Very quietly, a significant milestone occurred last Sunday night.  Blogger and consultant Mack Collier monetized a Twitter conversation.  That’s right.  Mack made money from other people’s tweets on a free and public platform.  I think this is one of the most clever and interesting social media stories of the year and Mack agreed to tell us about it in this interview.

Mack, I noticed on your well-known #blogchat that you had a sponsor for the first time.  What an achievement for you! How did it come about?

A couple of months ago I was thinking that there is SO much that I would love to do to help grow the #Blogchat community.  For example, I would love to start a blog devoted to #Blogchat, and I have transcripts from over 40 previous #Blogchats that I would love to share with everyone.  But I just don’t have time to do these things as I am trying to grow my own consulting business at the same time.

That’s when I started toying with the idea of bringing on sponsors.  Because if I could start getting some money coming in from sponsors, then I could justify spending more time and money on growing the #Blogchat community.

You noted that most of the feedback has been positive so far. How do you intend to salt in other sponsors in the future

Honestly, there may never be another sponsored #Blogchat.  The main reason why is because I am going to be extremely picky about the sponsored topics, and making sure that potential sponsors can speak to those topics. For the first sponsored #Blogchat last Sunday with Grant from Headway, it made perfect sense.  Picking a blog theme/template is a topic that #Blogchatters have asked about before, and Grant could speak to it better than I could.  Plus it was a great chance for him to get exposure to hundreds of potential customers.

So it was a win-win for everyone.  #Blogchatters get an expert covering a topic they were interested in, and the sponsor gets exposure and access to hundreds of potential customers.

But at the end of the day, I want sponsored #Blogchats to be as close to a ‘regular’ #Blogchat as possible.  If someone can join a sponsored #Blogchat in the middle and recognize it as being sponsored, then I have done something wrong.

Obviously the sponsor was attracted to #Blogchat because of the high number of targeted clients you attract each week. I’m amazed at how quickly this little property has taken off. What’s been the secret?

I don’t know if there is one “secret.”  Two things I have done that have really helped #Blogchat:

1 – I’ve encouraged EVERYONE to join.  I’ve always been of the mindset that the more participants in a conversation, the better.  And that might sound like it could be confusing, but what happens with #Blogchat is that everyone comes in under a certain topic, but as the #Blogchat progresses, this small cluster of people will start talking about this particular aspect of the larger topic, and this small cluster will talk about a slightly different take on the same topic.

I view it as a large coffeehouse where everyone is talking about the same topic, but each table is having a slightly different take on the larger topic.  So you mingle and find the conversation that’s right for you, and join in!

And I am relentless about welcoming new people to #Blogchat.  I want people to feel welcome joining and understand that there are NO experts allowed, we are all coming to learn from each other.  People respect and appreciate that, I think.

2 – I give #Blogchatters as much say into the topics as I can.  For example, one of the most popular #Blogchats are the monthly OPEN MIC chats that happen the last Sunday of every month.  This started as a complete accident.  One Sunday nite I couldn’t join #Blogchat, and I really didn’t want to cancel it because I didn’t want to disappoint everyone.  So my only option was to make it open mic, meaning everyone that joined #Blogchat picked whatever topic they wanted to talk about.

I honestly thought it would be a complete disaster, but it ended up going pretty well.  What I loved was that some of the regulars took it upon themselves to ‘police’ the group and let them know what the deal was for that #Blogchat.  The session was so popular that I asked everyone if they’d like to do an OPEN MIC #Blogchat every month and they overwhelmingly said they would, so we added it.

How long has it taken to bring #Blogchat to this point?  Do you have other ideas on how to further develop and promote #Blogchat as a brand?

The first #Blogchat was March 22, 2009.  Here’s the recap post I did the next day.

As for ideas, as I mentioned above, I’d love to get a #Blogchat blog started, and have that be more a space for the #Blogchat regulars to post, more than me.  And I really want to get these transcripts up and let others have access to them, and I’d also like to make an ebook or two with the best insights from some of our amazing co-hosts, and give that away to participants.

Personally I find it difficult to follow a Twitter chat because of the multiple, concurrent conversation streams. What advice would you give people to participate effectively in Twitter chats, especially as your audience grows?

Yeah that’s the one thing about #Blogchat that I hear the most “complaints” about.  It just moves too damn fast for a lot of people to keep up with.

Personally, I use TweetChat,com to keep up with #Blogchat.  One neat feature of Tweetchat is that you can “”eature’ tweets from a user, which means Tweetchat will add a colored band around their tweets which makes it very easy to see them as the flood of tweets passes by.

Another good idea, especially if the chat has a co-host, is to follow in Tweetdeck, and create one columns for all #Blogchat tweets, then another for the co-hosts’ tweets, and probably another for the host’s tweets.  I know many on #Blogchat use TweetGrid as well.

Thanks for relating this story of your success, Mack. How can people find you on the web?

You can find me at my site – http://www.mackcollier.com or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mackcollier.

And I’d like to invite all your readers to check out #Blogchat, it happens every Sunday nite starting at 8pm Central.  Thanks Mark!

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