For those who follow me on Twitter, I’ve been promoting participation in Twitter chats as a way to interact with sports industry professionals. For those who don’t follow me on Twitter, I hope you at least have an account and use it. If not, get one. Social media has impacted sports as much or more so than any other industry. Virtually every team and league has a Twitter account and so do many (if not most) of those organizations’ employees. Twitter gives you access to industry professionals in a way no other medium can, so take advantage.
What is a Twitter chat? Generally speaking, a Twitter chat is a planned event with a pre-determined hashtag in every tweet so that all comments show up in a single Twitter search or column (if you have a program that does the latter). Most chats are recurring, many on a set weekly basis. There is usually a moderator who leads the discussion, sometimes specifying the questions/issues to be discussed.
Who can participate? For the chats I’m going to tell you about, anyone can participate, and I’d say that’s generally true for all Twitter chats.
Who does participate? For the chats I’m discussing here, everyone from industry professionals to students looking to break into a career to those simply interested in the subject participate. For example, one of the moderators for #sbchat (the “sb” is short for “sports business”) is Lou Imbriano, former CMO of the New England Patriots and current CEO at TrinityOne Sports & Professor of Sports Marketing at Boston College. I’ve seen sports media professionals and college athletics administrators in that chat, just to name a couple of “industry professional” types. There are also students interested in a sports career and those who simply find sports business to be an interesting topic.
How do you join a Twitter chat? Depending on how you access Twitter (via Twitter.com, TweetDeck, HootSuite, etc), there are different ways to follow the chat. I use TweetDeck and when I click on the hashtag it opens a new column with a stream of all tweets with that hashtag. HootSuite seems to do something similar – opening a new window with the stream, which you can then add in as a column. I’ve also been told the website TweetChat.com is useful because it adds the hashtag in for you when you reply during the chat (more about that in a minute).
What do you do once you’re “in” a Twitter chat? Most chats have a moderator or two who send out selected questions for everyone to answer. If they label the questions (such as putting “Q1” before the question), make sure you label your answer (by putting “A1” before your answer). Also, always include the hashtag for the chat at the end of your answer so it will show up in the stream. This is how others can interact with you. If you see an answer or comment from someone you want to respond directly to, feel free to do so. It should go without saying you should only make respectful comments. Sports may seem like a huge world, but as in any industry it’s smaller than you think and you never know when you might run into someone again.
What’s the value of participating in a Twitter chat? It’s the easiest, cheapest networking you’ll ever do. You can do it from your couch in your pajamas if you want. No need to buy a new suit or travel 1,000 miles. No sprinting down the hallway of the conference center in high heels trying to introduce yourself to someone (yes, I’ve done that). You can simply tweet without interacting with anyone and hope someone notices something brilliant you say. Or, you can be more proactive and interact with industry professionals you see in the chat. I’d recommend responding to something they’ve said versus tweeting at them and asking for advice right away. The ideal situation would be for you to comment on something they’ve said and then later follow it up with an email (interacting with them in the same chat several weeks in a row would be best, but you could try after only once). By pointing out in the email that you interacted with them in the chat, you might increase your odds that they’ll take time to speak with you about their career path or to give you advice. I always tell students when I guest lecture on networking that it’s all about making it easy for someone to remember you. If they’ve seen you in a chat they participate in and then you email them or approach them at a conference, it’ll be easier to remember you and make a connection than if you simply email them out of the blue one day.
With this in mind, I highly encourage you to use your real name as your Twitter username. I know, I know, I don’t practice what I preach. However, unless you come up with a username that really reflects your focus (for me it was marketing that I was a woman who knew sports business), I think you should use your real name. Again, make it easy for people to remember you. If you email me and your name is Rob Thomas and your Twitter username is Rob_Thomas, I can make the connection between the two without much energy. If instead your name is Rob Thomas and you use the name DixieorDie, I’m going to have a tough time connecting the two each time I see you on Twitter or in my inbox. Make it easy for people to remember you.
If you want to work in sports, here are some chats you can check out that happen weekly:
#sbchat – Sundays, 9:30pm ET (sports business focus)
#SportJC – Every other Monday, 8:00pm ET (focuses specifically on getting a job in sports)
#social4tixsales, Tuesdays, 8:00pm ET (best practices in ticket sales)
#sportsPRchat – Tuesdays, 9:00pm ET (sports PR focus)
#smsportschat – Thursdays, 9:00pm ET (intersection of sports and social media)
If you know of a good chat I haven’t listed, feel free to add it in the comments!