The Obama Approach: How Live Chat is Building Brands

(Originally published on: dx3canada.com)

President Obama’s July Twitter Town Hall meeting allowed him to connect with an entire country while dialoguing with individuals and it all happened live. Obama received over 70,000 tweeted questions, many of which came from people on mobile devices. Near the end of the event, tweets were answered in near real-time.

The ability to overcome limits of space and time to reach individuals wherever they are is the power of live social chat. Many organizations are already doing live webinars and video events, and they are realizing that making their events interactive allows them to reach more customers and impact larger audiences.

Live chat also gives credibility. Obama’s live broadcast helped him to seem unrehearsed, lending trust and authority to not only his words, but also to himself. In short, it elevated his brand.

Brands, from marketing agencies to large retailers to entertainment media, are using social networks and live chat events to impact audiences. But selecting the right chat platform can be more difficult than it may seem. There may not be one platform that is perfect for every scenario. Twitter, for instance, might be great for certain events, but it is limited in the way audience members can interact with each other; a key factor in audience engagement.

With the growing number of available live chat platforms, you need to keep a number of important factors in mind when selecting the one that’s the right fit:

Scalability

Most software suites that have a chat component cannot handle the amount of data that is generated by a large event. Live events generate exponential amounts of data as audience size grows, making events difficult to manage without dedicated real-time infrastructure and effective moderation tools. If the proper infrastructure isn’t in place, your events could become a disaster, as audience interaction grinds to a painful halt.

Real-Time Analytics

It is important to be able to monitor an event as it happens in order to understand how audience members are being drawn in and are responding to the event. This allows you to make tweaks in real-time, which can impact the success of your event, rather than depending on retrospective analysis.

Mobile Capabilities

With many people preferring to join events and interact using mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads and Android devices, live social events need to be accessible everywhere. Technology requirements that involve extra effort; such as having to download and upgrade software; are barriers to audience attendance and participation. While downloading an app is easy, users don’t want to manage dozens of apps for every brand interaction they may want. Platforms built using open, standards-based technology such as HTML5 will ensure mobile success for years to come.

Social Network Integration

With massive usage of social networks fragmented across Facebook. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, there is no single point of integration to achieve 100% audience reach. Your live event needs to be promoted everywhere, on every network. By limiting your event to a single network, you are missing out on an opportunity to maximize your impact and the size of your audience. Look for platforms that integrate with multiple social networks seamlessly and automatically.

Audience Engagement and Interaction

The ability to interact with presenters – and more importantly, with other audience members – makes live events a powerful social media tool. Being part of an event creates a positive environment that helps audience members to get excited about ideas being presented, which often leads to sales. The best events leave audiences with memorable experiences that stay with them long after the event. After all, what could be more memorable than having the President answer your question directly, or chatting with a celebrity?

Viral Promotion

Live events generate buzz, which with the right tools, can virally draw more people to your event. Social media tools like Facebook’s Recommend plug-in, when applied correctly, can be leveraged to let audience members easily tell others about an event. Since word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to grow an audience and customer base, taking advantage of platforms with built-in viral promotion capabilities will have a direct impact on both the size and loyalty of your audience.

With live chat platforms becoming more robust, the next 1-3 years will see staggering growth in the number and quality of live social chat events run by the world’s largest and most well-known brands.

As organizations realize the potential of using interactive online events to gain market share, the social component of live events will become just as important, if not more so, than the events themselves.

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