Step-by-Step Guide to Hosting a Successful Twitter Chat
Hosting a Twitter chat lets you better engage with your followers and customers on Twitter and build community among them by using some of Twitter’s conversation-friendly features.
Twitter chats are a great way to grow your social following, generate valuable discussions and feedback, and demonstrate thought leadership. Done right, they generate lively conversations and build deep connections between participants and brands.
What is a Twitter chat?
A Twitter chat is a public discussion on Twitter around a specific hashtag (see: topic). Twitter chats are led by a designated moderator—brand or individual—who ask questions and facilitate the discussion at a predetermined time.
In Twitter chats you set a date and time, choose a topic or theme, promote it to your audience, and then host a live, public discussion anyone can contribute to.
Benefits of hosting (and joining) a Twitter chat
Before delving into the benefits of Twitter chats, it’s worth reminding yourself what makes Twitter such an important social network for businesses by reading some of our posts covering who uses Twitter and how businesses can succeed with it:
- Top Twitter Demographics That Matter to Social Media Marketers
- A Long List of Twitter Statistics All Social Media Marketers Should Know
- The Twitter Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach
- Twitter Marketing: The Essential Guide
- Twitter Hacks: 21 Tricks and Features You Probably Didn’t Know About
Why host a Twitter chat?
A Twitter chat is more than just a fun event for you and your followers. From a business perspective, a Twitter chat is a golden opportunity to connect with and engage your customers in a meaningful way. Hosting a chat shows followers that your business is open, accessible, and willing to engage with them—rather than just broadcasting content to them.
A Twitter chat can help you:
- Build authority and establish your brand’s leadership in your area
- Enable members of your business to be identified as influencers
- Make new connections with relevant Twitter users
- Share valuable and informational content with your audience
- Boost your brand awareness through increased mentions and discussions surrounding your brand
The 6 key elements of every Twitter chat
Each Twitter chat incorporates these key elements:
1. A Hashtag
As mentioned, your Twitter chat hashtag gives your discussion an identity and helps people find and follow it on Twitter.
2. A Host
That would be you. Every Twitter chat needs a host to start things off, encourage participation, and moderate the discussion and keep it on track.
3. A topic and content
Twitter chats can either be a general discussion or about something very specific. Either way, you need to have an idea in advance of what you want to talk about, and some prepared content and talking points.
4. Questions and answers
Twitter chats usually follow a Q&A format. The host asks questions or posts discussion topics (indicated by Q1, Q2, etc.) and participants post answers (A1, A2, etc.) to make it easy to follow along.
5. A Set Date and Time
Instead of starting Twitter chats as and when you feel like it, successful Twitter chats happen at predetermined times—often on a weekly basis in the same time-slot. Think of it like that radio show or live podcast you tune into every week at the same time.
The last thing you want is to end up talking to yourself, so getting the above things right is crucial, as is promoting your Twitter chat effectively. You can also invite selected participants and special guests.
With these common elements in mind, here’s your step-by-step guide to hosting a Twitter chat for business.
How to host a Twitter chat in 7 easy steps
Resist the temptation to jump straight in. You’ll need to build a plan before starting your first Twitter chat. Follow these steps to give your chats the best chance of standing out and attracting engaged participants.
1. Define your purpose
Twitter chats take effort, so you need to make sure it’s the right tactic for you. Hosting a chat also requires commitment, and a fair bit of advance planning and work on the day. That means you need a clear vision of what you want to accomplish to have any hope of success. Here are some possible aims:
- Grow your following
- Understand your audience better
- Display thought leadership
- Boost engagement
- Solicit feedback
2. Do your research
Take some time to get a feel for how Twitter chats work and understand the experience from a participant’s perspective. Take some notes to inform your own chats, asking yourself:
- How many people participated?
- What time and day did the chat take place?
- What response did questions generate?
- How engaging was the host?
- How relevant was the topic?
- How well was the chat promoted?
- What did you get out of the chat?
3. Choose the best time to hold a Twitter chat
From sending out an email to telling a good joke, the secret to getting the best response is often timing. Twitter chats are no different. Will you host weekly chats? Monthly? Or will they be more sporadic, aligned with your marketing programs?
Whatever you choose, be consistent. Your community will find value in knowing when to tune in, and will be able to integrate your chat into their own schedules. Also consider the timezone(s) of your community and when your followers are most active on Twitter.
4. Create your Twitter chat hashtag
A Twitter chat will almost always include a designated hashtag so participants can find the chat and follow along easily. Each time you tweet or respond to a tweet within the chat, you must ensure that you include that chat’s hashtag.
The hashtag you choose will define your community. It should be simple, concise, and mean something when spoken aloud. Your hashtag can be branded , or it can be unbranded, so that those who don’t identify closely with your brand may feel more comfortable participating (for example, #smallbizchat).
5. Choose your topics and questions
Preparation is a crucial part of being a good Twitter chat host. It’s your job to not only start the conversation, but also keep it going and make it lively.
First, you need to choose topics or themes for your chats so you can build a schedule in advance, send out invites, and promote your chats to your followers (see below). Most Twitter chats follow a Q&A format so you should also come up with five to 10 questions in advance, and try to predict answers so you have some responses prepared.
You can also create graphics or GIFs in advance to include in your chat posts, or even turn your questions into graphics to make them stand out in your followers’ feeds.
6. Promote your Twitter chat
To avoid an empty “room” when your Twitter chat day rolls around, you need to spend some time promoting your chat.
Start by scheduling promotional tweets from relevant Twitter handles at different times of the day, as well as snippets of content from previous chats if it’s relevant.
You should also use your other social media networks and email to promote your chat as appropriate. You can also set up a permanent Twitter chat landing page on your website with updated dates and topics before each Twitter chat, or a schedule if you have one worked out.
Promoting your chat with content can also be a smart strategy for building an audience. For example, tweet something like, “Want to learn more about how we make our widgets? Join us on [date] for our regular Twitter chat [hashtag].”
Participating in other chats can also help when it comes to promoting your own chat. Keep a note of people you come across in these chats who would enjoy participating in your’s.
Build a list of people to invite, and send each of them a tweet invitation prior to the chat starting (an hour or so beforehand seems to work well). Make your invitations unique and personalized. Craft them in a way that makes the recipient feel as though you’re exclusively inviting them.
7. Host your Twitter chat
When Twitter chat day comes around, your first step will be to kick things off with a welcome tweet that introduces the chat and sets the tone. You can schedule this tweet in advance to make sure the chat begins at exactly the time your participants expect.
You’ll also want to welcome participants to the chat, and to ask them to introduce themselves. This helps participants get more value from the chat by making connections with each other, as well as giving the experience a more personal feel and getting people involved early.
This also gives you a chance to chat to each person individually to start building the deeper relationships you need to foster an ongoing Twitter chat community. Pay special attention to new participants so they are always made to feel welcome and involved.
After the introductions comes the questions and answers—the reason you’ve brought your audience together to chat.
Here are a few best practices to follow:
- Questions and answers should use the Q1/A1 structure to make it easy for people to follow along
- Ask a question every five to 10 minutes
- Try to ask at least six questions, up to around 10 or 12
- Tailor the number nature, and tone of your questions to your audience
To keep things moving during the Twitter chat, retweet the best answers and responses and ask follow-up questions when possible. Try to put the spotlight on your participants as the subject matter experts to create a livelier conversation.
Close your chat by thanking your participants for joining, and by setting up your next chat. This also lets you promote next week’s (or next month’s) topic.
How to host a Twitter chat using Hootsuite
Do Twitter chats seem like a lot of work? The good news is there are tools to make life easier, even if you are a time-strapped social media team of one.
If you’re already using Hootsuite to manage and monitor your social network activity, you can save any chat as a stream in your Hootsuite dashboard. This will let you monitor the chat easily, as well as jump into it at any time without having to remember the right hashtag or conduct a manual search. You can also create a tab just for Twitter chats, and have multiple chat streams saved within this tab.
Don’t have a Hootsuite account? Sign up today and connect your Twitter handle.
Set up tabs
Once you’re logged into Hootsuite you need to add a new tab within your Hootsuite dash, as you’re going to create a few chat-specific streams.
You can use Hootsuite to search for the hashtag of a chat you want to join. You’ll see a number of Tweets show up in the results. At the bottom of the results, there’s a button to “Save as Stream.” This will allow you to save that search, and that chat hashtag, as a stream in your tab.
You can now view the chat as it occurs in a saved stream. You can use Hootsuite tools to favorite and reply to Tweets from other participants, and use the compose dialogue box to create Tweets of your own. Just be sure to always include the hashtag for the chat.
The Hootsuite stream will automatically check for and indicate that there are new Tweets available to view. Remember that each stream has its own refresh button so you don’t have to refresh your entire screen.
Learn how to get even more out of Hootsuite with free social media training from Hootsuite Academy.
Create search streams
Once you’ve got a new tab started, you’re going to want to populate it with information streams. The first stream inside your new “Chat” tab is going to be the main chat stream. This stream will aggregate the entire conversation in one place. You’ll want to keep this stream fairly open, but it’s useful to remove retweets from it to cut down on the conversation volume a little.
For this main stream, you’ll create a search stream for the chat hashtag (in this case #Hootchat) and the syntax “-RT” to remove both old-style and new-style retweets from the conversation.
To make managing the Q&A conversation format smoother, you’ll want to filter for these questions and answers in the chat stream. Add separate search streams with the following syntaxes to your Chat tab.
This search stream filters for chat questions only, allowing you to keep a pulse on how the conversation is progressing and which question is current:
#Hootchat AND (Q1 OR Q2 OR Q3 OR Q4 OR Q5 OR Q6 OR Q7 OR Q8 OR Q9 OR Q10 OR Q11 OR Q12) -RT
This one is the reverse of the question stream—it filters for answers only, showing responses so that you can easily engage with others:
#Hootchat AND (A1 OR A2 OR A3 OR A4 OR A5 OR A6 OR A7 OR A8 OR A9 OR A10 OR A11 OR A12) -RT
Depending on the needs and structure of the Twitter chat, it’s often a good idea to create streams with custom syntaxes. For example, Hootsuite’s #HootJobs chat doesn’t follow the Q1/A1 format of most chats, choosing instead a Q&A free-for-all with questions and answers sourced from the community. During this chat we used a search stream with the syntax “#HootJobs AND ?” to filter the conversation for questions only.
Test new search streams to find what works best for you.
What to do after your Twitter chat is over
After the conversation has ended, it’s time to reflect, measure, and learn.
First, decide what you want to track. Metrics like hashtag mentions, hashtag impressions, and participants can inform how well your chat resonated with the audience.
Look for increased engagement or a spike in new followers—an indicator of community growth. Social measurement and analytics tools, such as Hootsuite Insights, can help dive into the chat results and quantify your efforts. Choose metrics that you can report on consistently over the long term to identify trends in community growth or to adjust your activities to better serve your audience.
The story of your Twitter chat doesn’t end with the numbers. You can curate the best responses and conversation for later by taking screenshots. Highlight prominent community members, influencers or customers, and mine the responses for “quotable” nuggets.
These insights will help you tweak the delivery of your next chat. If the conversation was particularly interesting or memorable, consider bringing some of the best content together into a blog post.
Hosting a Twitter chat requires constant tweaking, learning, and reformatting to suit the ever-changing needs of your audience. By following the steps and tips above, you’ll be on your way to creating a Twitter chat that’s sure to engage your online audience.
The post A Step-by-Step Guide to Hosting a Successful Twitter Chat appeared first on Hootsuite Social Media Management.