How to Start A Twitter Chat

Hosting a Twitter chat is an excellent way to increase your value as an expert and set yourself apart in your industry.

Before launching a chat, it’s important to develop a Twitter following. Fill out your Twitter profile completely, including profile and header photo. Follow those in your industry, and tweet and retweet relevant content, and they will follow you back.

After you have a handle on your Twitter account, it’s time for the good stuff.

Here’s how to start and manage a Twitter chat.

1. Attend Twitter Chats. Learn how Twitter chats work from an attendee standpoint. Also, volunteer to be a guest – or cohost – on a peer’s Twitter chat; that will give you valuable experience.

2. Research Twitter Chats. Choose a hashtag for your chat that is relevant … and not already in use. Note what other Twitter chats are out there, especially those in your industry and demographic. Keep a list of Twitter chat schedules, so you can add yours when you are ready.

3. Plan your Twitter Chats. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, make sure your chat is at a regularly scheduled time … and is not in conflict with any other chats in your industry. Then decide the format: Will your chat be 30 or 60 minutes? Will it be Q&A? Are you going to have guests? A co-host?  Set up a tentative calendar of topics and guests.

“Make sure to have a defined topic for each Twitter chat, typically something related to current trending news or hot topics in your industry,” suggests Kristine deGuzman, Digital Marketing Manager at LEWIS Pulse. “Draft a few questions in advance in order to get the discussion going and to help fill in gaps when the conversation wanes.”

4. Promote your Twitter Chat. Use all channels available: email, newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can also consider using promoted posts and tweets.

“Participation is key to a successful Twitter chat,” adds deGuzman. “Create an outreach list of influencers in your industry and send them personal invitations, whether by DM or @reply, letting them know that their industry insight would be appreciated. Doing so can not only help boost the number of participants in your chat, but it can also help your organization establish long-term relationships with these influencers.”

5. Manage the Chat. During the chat, use the hashtag with all tweets. Keep an eye on it, and respond to your audience as best you can.

“Use a platform like TweetDeck or TweetChat.com,” suggests Ashley Evens, Director of Digital Strategy at Creative Media Marketing. “In TweetDeck you can set up individual columns for mentions, hashtag use, retweets, etc. That will make the whole process much more manageable and help you prioritize your responses.”

“We include Q1 at the beginning of the Tweet and then put the hashtag at the end,” shares Anum Hussain, Inbound Context Expert and Social Media leader at Hubspot.“Then the expert responds with “a1″ and includes the hashtag at the end. We don’t include the moderator’s Twitter handle in every answer, but we do include specific handles if they relate directly to the question or topic at hand.”

6. Thank – and Tweet to – your Audience. Post a transcript, if you’d like. You can do a Storify or Paper.li recap and tweet it out … using your hashtag, of course.

“It’s also important when doing Twitter chats to do more than one to test the market,” recommends Hussain. “Don’t just try one and call it a day – it’s important to test, learn, and apply your lessons learned.”

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