Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Dec 7, 2010
I’m on Twitter often, although I’m not always saying something or reading something. I keep TweetDeck open most of the day, listening for the sound telling me that someone’s either writing me or mentioning my name specifically, and occasionally checking in to see what’s going on at that time.
I started noticing that some of the people in my Syracuse stream were writing a lot of posts with these hashtags after them. For the uninitiated, hashtags are when you see the number sign (or pound sign; I keep forgetting that’s what they call it now) followed by some word or series of letters or numbers. This signifies a certain topic or thread that people either are or aren’t specifically following. That looks goofy in print, but many people will add a hashtag to finish a thought, knowing that no one is actually following that thread.
Anyway, I wondered what it was all about, so I decided to open up another column to follow this particular chat to see what was going on. In this case it was #cmgrchat, which stands for Community Manager chat. There are people who are employed to handle the social media aspects of their companies or clients, and once a week, Wednesdays at 2PM Eastern time, then get together on Twitter from all around the world and talk about a specific subject. For instance, last week’s topic was how community managers handle vacation time or days off when they might be the only person doing that job. A previous conversation was about SEO and social media; I participated a lot in that one. I’m not technically a community manager, but I do manage a couple of websites for some clients; that plus you don’t have to be a community manager to participate in a chat.
Here’s where the controversy comes in. During the time that a chat goes on, some people might post a lot of material. Sometimes others who are following those people don’t like that hour being hijacked away from them; their words, not mine. If you’re following someone who’s participating in a chat and they happen to have a lot to share, the number of messages from one person could get overwhelming during that hour, so much so that you might miss a message from someone else you follow. Some of the back channel talk has been, well, inflamed if you will, with both sides feeling they’re correct and standing firm on their positions.
I hadn’t realized I had taken a position on it until I reflected on the fact that I participate in at least the one chat and I enjoy myself. After all, Twitter‘s intention was to actively promote conversations amongst people who weren’t in the same location, and what better way to manifest it than doing it in this fashion? I mean, look at how I joined this one; I’d have never known about it if I hadn’t been curious about the hashtags.
I’ve seen some other chats, but haven’t participated yet. And there seems to be at least a couple hundred of them; here’s a link to a list of Twitter chats that someone shared with me. They’re all over the place, and I have to admit that some of them look like fun. I just don’t have the time or memory to participate in most of them.
Do you have a thought on this type of thing? Would you participate, or do you think it’s terrible that a group of people would hijack the stream of a follower like this for an hour or so? And, if you were irritated enough, would you just stop following those people who were participating? By the way, I notice that whenever I participate a lot in one of these things I end up with a lot of new followers, people who were on the chat who must have liked something I said. Since I only track people when they sign up, I couldn’t tell you if anyone has dropped me because of this, but the numbers seem to indicate it doesn’t happen during the chats.