As a child, I analyzed presidential candidates in terms of general likeability. Every candidate was judged by the same criteria as my 5th-grade friends: “Do you smile when you talk to me? Do you treat the girls as equals to the boys? Would you share your Lunchable with me if my mom packed a ham sandwich?”
But the trump card that always won out when judging anyone was: “Are you a cat person?” Thus, with my whole 10 years of wisdom, I supported President Clinton’s reelection in ’96. In particular, I supported his cat Socks, and I wrote Bill a letter to thank him for having such a cute cat in the White House. Weeks passed, and I checked the mail every day for a response. Finally, an envelope arrived with a presidential seal. I opened it and was shocked. Not only had I received an itinerary of Socks’ daily activities, but the letter was also addressed to me and had been signed by Bill Clinton himself and Socks (via paw print).
This experience came to mind when I recently came across a Poynter article that focused on The New York Times’ use of Facebook chats to create a live discussion. The Times initiates these “live chats” in a manner similar to a discussion panel, where they post a topic and invite users to leave questions in the comments. While the Times originally acts as a moderator, it also allows the reporters who wrote about the issue to directly “chat” with the other Facebook users.
This use of a real-time response platform is an effective way for the Times to provide exactly what Bill Clinton’s letter provided me as a child: an interaction that leaves consumers with a substantial feeling of worth. In retrospect, I recognized that both Bill’s and Socks’ signatures were computer generated, but this didn’t diminish how it made me feel at the time. Even as a 10 year old, the president made me feel valued and important. Through a simple response, I believed there was a two-way relationship between his brand as a public figure and me as a consumer. And in the same manner, the Times’ chats openly communicate to its 2 million Facebook fans that it cares about its readers’ thoughts.
At Parthenon, we like the Facebook live chat as a customer service tool, because it’s both easy (it only takes an hour of your time) and powerful (it leaves the customer with a sense of worth). It’s also useful in boosting your social media reach. As Jeff Sonderman of Poynter said, “Facebook’s news feed is more likely to highlight posts from people or pages a user has engaged with in the past. So getting people to post hundreds of comments on a live chat today makes them more likely to see your breaking news links tomorrow.”
You don’t have to be the New York Times to benefit from Facebook live chats. Here are three of our favorite tips from Sonderman on how to host a successful live chat:
- Publicize in advance – this event will have no impact on consumers if they don’t know to participate. Advertise it on all of your online platforms to steer followers toward Facebook.
- Moderate the thread – declare a moderating policy at the beginning of the chat and have a third party delete offensive or off-topic comments. This way, everyone will stay on the same page.
- Summarize and share – to make the most of your effort, make sure people who didn’t participate know what a success your chat was. Post a summary of big questions and answers on your other platforms to share with non-Facebook users.