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How Blizzard can improve the next Twitter chat

Coming up tomorrow at 5 p.m. PST / 8 p.m. EST is the next Blizzard Twitter chat with J. Allen Brack and Greg Street. Both of these guys have done plenty of panels before and are veterans in community interaction. They can easily answer and dodge any question they like; and if Ghostcrawler sees fit I'm sure he's got a few quips to hand out to the attempted troll as well.

But despite the two figureheads at the top answering questions in the Twitter chat, it's important that we look back at the last chat and make a few critical, yet fair, observations:

Target Audience and New Information

The people following Blizzard on Twitter and paying attention enough to participate in a developer chat are going to be well informed individuals. There might be details here and there that they don't yet fully understand -- but that's the nature of a game as huge as WoW. Nearly every questioned answered in the previous Twitter chat was also previously answered at BlizzCon in one way or another. All of that information is widely accessible on sites like WoW.com and through the forums. The targeted audience of the Twitter chat, by the very nature of its medium and community involvement therein, should have been people already aware of the basics of upcoming changes; not people who want to know if Goblins are going to come with a new dance.

Use the Medium

The last twitter chat worked by tweeting the submitted question with a link to the forums for an answer. The answers themselves were never given over Twitter. Essentially Twitter just became a series of links to answers, not an interactive community tool.

Blizzard had stated before that they did this because their answers couldn't fit into 140 characters necessitated by the very nature of Twitter. I agree that some answers can't fit in there, at least the full and complete answers people like to give. However, if it's the case that none of the answers could ever fit in a tweet, then Blizzard shouldn't use Twitter, and instead use an IRC based online chat system; those can handle tens of thousands of users at once and distribute full text easily enough. Other MMO companies, like Cryptic Studios, do their chats over an IRC based system, and it works well for them.

But with that said, most of the answers can be pared down to 140 characters or less if they try. Writing in short sentences, packed with information is a hard task -- but it pays off. There are loads of politicians and other individuals who prove that it is possible to convey meaning through short answers. And if Blizzard does need another 140 characters or so, using the (c) for continued at the end of the tweets, and then picking it up in the next tweet, is the conventional wisdom on Twitter these days.

Timeliness of the Information

Along the same lines as playing to the targeted audience and giving new information, is the timeliness of the information. Tomorrow would be a great time to drop some more information about the upcoming mini patch, and the reported earthquakes happening in-game (side note: I mention this and I'd be remiss if I didn't include a Red Cross link for the recent disaster in Haiti). Cataclysm information might be good, but the useful information is going to be what's coming up on a more immediate timeframe. Of course, it's possible to include both long term and short term information, but if these Twitter chats are going to continue at any sort of regular interval, make them different and distinct enough to be worth paying attention to.

Now, I do want to make it clear that I think these chats are worthwhile, and I'm glad to see Blizzard expanding out into different forms of social media and community interaction. They need to grow and change the way they handle the community as time moves on -- things now are entirely different than they were when WoW launched five years ago. Twitter is a great way to move forward in community management, and hopefully things will be done better this time around.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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