Twitter was one of the first social networks to offer the group chat function to bloggers and businesses, who now use the platform as part of their regular marketing arsenal. Like-minded individuals of any caliber band together and easily host Twitter chats, enabling discussions that range from product reviews to news to the best local restaurants for sushi.
What is a Twitter chat?
A Twitter chat, (i.e., Tweet chat) occurs when people, within a designated timeframe, post tweets on Twitter that not only focus on one topic, but contain one definitive hashtag (a word/phrase preceded by the hash symbol (#)). This hashtag is predesignated by the chat organizer; one example hashtag would be #whyigive. By inputting this hashtag into their tweets and using tools to filter tweets by the hashtag, users focus on one particular chat.
The challenges inherent in hosting a successful Twitter chat are those seen in any kind of chat- namely, maintaining attendee engagement and focus. However, there are methods for addressing such challenges.
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So, how do you host a successful Twitter chat that not only engages users but even results in usable marketing data?
1. Pick an engaging topic.
The first step to hosting a Twitter chat is to pick a topic of conversation. For help in this arena, perform keyword research to determine what the hot button topics of your niche are about. If you are an affiliate marketer of a product or service, look up similar or even competitor products/services to learn what customers are asking and/or complaining about.
You should also consider finding out about past and current Twitter chats on browsers like TweetDeck and TweetChat. Both of these browsers enable users to search for specific Twitter chats.
TweetChat lists active chats at the top of its dashboard as such:
TweetDeck offers different Twitter features in the form of columns, allowing users to separate out one or more chats while also keeping tabs on their personal Twitter dashboard, notifications, etc.
2. Prepare your material.
A good chat has substance, and that substance comes in the form of questions and talking points. Before you start inviting anyone, consider what the point of your chat will be. Consider also how your questions will flow into each other.
Number each of your questions/points as Q1, Q2, etc. or P1, P2, etc. As users interact with your chat and post tweets of their own, having all questions and points numbered will enable easy reference.
Don’t forget to peruse through Twitter and select a unique hashtag for your chat. This might take a bit of time, so don’t skimp on this step or save it until the last minute.
In many ways, prepping questions for a Twitter chat is akin to prepping for an interview. The difference, in this case, is that you’re actually preparing for several interviews.
3. Invite influencers.
Most of your chat attendees will likely sit on the sidelines and post tweets occasionally. The bulk of the material will come from influencers who are well-known in their niches.
Thus, you’ll need to reach out to fellow bloggers, marketers and the like early on. By preparing your questions and marketing collateral ahead of time, you’ll be able to answer their questions regarding the purpose of this Tweet chat and how they can help.
Incidentally, influencers typically aren’t paid for their services. Therefore, it’s definitely advised that you promote their latest book or marketing campaign or website when you invite them to your chat and introduce them in your invitations.
4. Set a time/place.
Twitter chats occur on specific dates and times. Typical chats run an hour or two; unless you have a ton of material to cover, a 1-2 hour timeframe is advisable.
Select a platform like TweetChat or TweetDeck for hosting your chat versus just going into Twitter. This will enable you to better track what is being said without constantly performing searches. Likewise, you’ll be able to look at your own profile and Twitter notifications using just one window.
5. Invite your audience.
If you already have an email subscriber list, be sure to notify your readers about your upcoming Twitter chat and provide them with your preselected hashtag. Sweeten the deal by announcing a product giveaway or other promotion during this event.
For a first time ever chat, you may wish to create an email form that tracks audience member RSVPs. Eventbrite can also be used to announce Twitter events, post these events to social media sites like Facebook, and then used to track yes/no responses to your invitation.
On the day of the Tweet chat, be sure to remind your influencers and audience members about your event. Also, send basic instructions on how your invitees can access a Twitter search engine like TweetDeck and correctly post a topic/question/comment. Remind everyone that tweets need to contain your unique chat hashtag.
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Keep the discussion on topic and on schedule by moderating its content and focus. Block users if need be- you simply cannot afford to get into a flame war on a chat that you organized and are hosting.
7. Measure your success.
There’s no room for improvement in your next Twitter chat (and yes, there will be another chat) if you can’t measure your successes (and some shortcomings) of this particular chat. A tool like Tweet Binder offers a free basic plan (as well as paid plans) for plugging in your hashtag or other Twitter information and getting infographics such as these:
There is a huge range of similar online measurement tools, that you can use to your heart’s content to measure tweets, retweets, top contributors, most followed contributors, and more.
8. Create a recap.
Once concluded, Twitter chats have the half-life of a subatomic particle; however, you can take the information gleaned from your chat and repurpose it into blog posts, emails, infographics, etc. This might be especially useful for your email subscribers who didn’t attend your chat, for example.
The Bottom Line
Twitter chats are not only easy and free to host, they also help bolster your blog, brand, business, etc. With practice, it’ll become second nature for you to create and host even a weekly Tweet chat, helping you grow your audience and promote your products/services. And you’ll make some friends along the way.