build relationships that will lead to friendships, joint ventures, referrals and hopefully some sales.
The Twitter networking hour is co-ordinated with the use of a hashtag, e.g. #yourlocalarea. Once a word (or words with no spaces in between) is given a hashtag symbol at the front it becomes clickable. If you click on it in your Twitter stream you will be able to read all the tweets that have included that hashtag – making it possible to follow the networking hour.
It’s an excellent idea. I go to a local networking group offline every Tuesday morning. I meet up with about 15 other businesses every week and we get to know each other, get to trust each other and pass referrals and introductions to each other. We try and help if anyone has a business problem and we pass information about things that may be useful. In a nutshell we’ve taken time to build a relationship with each member of the group so that when we go about our daily business, if we have the opportunity to recommend another member then we do.
So it follows that Twitter networking hours could work in the same way and be very effective for those businesses who can’t make it to offline networking meetings to meet new people or to strengthen relationships with those people we don’t see very often.
I Can Hear A But?
My concern is that there seems to be an emphasis on retweeting. I see people taking part in Twitter networking hours … retweeting, retweeting, retweeting anyone and everyone. And while it’s great to retweet people I feel there are other things we can do to make them work as well as offline networking does.
So here are my thoughts:
1) If you see a tweet during the hour from someone who looks like they’d make a good referral partner (i.e. they have the same target customer as you but don’t offer the same product or service as you), put them onto a private Twitter List (call it Referral Partners). Spend some time after the hour to browse through their tweet stream, read their Twitter bio, have a look at their website, and then come back to Twitter and start a conversation – get to know them and let them get to know you.
2) When you’re Retweeting you’re basically endorsing that person to your followers (my opinion). Wait until you’ve found out more about the business before you start to retweet them.
3) When you retweet lots of lots of tweets during the hour you’re filling up the tweet stream of your followers. Yes it’s good to get the #networkinghour trending so more people notice it, but what about saving some retweets for a later time or even the next day … the idea of a retweet is that you’re sharing something with your followers. If it’s so noisy your followers just don’t tune in during that hour then you’ve lost your audience.
4) This tip is probably more for those managing a Twitter networking hour. The ones I’ve dipped in to that have really appealed to me are ones that ‘hook’ the hour onto a specific topic. The manager of the hour sets 4 questions to do with something that’s important to businesses, so on the hour they’ll start with question one (Q1), then at 15 minutes past they’ll ask question two (Q2) … and so on. Participants can join in by including A1 or A2 plus the #yourlocalarea (depending on what question they’re replying to). An hour like this can be much easier for people to understand, it’s easier to get to know each other, it’s more interesting for everyone to tune in to and by varying the topics people get a chance to show their business expertise rather than just telling people about it! Or how about picking a regular participant each week and interviewing them about their business during the hour … a fantastic way to showcase someone.
Warm regards, Karen
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