Thursday, 20 January 2011
The power of collaboration
I’m a believer that no one has a great idea. Good ideas only become great when they get passed around, discussed and improved on by several people. I am also a fan of the US approach to new technology where companies in the Silicon Valley share commercially sensitive intellectual property in order to fast-track their development and create new products.
There is a way of using twitter or a chat application to foster these ideas and share the expertise others that requires a little over an hour of time a month. It also has the added benefit of raising your profile, promoting your business and making you as thought leader.
I’m still surprised that twitter events aren’t more commonplace. I first came across #PRStudchat a while back. A US PR practitioner called Deidre Breakenridge created a forum for discussing the PR industry by encouraging students, lecturers and people from the industry to discuss issues relevant to them. Within the first few chats, contributions started coming in from across the globe going well beyond the group she had targeted. Since then, Deidre has had working trips to Europe, including the UK, based on the profile generated by #PRstudChat.
Other examples include #Edchat, channel 4s #twinge and #SN4BW (social networking for business women.
So how can I take advantage of this event? Like all things, the idea is simple, but you will require some leg work to get the initial idea off the ground. It also helps if you have something interesting to say yourself.
1. Work out who you want to talk to and about what.
2. Look for people may be key influencers. In Deidre’s case, getting the buy in from lecturers brought with it groups of students. You will also need a critical mass to make the first ‘event’ a success.
3. Think about when you want to hold the event and an appropriate name for the event. When is convenient for the people you are trying to communicate with?
4. Create a hashtag and check it doesn’t clash with anything else being used on twitter.
5. Raise awareness of the event using social media and direct marketing, asking for questions. Don’t keep the format too open ended as this will reduce the questions being set.
6. Create very simple rules so you can identify the question and possibly area of expertise.
How it works:
1. Add your own questions to the ones suggested, ordering them to create a theme/narrative for the discussion. You’ll need six to ten questions for an hour.
2. Start the event just before the advertised time telling people the ‘rules’ and format of the event.
3. Open with the first question, may be offering an answer to get the ball rolling. It might be helpful to get a few close friends/colleagues to add opinions or even play devil’s advocate.
4. Respond back to the discussions being created and/or to individuals.
5. When the replies dry up or 5-10 minutes later, post the next question and repeat.
6. At the end of the discussion, formally close the chat, thanking participants.
7. You may want to invite people to give feedback or take a quick survey using a tool like survey monkey.
By now you’ve had a valuable conversation, covering a number of areas and enabling you to understand whether your views fit in with or challenge your peers. As host, the valuable discussions reflect well on you even if they’ve been created by others. But there’s more you can do now the event is over.
The next day, harvest the comments by searching for the hashtag. Report on the discussion in your own blog, write a press release, newsletter or use the responses as market research. This expands the reach of the event and acts as advertising for the next event. Make sure you understand what a personal view is and what a corporate position of a company or individual is.
Over a number of months, you’ll develop a wider following and find people you’d never find any other way. Think how you can take it further to make the discussion fresh. You could create a ‘real’ event or even finding a sponsor
Just remember, not everyone is on twitter – particularly students – so you might need to explain twitter or how to sign up to a chat application. You’ll also need to ensure you have someone who can step in if you can’t host the event for whatever reason.
Image courtesey of freedigitalphotos.net