Live Online Discussion to Remember – Twitter Chat vs. Group Chat Widget

Running a website oriented toward growing an online community, you want your audience to stay engaged and active. Developing excellent content – articles, videos, interviews – is your number one priority, however, you also have to provide space for the audience to express their reaction to what they read or saw. This way, you create a reason for people to come back to your site, learn about their pain points, and help establish a community of loyal supporters. In this post, I look at some of the pros and cons of using Twitter and group chat for live online discussion.

Online discussion is a broad term, obviously, as the Internet is teeming with interaction. What I have in mind here is an occasional (not necessarily though, as the discussion may be ongoing in some cases) event, where members of the audience interact with each other, as well as some special guest(s).

Call it a live Q&A, a group chat, or a Twitter chat. Live online discussion is a refreshing and fun style of interaction that will surely get your target audience going.

So, there are two ways to set up a live Q&A I’d like to discuss:

a) You can use Twitter and allow people to ask questions, adding a hashtag unique to your event, or

b) You can use a live chat widget to host the online discussion on your own site, with community members and guests interacting in a single stream.

In both cases, the guest would observe the discussion and react to the questions being posted. The difference is, there’s no need to use hashtags in group chat to reach the person being questioned.

You may be thinking, ‘what am I supposed to discuss with my audience?’. Well, there’s plenty of topics out there that people care about: sports, politics, local issues, cooking, entertainment, health, climate. Surely, there’s something you can get your crowd hyped about, so do it!

Holding online discussion on Twitter

Pros

– Twitter is free for anyone to join and use. There’s no extra financial investment required if you want to turn it into a live online discussion platform.

– If reaching the biggest possible audience is your goal, then Twitter may be the way to go, as anyone with an account, who knows the discussion driving hashtag will be able to join. If however, you wish to attract quality, non-random participants, there may a better choice in terms of the online discussion medium.

– A Twitter chat may generate extra exposure for your brand or organization, as discussion questions will pop up in timelines of people within social networks of your debate participants.

Cons

– With Twitter chat, you have little control over what’s being said, especially since the online discussion isn’t restricted to a single channel, but rather takes place on a third-party platform. There’s not much moderation of the discussion you can do.

– You risk an instance of hashtag hijacking, which may turn into PR disaster. Essentially, what it means is that people may use the hashtag you devised to bring together your online discussion against you and start posting a lot of negative comments that you won’t be able to moderate.

– Related to the previous point in terms of potential negative effects of a Twitter chat is the extensive shelf life of the online discussion. If you’ve had the bad luck of things going not exactly as planned, this isn’t a good thing at all.

Using group live chat for online discussion

Pros

– A group live chat is a tool that’s versatile and once installed, can help you grow a community, provide support to your clients and drive real-time interaction on your site, among other things.

– Since you invite people to join an online discussion on your digital premises, you’re in control over what’s happening. Assign moderator rights to your employees/partners, or even the guests, prevent unauthorized participants from joining in and censor swear words to keep things civilized.  

– As the online discussion takes place on your site, there are business opportunities to take advantage of. Market to your audience in real time, create a time-limited discount, run a contest while your live event lasts. Also, get a transcript of the online discussion for analysis after the dust settled.

Cons

– Using group live chat for online discussion, you may be somewhat limited in terms of the number of participants. They may not want to reveal their identity, the chat user limit may be reached, some people may simply prefer Twitter. On the other hand, though, all this may translate into an overall higher-quality audience, that made some effort to be a part of your online discussion.

– This one’s kind of funny, but I could still see how the chat window size could be a disadvantage in case the online discussion gets lively. Luckily, with Chatwee, you can super size, full screen (these are verbs) your chat room to create more space for text.

– Finally, and I had to stretch my imagination here to come up with a third con, in a very unfortunate case, where your site might be down due to some hosting or whatever other issues, you may have to reschedule your online discussion, but like I said, that’s a long shot.

Conclusions

All in all, it’s hard to unanimously point to the solution that’s better suited to host a live online discussion. Both Twitter and live group chat have their strengths and weaknesses. The former provides a no cost, less control option, while the latter may be better suited to host various professional sessions for the sheer reason it gives you more control over what’s happening.

Inviting people to live chat on your site is like inviting them into your office, while holding a Twitter chat is more like discussing things at a public park – you never know what may come up.

Target group engagement is crucial for any type of online venture, so we at Chatwee deliver a tool to help you activate your audience. Hosting an online discussion is just one of many examples of things you can use it for. Just browse this blog for more inspiration.

How will your online discussion be remembered then? A troll-infested shoutfest or a civil, moderated debate? Post your impressions of this article in the comments, hit up our site to see if I’m in the chat room, or tweet me @Chatwee