A growing trend over the past 2 years, if not longer, is the use of Twitter chats. Twitter chats are sometimes spontaneous, but are typically organized as reoccurring events. What defines a Twitter Chat from the general back and forth tweets in your Twitter stream is the use of a common hash tag (for example #SocialChat which takes place on Monday night’s at 9pm eastern).
By uniting all relevant tweets with a common hash tag, organizers and participants can easily follow the group conversation. With the ever growing number of chats out there, how do you determine if organizing a chat is the right move for you, and how do you create a successful one?
5 Reasons to Host a Twitter Chat
By establishing the themes, topics and parameters of the Twitter chat, the organizers benefit by:
- Establishing themselves as the center of knowledge on the topics of the chat
- Increased exposure of the host(s) resulting in more Twitter followers which expands the marketing potential of Twitter for them
- Gain control/influence of the conversation ensuring that your perspective gets the exposure it deserves
- The result of the retweets and replies to your post from chat participants will increase the potential audience size of your message significantly beyond your current sphere of influence
- Defining yourself and your organization as people who give back to the community they serve, thereby increasing trust within the community
12 Steps to a Successful Chat
1. Find and participate in other chats first that are related to the theme (but not in direct competition) of the chat you want to start.
This is your opportunity to learn what makes chats and your potential audience tick. Learn what makes these other chats successful with their audience. Build a rapport within the community and earn their respect. By participating in other conversations, you will ensure you have something new and unique to bring to the table. This will also give you the opportunity to get used to the speed and the skills needed to not only follow, but participate in a chat.
2. Research your hash tag and the best time slot for your chat.
Keep your hash tag as short as possible since it will appear in all tweets and take away from the limit of 140 characters. The tag must reflect your topic. Check the various chat lists to ensure that your possible hash tag or close variations of it are not currently in use. Look for other chats related to your topic to determine what time of day is best for others interested in your topic and where an open time slot might be that doesn’t compete with other chats related to your topic.
3. Create a supporting website and/or facebook page
Your supporting sites should explain what the chat is about, outline the nature of the chat, profile the hosts, and have a published schedule of topics and notices of any deviation from the normal schedule.
4. Find experts in the field and invite them to be featured guests
Leverage the power of the networks surrounding your guests by encouraging them to tweet out and blog about their participation. Each guest will bring some of their own followers to the chat. If you’ve developed a conversation that is engaging and informative, those new participants will come back in subsequent weeks.
5. Recruit regular participants to be guests (reward & acknowledge them) they will become your marketers/advocates
6. Don’t do it alone find an equally knowledgeable co-host
A co-host can help share the work load. They can provide access to other potential featured guests. And will be there to ensure consistency when one of you might not be available for a scheduled chat due to travel, illness, and technical issues.
7. Engage with participants and encourage lurkers to participate.
Often people will follow along on a hashtag without adding their own thoughts to the conversation. These “lurkers” may be learning, but they are missing out on making connections that will enable them to go deeper into the topics that interest them with members of the community. Simple welcome messages go a long way to get folks to chime in and let you know they are following along. Encourage the group to ask the guest their own questions and to comment on the guests answers.
8. Starting 3-4 days prior to you chat, start tweeting it out 1-2 times a day at a variety of different times to ensure all major time zones are covered. On the day of the event be sure to do a countdown of tweets (i.e. 6hrs until …., 2 hrs until…) which includes the featured guests twitter ID and the theme of the chat (we can insert an image of one of my promo tweets)
9. Have fun during the chat, if you are, others will and that will encourage them to tell others and to come again.
Remember that the goal of the chat is to build a tighter community around the topics you are passionate about. It’s as much about the relationships as it is about the information you’re sharing.
10. Prepare a list of questions in advance and get to the guest at least 12 hours beforehand.
This allows the guest to prepare answers that they can simply cut and paste. Chats can be fast and furious so any time savings is a good thing. State all questions with the question number followed by the guest’s Twitter ID (ie Q1 @guest…) Don’t be afraid to ask additional questions of the guest based on their answers. Even though you’ve taken some time to frame the conversation in advance, take advantage of the dynamics of the conversation to create opportunities for retweetable pearls of wisdom.
11. Take advantage of all the great tools to make your chat a success.
We like to use TweetChat during the chat, as it automatically inserts the hashtag. Remember if you forget the hashtag, your audience and guest will most likely not see your tweet. Plus use something like TweetDeck or Hootsuite to monitor references to you and your direct messages. Frequently you’ll catch others forgetting the hashtag or asking you something on the side relevant to the chat. Although smart phones make it possible to follow a hash tag on the go, we have found that they can be a frustrating way to try to actively participate in a Twitter chat. As a host, it is your responsibility to set aside that time each week to be at a computer and ready to facilitate the best conversation possible.
12. Create a summary of the completed chat within 24 hours (#Socialchat uses storify.com and hashtracking.com)
Try to include at least 1 tweet from everyone who participated in the summary, and notify all those included in the summary that you’ve included them. Providing a link to the summary (storify has this feature) enables others to retweet that link and potentially provide a little viral marketing. Create a blog post which summarizes the major points of the chat. These are wonderful for SEO purpose as well and will draw people to the site which in turn will make them aware of the chat.
Once you’re set, go out and start chatting. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you will develop a strong following, who will complain if you have cancel a chat and be more than willing to step in as guest hosts in your place.
Storify (for creating chat summaries): http://storify.com
Alan K’necht (@aknecht), the author of “The Last Original Idea – A Cynic’s View of Internet Marketing” (http://www.TheLastOriginalIdea.com) and a founding Partner at Digital Always Media Inc., together with Michelle Stinson Ross (@SocialMichelleR ) , a blogger and novelist, an active social media marketing specialists, they host the successful weekly Twitter Chat #Socialchat which frequently reaches a potential audience size of 800,000 plus.
Come see Alan speak at Socialize Toronto!