Thursday 22 February 2018

Twitterview: The Modern-Day Evolution of the Interview

There is no doubt that social media has changed the way that brands and individuals interact. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized this relationship, enabling quick responses and near real-time communication. Twitter’s popularity and flexibility make it the perfect medium for a new type of interview: the so-called “Twitterview.” A Twitterview offers the unique opportunity to take questions from an interested audience spanning the entire globe, which can make for a very lively and engaging discussion.

Recently, you might have seen White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (who was responsible for @PressSec at the time, now Jay Carney) answering questions in real time. I work in digital, so of course I asked a question:

Within 4 minutes, he responded:

I’m not sure if he actually answered my question, but I did get a response – and there’s definitely value in that. Since then, I have taken note of many different interviews conducted online, some better than others. Here’s a short take on what you’ll need to do if you want to host a successful Twitterview of your own.

Duration: Robert Gibbs said that he would answer questions submitted via @reply to the @PressSec handle for a window of 30 minutes. This was an ideal, manageable length of time, even though Gibbs was unable to answer every question. It’s important to define how long you will be answering questions, both to manage the expectations of your audience and to prevent the event from becoming unwieldy.

Who: These interviews can be conducted with individuals from any level in a company, from C-suite executives all the way down to interns. A series of Twitterviews can be a good way to give perspective from various levels. Similarly, a series of Twitterviews with various subject matter experts can shed light on different aspects of your company, brand or product.

Logistics: Decide “who” will be involved, “when” to conduct the Twitterview and “where” (which account) it will be held first. Be sure you have adequate Internet access.

In the days or weeks leading up to your Twitterview, create a hashtag and begin to promote the “who,” “when” and “where.” It is important to choose a hashtag that is unique, and one that reflects your brand, product or the theme of your Twitterview. A unique, well-promoted hashtag will allow you to monitor common questions and conversation before the event, and to prepare likely responses in advance.

The actual Twitterview will go much more smoothly if everyone involved in the process “behind the scenes” can engage in open dialogue. If contributors are not all in the same location, it is probably best to gather everyone on a conference call. Talking out questions and answers in person or on the phone is the simplest and most efficient way to arrive at responses that are acceptable to all stakeholders. A conference call is particularly ideal if representatives from legal, brand or PR must approve your Twitterview responses.

An SMMS (social media management system) will prove invaluable in managing the workflow of a Twitterview. A typical Twitterview involves three distinct roles: “spotter,” “adviser” and “interviewee.” The role of the spotter (or spotters) is to identify and flag questions for the rest of the team to respond to, usually by using an SMMS to filter for the event’s unique hashtag. Advisers and the interviewee then decide upon an appropriate response, which is then input and posted by the interviewee. *Note this section only applies if there is a group participating in the Twitterview. If you’re conducting a Twitterview yourself, you’re the “spotter,” “adviser” and “interviewee.”*

Note that there are a few different ways to post responses to questions, depending on whether or not you want your entire community to see the responses. Tweets that begin with an “@” symbol are visible only to those users who follow both the account that posts the tweet, and the handle mentioned at the beginning of the tweet. Tweets that begin with any other character, however, appear in the main feeds of all of your followers. Responding with an @ reply is appropriate for specific questions that might not be relevant to all of your followers; more general questions can be addressed with ordinary tweets. Be careful, though – some followers might not want their feeds filled up with dozens of rapid-fire Twitterview responses.

Post-Twitterview Follow-up: This is a must. Thank your community for participating. If you couldn’t answer all the questions, let your followers know how (or if) their questions will be answered.

Due to the transient nature of Twitter as a communications medium, there’s a chance that a large portion of your following might have missed the entire Twitterview. The best way to give your event some permanence is by summarizing it on a web property, most commonly via a follow-up blog post. This blog post should include a recap of the Twitterview, a transcript of the questions and answers, and any unanswered questions that could not be addressed due to time limitations. If you cannot provide answers to some questions, it is important to let your community know that they will not be addressed. A follow-up video can also be an effective way to address unanswered questions, and to give your Twitterview an additional human touch.

Lastly, please take these guidelines as just that – guidelines. There is no set blueprint for how to conduct a Twitterview. Each Twitterview will necessarily have its own unique style and voice, so don’t worry too much about fitting a certain mold. The goal of any Twitterview is to answer your followers’ questions in a forthright and transparent manner. If you can accomplish this, and remain true to the voice of your brand, your Twitterview will be a success.

Next up, the Face(book)view……


Image credit: visual_dichotomy

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