Branch offers an easy way to engage your tweeps in a focused, semi-private online conversation. Unlike most approaches to Twitter conversations (typically based on hashtags and list sorting), the Branch conversation itself happens independent of Twitter. The most obvious advantages are that you don’t need to flood your Twitter feed or worry about 140 character limits, and you can limit the participants to an invite-only list.
These advantages make Branch especially attractive for publishers, because a publisher can use Branch to generate compelling content while keeping the reader’s experience as pleasant as their own. With the invite-only option, publishers can invite Ashton Kutcher to participate in a live chat that easily engages the Twitter community without having to sift through tweets from thousands of fans or critics. (This also means Paul Carr doesn’t have to tell anyone to “sit this one out. grown ups talking” because he can simply set up a Branch discussion to exclude them instead.)
And of course embedding a Branch conversation on your own site is as simple as you might expect, with just a few lines to copy/paste. In the example below I asked a Branch employee about the Twitter login authorization. My instinct tells me the request asks for just a little too much, but it’s hardly a real problem at all. My real goal was to demonstrate the simplicity of the embedded exchange. Thanks to clean design, a Branch exchange can look attractive on most media sites.
Fortunately, the good people at Branch know enough to keep the user experience on Twitter itself clean, simple and free of spam as well. The biggest single concern I have when using anything like Branch is whether or not the service will flood my inbox or spam my tweeps with alerts and links every time I do something. Branch gives you complete control over what gets tweeted and when, enabling you to engage with your community without being an annoyance to them.
So I encourage any journalist, blogger, media company, teacher, manager — anyone, really — to start a conversation via Branch and see how simply useful it is. Some of you may find this your best option to host weekly or daily discussions on your own site, while others may just keep it in mind for occasional use and never embed a discussion anywhere. Regardless, Rob Likes Branch.