What is a Twitter chat?
First of all, for those of you who are wondering, a Twitter chat is a live online conversation that places place on Twitter (obvs) at an agreed time using a specific hashtag. A Twitter chat often has guests, sometimes just one, sometimes more than one.
Twitter chats are great for increasing engagement, positioning yourself as an industry expert and finding out what your followers think about a topic.
Here’s an example of how a Twitter chat works if you still have no idea what I’m on about: https://storify.com/BloggersOC/boc-twitter-chat-beauty-edition
Why am I writing about them?
I not only love participating in Twitter chats, but I have also planned and run them for a range of accounts under the CNN International brand, and, most recently, for the online community Bloggers of Colour.
How do I run a successful Twitter chat?
1. Decide why you are doing it. Are you trying to get more followers? Tell your guest’s story in a way it hasn’t been told before? Give your followers access to your CEO/founder/a new artist you think is going to be super-successful?
Make sure you have a clear purpose and goal in mind – it will make planning easier. P.S. “Because my boss asked me to” is not a reason!
2. Choose a topic. This should be broad enough that people actually have things to say about it, but not so broad that it doesn’t draw in your target audience.
Every Twitter account and brand has a target market, or a group that’s already engaged with its tweets, so cater to those people. An example of a good topic: “How to start your own online business” A bad topic: “How cool blogging is.”
3. Choose a hashtag. Twitter chats centre on a hashtag – it’s how people find all the tweets during the chat. It needs to be completely unique and as short as possible.
A good hashtag: #AskPhoebe A bad hashtag: #letstalkabouthowcoolbloggingiswithPhoebeParke
4. Choose your guests. Once you’ve chosen your topic, it’s pretty easy to find experts in that field to invite to the chat, the best guests already have a large and engaged following on Twitter and have written or spoken about the chat topic online in the past six months.
An ideal number of guests is anywhere from one to four, any more than that and you’ll need more than one member of your team to keep up with the tweets. Email your guests with at least three weeks’ notice to invite them to the chat, and have a list of back up participants in case your top choices can’t make it.
5. Set a date. This step can be surprisingly tricky! Find a date that not only suits all your guests (bear in mind they might be in different time zones), but that suits your followers.
You can use Klout to find out when your followers are most active. If your chat is about a region-specific topic then make sure people in that area will be awake at the time of the chat. I’ve found that after work (from 7pm onwards) works well, weekends are also a good bet, that’s when I participate in chats the most.
6. Write a blurb and get it approved. Like pitching a story or business idea, you should be able to explain your Twitter chat in a few short sentences.
You can use this blurb when you invite people to your chat in the next step. You should get your boss or a colleague to read over it, even if you don’t answer to anyone, get a friend to look over it and make sure it makes sense.
7. Invite people. How will anyone know about your chat unless you invite them? Identify key groups and people who might be interested in your chat and email them.
I’ve always loved the idea of sending paperless post invitations to people via email, but haven’t done it yet… let me know if you do it and it works!
8. Write your questions. I usually have around six questions with four back up questions in case the chat goes really quickly.
If you have more than one guest you’ll need fewer questions and vice versa as you should really wait for each person to answer before moving on to the next question.
9. Market your chat. In the two weeks running up to your chat tweet, post on other social networks, and tell people you meet about your chat. Let the people know!
If you can, design an image to use to accompany your tweets with the time, date and guests on it, @blkcreatives always has gorgeous ones:
10. Send joining instructions. A few days before the chat send out instructions to your guests; the main points are that they need to include the hashtag in every tweet they send and use A1/A2/A3 when answering each question.
11. Create visuals. This is a totally optional step, but it’s a nice idea to create question cards for your chat like this:
12. Host your Twitter chat. Obvs the most important step. These chats go *very* quickly so make sure you’re ready and in position in good time for the chat and have the questions ready to tweet out.
I usually create a timetable so I know exactly when each question should go out. It’s also nice if you can interact with people during the chat – thank them for joining in and ask them follow up questions directly.
13. Measure the impact. Your bosses will want to know how well the chat did, and numbers are the quickest and easiest way to show this. I use keyhole.co to measure the impact of the hashtag I used over the time period of the chat. This data does disappear about five days after that chat though, so make sure you screenshot.
14. Create a lasting record of it. If you had a dope Twitter chat but no one saw it, did it really happen? Well, yeah of course it did, but it’s easier to show it off if you create a record of it.
Here’s an example from Bloggers of Colour’s chat about beauty in February 2016: https://storify.com/BloggersOC/boc-twitter-chat-beauty-edition I used storify but you could write a round up post on your blog or company website.
Top tip: To all intents and purposes treat your Twitter chat as if it’s a physical live event; with proper invitations, planning and marketing.
Plug: I’m running a Twitter chat on March 23 for Bloggers of Colour. More info here:
Need more help beyond this 1000 word blog post?! Tweet me @PhoebeParke and I’ll do my best!