With the sale of TweetChat - formerly the most popular, and the first, Twitter chat tool - to Internet Media Labs, the Twitter chat market is a bit of a Wild West these days. People are still engaging in these hour-or-so long live chats on Twitter, but the tools they're using are quite fractured.
Tweet chats popped up on Twitter around the same time the community created the hashtag, with people gathering for short periods of time to chat about business, hobbies, politics and much more using a single hashtag to organize the conversation. Today, you'd be hard pressed to find a topic that doesn't have a weekly or monthly tweet chat. In fact, there are over 600 recurring chats listed on this community-curated Google Doc, and that doesn't even include the hundreds of one-time chats that pop up every week featuring sports stars, celebrities, brands and more.
Tweet Chats Today
Since conversations are organized around a topic, and not an individual or a brand, Twitter users have flocked to tweet chats as a way to have real-time discussions with like-minded people who share their interests. They're a fantastic way to network, learn and share ideas.
However, the often-repeated complaint I keep hearing about tweet chats is that they're just too darned hard to keep up with.
And the complaint is understandable, if you're trying to participate in a chat through Twitter.com or one of Twitter's mobile apps. There's no real way to follow a hashtag using these official tools, nor is there a seamless method for easily following-up with a chat after it has ended. And that's why there are a slew of third-party chat tools out there for users to organize and participate in chats with ease.
Tweet chat tools like oneQube are especially good at managing rapid-fire, text-only content and allowing users a glimpse into the back-and-forths that happen in a single chat. They act as blinders to your Twitter stream at large, and focus in on a single hashtag-based conversation.
Since tweet chats usually exist in full force for about an hour, tools like Twubs offer the ability to archive a chat and save it for posterity. Some, like TweetArchivist and Topsy Pro collectively offer robust analytics - a personal favorite feature of mine - to get at the level of participation and engagement during the chat itself. And others offer the ability to append the chat's hashtag to each tweet you send, so you don't have to do it manually (a great feature for those of us who love to tweet, and tweet fast!).
Still, tweet chats have remained relatively fringe in the Twitter-sphere. They're not a mainstream feature. And a big part of this is because there is no tool out there that offers all of the features of a great tweet chat client, wrapped into a single service. Plus, none of the tools move beyond text to allow for multimedia - which is becoming increasingly important to social media marketers - to be seamlessly brought into the conversation.
Nestivity's Tweetcast - The Next Generation Of Twitter Chats
Twitter community software creator Nestivity has just announced TweetCast, a premium service that could change the way people and brands engage in tweet chats.
Their new tweet chat tool brings a rich media sharing experience to the Twitter conversation. Within a hosted Nestivity community, the moderator can build a rich, multimedia context for their 140-character conversations with broadcast videos hosted on YouTube, Vimeo, and even live Google+ streams. They can also share Google Docs such as presentations, forms, polls and other documents during the chat. As more and more become familiar with the hosted environment, the use of a hashtag to organize your conversation becomes optional - as threaded conversations are generate automatically in a brand or individual's Nestivity community, while being simultaneously broadcast on Twitter itself.
Imagine being able to host a webinar where the text-based conversation is happening on Twitter, but participants don't have to keep switching tabs to watch your video presentation and then tweet about it. Or creating a "chat" that is actually an on-going conversation that extends far beyond a single hour, with people being able to view and engage in the discussion within your multimedia environment, either in real-time or days after the event itself. Nestivity's tool makes it easier for tweet chat hosts to engage their audience in a contextual, on-going conversation.
What Twitter Chats Are Still Missing
There are ample opportunities for all tweet Chat tools to innovate. For instance, I'd love to be able to dig deeper into chat archives and separate out distinct discussion topics and threads between individuals. Or use data analytics to automatically provide a sentiment analysis for each question as well as the overall topic.
And while there is no perfect chat tool for Twitter, you can take a look at the infographic below and see for yourself which one will work best for you.