Hey, can you be more specific in your Facebook/Google greetings?

What’s a three-letter word for “I want to converse in real-time on a social network, and I will leave it to you to guess what about”?

Hey intro“Hey.”

Somehow, a message consisting only of that vague salutation has become a standard greeting from pals looking to kick off a conversation over Facebook messages or Google+ Hangouts. I wish that were not so.

As conversation-starters go, this is a nonstarter. It tells me nothing about what’s on your mind or the urgency of your request–unless typing it in lower case should be read as indicating a lower priority.

It’s also unoriginal. If you tried to grab my attention with the equally content-free “Ahoy,” at least I’d be thinking “ah, the salutation Alexander Graham Bell wanted us to use on the phone.”

Instead, why not just get to the point and state your question, compliment, complaint or humblebrag? You were going to do that in your next message anyway; why wait? Don’t let me hold you back!

That more direct practice seems to be how we–even those who “hey” me on Facebook or Google–have settled on using Twitter direct messages, like plain old text messaging before them.

At the same time, I have to recognize that these meaningless greetings come from friends who mean well, and that most lead to chats I appreciate. And things could be worse: I could have people trying to get my attention by saying “Yo.”

Web chat chit-chat

Since January, I’ve been doing a Web chat once a month at the Consumer Electronics Association’s blog. To run each chat, we picked a fairly popular, fairly obvious free service called CoverIt Live.

This has worked fairly well, aside from a couple of times where technical miscues at our end resulted in goofs like reader questions not showing up in the chat stream. But in June, CIL announced that it would drastically limit its free tier. (It’s owned by Demand Media, a company I’ve written about it before for its history of running “content farm” operations that mass-produce posts to fit Google search trends.) Now what?

We’ve got a variety of options to consider–see, for instance, Mandy Jenkins’ list of free CIL alternatives–but it looks like these top the list.

ScribbleLive: We’d pay $49.95/month for up to 10 GB of transfers, which a footnote explains would translate to about 14,000 page views. This seems like it would provide the closest equivalent to the current experience (and the pricing shuts down CIL’s $49/month “Lite” option, which only covers 2,500 vaguely-defined clicks a month).

Twitter chat: I’d designate a hashtag for the occasion (maybe #CEAchat?), then answer questions posted under that hashtag for the next hour or so. This would cost nothing, but it will clutter the Twitter timeline of followers even if they’re not interested in the chat, and somebody would have to archive these tweets later on using Storify or WordPress’s own tweet-embedding function.

Google+ Hangout On Air: The hangout feature on Google+ no longer requires viewers to have a G+ account, thanks to this recent addition that lets you stream a broadcast on YouTube. Upsides: free, simple, and video may allow more or my alleged personality to show through. Downside: harder to share Web links this way; less likely to show up in search results; I might have to clean up my home office.

Which of these appeals to you? Cast your vote below, then explain it in the comments.