Q&A: How ManageFlitter uses Twitter chats to connect with their audience

By Marissa Window
Man working at computer at office

Twitter is the place to join conversations around specific interests or topics. For brands and businesses, Twitter chats are an excellent marketing tactic to bring these people together, engage with their community, and attract new followers.

One brand that stands out with their innovative use of Twitter chats is @ManageFlitter

We chatted with Kevin Garber, CEO at ManageFlitter to go behind their Twitter chat strategy.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa but I have been living in Sydney, Australia for over 20 years. The first recollection I have of being inspired to start my own business was during my teens in the late 1980s. My father and his brother founded the first company in South Africa to provide computer systems to the import industry. The company grew fast and after a few years, the size of their team increased to about 30–50 people. Providing jobs in South Africa was (and still is) a big deal because of the country's high rate of unemployment.  At a company Christmas party a staff member once told me, “Your father and uncle changed my life — they gave me a job and taught me how to use a computer.” I remember thinking to myself, “What a buzz that would be, changing lives by creating jobs while growing a business along the way.”

My first job out of University was working for a talkback radio station in Johannesburg. I then moved to Sydney Australia and worked for a dot-com that crashed along with many others in 2000. As an immigrant with limited contacts, limited experience, and in an industry that had just collapsed, jobs were hard to come by. So I did the next best thing — started my own business. After a few years the company saved enough money to try building our own products (angel and seed funding wasn’t a thing in Australia 10 years back), and on our third attempt, ManageFlitter was born.

Tell us a bit about ManageFlitter.

Back in 2010 building Twitter related products that used the public Twitter API was all the rage. As a frequent Twitter user, I was frustrated that I couldn’t easily see who wasn’t following me back and that over time my Twitter account was becoming somewhat cluttered with accounts that were no longer active or were no longer interesting to me. I asked a fantastically talented Software EngineerI worked with, named James Peter, to build a tool that would surface these accounts.

From the first time that I used the tool, it was evident how useful it could be for all Twitter users. I realized that the tool had the potential to evolve into a broader more feature rich product.  We decided to release a publicly accessible version of the tool that anyone could use for free.  People started using ManageFlitter (often in ways that we had never predicated) and talking about the product on Twitter itself. Our user numbers quickly went through the roof, we kept on building out the product and we released a paid version of the product.  We had the feeling that we were onto something special. James became my technical co-founder and the wild ride began!

Now, we have paid customers from over 100 countries, and nearly 4 million Twitter users have used our product at least once — not bad for a product built by a small team without funding in far-away Sydney, Australia!

How does Twitter fit into your marketing mix?

Twitter has been critical to our success as it has driven a substantial amount of our word-of-mouth marketing. What better way for people to hear about a product that helps them with their Twitter account than on Twitter itself? We also make use of Twitter’s Promote Mode on our ManageFlitter account. Twitter assists with retention marketing by providing us with a communication channel where users can easily connect and engage with us. And of course, we use Twitter to host our own #SocialROI chat.

How did you all get started with Twitter chats?

In early 2017 we were looking for a new way to increase brand awareness and market our product. We regularly publish articles on the ManageFlitter Blog as well as put together an almost weekly Podcast — the It’s a Monkey Podcast — where we cover the latest tech news and interview tech industry thought leaders.

A Twitter chat is when people on Twitter have a discussion around a specific topic using a hashtag specific to the chat.  The chat usually happens at a predetermined time and often an expert is invited as a guest to contribute. I have always enjoyed live Tweeting at events, and a regular Twitter chat seemed like would be a fun and interesting way for us to get the word out about ManageFlitter, while educating ourselves and our target market at the same time.

So we reached out to Madalyn Sklar — an experienced Twitter chat host — and together with ManageFlitter Design Lead Kate Frappell, we planned the first few #SocialROI Twitter chats. While many companies like to have their brand name somewhere in the Twitter chat hashtag, we decided to go for a more general hashtag that would reflect the topic covered.

How do you all go about planning your Twitter chats? How do you decide on a topic? How do you decide on a host?

Our Twitter chats feature a different guest each week to answer questions relating to their topic of expertise. We selected Madalyn Sklar as the host of the #SocialROI Twitter chat because of her reach and influence on social media, and because of her experience hosting Twitter chats.    

The chats are planned one to three weeks in advance. We try to source a diverse mix of guests who are experts in niche social media and online marketing fields. Topics are chosen based on several factors — they must be a good crossover between the guest’s area of expertise and something that our audience will be interested in, topics should not repeat, and topics need to communicate an interesting angle on a relevant theme.

We start the #SocialROI Twitter chat by welcoming the attendees and the guest, and then ask all online attendees where in the world they are joining us from. This creates a friendly atmosphere and encourages people to engage with each other during the chat.

A question is then presented to the ManageFlitter team. This provides an opportunity for us to appropriately brand the Twitter chat, and the answers provide our users with some interesting insights into our company.

We also prepare imagery for the Twitter chat. Each question has a customized graphic that is included with the Tweet.

How did you decide what time to host your chats?

Managing time zones for live events is always challenging — especially for global businesses. Our customers are located all over the world but predominantly reside in the USA. ManageFlitter's HQ is in Sydney and Kate is in Canada. We selected 5pm ET as it has the most timezone crossover. This converts to early morning in Sydney, early evening on the West Coast of the US, and late evening in Europe.

How do you promote your chats?

We promote our Twitter chats on our Twitter account through a series of Tweets and a pinned Tweet. The weekly guest, our host Madalyn, and our regular Twitter chat participants also share and retweet our promotional material to their social channels. We have found this word-of-mouth marketing to be very powerful.

A few days after each #SocialROI Twitter chat, we publish a blog post summary with the guest’s answers from the Twitter chat as well as a selection of answers from Twitter participants that contributed during the chat. We then alert the participants that their tweets have been included in the summary. This inspires them to share our content, makes them feel valued and encourages them to attend the next #SocialROI chat.

We are very excited about an ebook that we have put together containing highlights of the first 6 months of our Twitter chats. The ebook is available for free on our blog and serves as a general promotion for ManageFlitter and the #SocialROI chats, and most importantly shares high-quality content from social media thought leaders in an easy to read and entertaining format.

What results have you seen from running Twitter chats?

Our #SocialROI Twitter chats have assisted with the following:

  • An increase in ManageFlitter brand awareness
  • An increase in relevant followers on the ManageFlitter Twitter account and on team ManageFlitter’s individual Twitter accounts
  • An improved standing in the social media community
  • Insight into our target market
  • An increase in relevant followers on #SocialROI participants’ Twitter accounts
  • Relationship building with our invited guest for the week - the guest is always a thought leader in the online marketing or Social Media industry

What tips do you have for brands thinking about starting their own Twitter chat?

  • Commit to a regular schedule — consistency is key.
  • Commit to at least a 6-month time trial before you review the ROI of your Twitter chat efforts.
  • Research before you choose your hashtag to ensure that no one else is using the hashtag and that it reads well. Unusual combinations of letters can inadvertently spell offensive or inappropriate words.
  • Just do it! Twitter chats are a great marketing and branding tool.  Every business is an expert in their field and considering the number of users on Twitter, there are still a remarkably small number of Twitter chats on any given day.
  • Outsource where possible. There are many components that make up a successful Twitter chat: hosting and facilitating the chat, guest research, image creation, etc. If you don’t have the in-house resources, outsource — there are lots of great freelancers around the world that are high-quality and cost-effective.

Any final tips for brands on Twitter? 

Get the basics right:

  • Make sure that your Twitter account presents well. A professional profile photo and header image are important.
  • Reply to every Tweet sent to you as well as any mentions of your brand on Twitter.
  • If you have a Twitter account, be active. An inactive Twitter account sends the wrong message to your customers.
  • Get inspiration from your competitors and from other companies getting it right on Twitter.
  • Social media is an opportunity to connect directly with your customers and prospects. Explore if social selling is appropriate for your brand. 
  • Experiment with tools that can help your team be more productive on social.
  • Keep on learning. It is still early days for social media. None of us have all the answers. There are great resources that can help you stay across the fast-moving Twitter and social media landscape including following the right accounts on Twitter, Twitter chats, Podcasts, ebooks, and YouTube videos.

Know a brand doing interesting things on Twitter? Tweet us @TwitterBusiness.


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