Twitter parties seem to be happening more and more frequently. Sponsored parties are a common type of Twitter chat, and can be a source of frustration for some social media users. Twitter party hashtags can clog up feeds for hours at a time, and can annoy readers with posts that are clearly meant to pimp a service or product. Are Twitter parties just cyber sound pollution in the already-loud Twitter echo chamber? Are they fun and useful, or just plain annoying?
Some bloggers view Twitter parties as another tool in a blogger’s toolbox. Candace Lindemann, editor of Mamanista and NaturallyEducational, believes chats can be an effective tool for sponsors, too. Like any other tool, she thinks that they can be over-used and haphazard. “Twitter parties that have a forced or incongruent theme, with lots of “win, win, win!” re-tweets are annoying to me as a Twitter user. However, I think there is a place for regular chats around a topic or a series of related topics and there is a role that appropriate sponsors can play in those chats.” Similarly, Karen Bannan of Natural as Possible Mom enjoys the networking opportunities, but is wary of sponsored Twitter chats with heavy sponsor agendas:
“I really love Twitter parties. As a mommy blogger, I actually find new things to write about and meet other bloggers by participating. I will say, however, that there are good Twitter parties and annoying ones. The good ones are the ones that are simply sponsored — that is, they follow an outline, but let the conversation go where it will. The bad ones are sponsored and SHOW that they are sponsored because of an agenda. And does not waver from it!
Kit of Blogging Dangerously hosts a regular twittter party called #wineparty, which she believes avoids entering the annoying realm by keeping the emphasis on a party feel. “The #wineparty tweetchat is sort of unique because we’re not talking about wine, we’re talking about our weeks while consuming wine – it’s a virtual cocktail party. My followers participate but because they don’t all follow each other, it’s a great way for them to meet other twitter people to follow that they may not have otherwise found. Sort of like a “real” cocktail party”.
But can a twitter party ever replicate a real party, and when a marketing tactic enters the picture, does it dilute the comparison even further? Shira Lazar describes a twitter etiquette when you’re at a party. “You don’t want to be the annoying talkative friend, but share just enough to keep them wanting more.” Amy Lupold Bair of Resourceful Mommy has produced over 150 Twitter parties. Part of her recipe for success is balancing the needs of the participants with the needs of the sponsors to make sure “what we’re doing is meaningful, not just to the community, but to the sponsor.”
Still, some feel that no amount of effort can make a twitter party appealing. As Heather Manley says, parties that are sponsored by a company and all tweets revolve around that company with not-so-useful information can be “annoying and actually quite frustrating”. Jessica Gottlieb called Twitter parties “hashtag spam.” And a few weeks later, she hosted a sponsored Twitter party for CVS as April Fools’ post. Others have been more indirect in their disdain, by crashing a Twitter party via hijacking the hashtag. Lindemann speaks of the this marketing risk:
As someone who regularly works with brands myself, I think it is great that brands want to listen to and participate in the conversation their fans and potential customers are having. When brands try to dictate and control that conversation, however, they run into trouble–sometimes in the form of low ROI and other times in the form of protesters contradicting the company’s message. Some companies and their representatives intuitively “get” social media. They understand that there is a vibrant online community and they are paying a guide (the hostess) for her influence and expertise. She offers a public introduction into the community but she is not setting up an entire social media strategy for the company. Other companies still think in traditional terms. For these narrow-thinkers a platform like Twitter is just a fad to exploit until it runs out of juice. These companies would probably be better off setting up accounts to monitor relevant mentions, participating on a customer-service basis, and hosting private chats or face-to-face events. Once they set up a Twitter “party” hashtag, they are inviting an entire community and they may hear things they are not ready to have broadcasted.
Scarlet Paolicchi of Moms Wear Your Tees seems to represent the views of many bloggers in her ambivalence. “I have not participated in a Twitter party yet. I just don’t see the effort being worth the payoff and I don’t find them engaging. Maybe I will change my mind eventually.” Still, Paolicchi doesn’t mind if others in her Twitter stream participate in parties. “I have never unfollowed anyone because of their participation and I never would.”
How do you feel about Twitter parties? Are the hashtag spam, a vital marketing tool, or a minor but necessary annoyance? Have you ever participated in a Twitter party? Have you ever unfollowed someone for shameless use of the hashtag?