You can’t move on Twitter these days for networking hours. I haven’t checked but I’m pretty sure you can spend morning til night going from one to the other.
If you don’t know what they are, they are a nifty way of networking with local or like-minded businesses. For the designated hour, tweeters use the given hashtag in their tweets and follow, network and Retweet other businesses doing the same.
Used properly, they can be a great way to find new followers, connect with local businesses and promote your products and services – and who doesn’t relish the opportunity to network in their pyjamas?
However, they can be tricky to get right. Familiarity often brings contempt and there are increasing numbers of people becoming frustrated with them, and their users.
So to keep the Twitter peace, here is my indispensible Guide to the Twitter Networking Hours
This might sound obvious. However, it really is important that you attend Twitter hours in person, not just phone it in from Hootsuite. People are there to engage and network, not just hear what you’re selling. I suffer from this as I miss out on quite a few due to time commitments but that’s life. You wouldn’t skip a networking event but drop in some leaflets beforehand so don’t do it on Twitter. You’ve been told.
My first rule does not mean that you can’t schedule a couple of tweets in advance. I find #hashtag hours can move incredibly quickly so I like to prepare any messages that I might have in advance and schedule them throughout the hour. This means I can then concentrate on reading and responding to what others have to say, rather than thinking about myself. It also means I’m not it so much of flap if I tune in 10 minutes late.
There are two rules to this. First, while it might be tempting to partake in as many as possible, don’t. Remember that all of your tweets can be seen by all of your followers, not just those joining in the hour. They are going to get pretty bored of your feed if all you do all day is tweet the same thing to different hashtags. Second, if you are going to partake in more than one at a time, don’t put all the hashtags in the same tweet. It saves time if you tag a single tweet with #covhour #warkshour #northantshour and #rugbyhour, which conveniently (or not) happen at the same time. Nevertheless, it makes people feel unloved, like a “delete as appropriate” Valentines card. OK, maybe not that bad but you get my drift.
Follow, Favourite, Reply, but easy on the retweets
This might be controversial, but I don’t like retweeting lots of people during networking hours. The accounts that run the hours encourage you to do it but I disapprove. It’s not that I’m churlish or mean, or don’t want to support local businesses. However, you do have to keep in mind who YOU are targeting and whether they are going to be interested in what you are about to Retweet, or are you just doing it to be polite. I retweet funny, useful or interesting things, but not necessarily special offers or promotions, unless they really fit with my target market.
** Incidentally, if someone you follow is usually quite interesting, but goes a little overboard on irrelevant retweets, you can use the “Turn off retweets” function to hide these, whilst still following their own tweets.
Your priority on networking hours should be to network with other businesses, not just lob your sales messages in like a marketing hand grenade. Two or three tweets to update people on your latest activity is fine, but don’t overdo it. As networking hours get busier, this can be more and more difficult but better to have some good interactions with a few, than not at all. Ask questions, reply to people, start conversations about local or industry specific issues. This has the added advantage that your replies do not appear to your entire followers list, so you get to actively partake in the hour without annoying the followers who don’t. Everyone’s a winner!
This is my main irritation on Twitter. No, if you live in Essex or Northumberland or Devon, you can’t partake in Midlands Hour. Sorry. I know it’s not written anywhere but you know now. This is a local hour for local people. Stop it. There are of course National, subject based hours such as #B2Bhour, #WeddingHour or #PurpleBiz which don’t have local restrictions. These can also be used sparingly, but it’s even more important that you remember all the other points I’ve mentioned.
Take your time
Networking hours can be a frenzied affair, but you don’t have to just do everything in that hour. Quite often I will use favourite to save posts and then follow-up later, or over the following week. Keep a Twitter list of networking hour regulars that you like and make an effort to engage with them at other times, not just during the hour.
So there you have it. It’s cold, get your pyjamas on and network to your heart’s content.
If you’d like some more assistance, do get in touch for information on my training workshops and personal coaching. I’ll be sending a “cut out and keep” list of networking hours with my next newsletter, so do sign up if you’d like to receive one.
N.B. Actual clothes (not pyjamas) were worn in the writing of this article