Now that you know how to participate in a Twitter chat, once you have a few under your belt perhaps you or your organization can consider running one of your own.
Why should you consider running a chat?
It can help establish thought leadership.
When you or your organization “owns” a chat – particularly one that consistently sees significant engagement – you will become to be known as a leader in the space as others in your industry will continue to look to your chat for insight on related topics.
It’s a great way to build community.
What’s a better way to get your community talking than to ask them to show off what they know? We established before that Twitter Chats can be a great way to build your reputation and show off your expertise, so running a chat gives your community the opportunity to do the same!
It gives you content that you can share (and continue to share).
Twitter Chats and the questions, answers, and banter involved can easily be turned into static content that you can add to your editorial calendar and reuse in the future. Just because Twitter is often about sharing what’s happening in the moment doesn’t mean that content can’t be archived and made relevant in the future.
So, now that you know that you want to run a Twitter Chat, how do you get the ball rolling? Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to success:
1) Determine the general theme of your chat.
Your chats should ideally follow a consistent theme that will allow you to have a number of Twitter chats that all connect to that theme. For instance, if you want to increase awareness about what your company does, then your company can be that uniting theme and the topics will likely relate to your various services. However, if you want to build thought leadership in your industry, make your industry your theme and talk about topics relevant to professionals in your industry to draw in community members and build reputation. It is important to have a consistent theme as if your chats are on such a wide variety of topics it will be very unlikely that you will have a recurring set of participants and you will find that engagement will be lower than it could be.
2) Choose a hashtag!
A unique hashtag is essential for monitoring engagement relating to your Twitter chat. Once you have determined your theme come up with a hashtag that clearly links the chat to your brand, is short enough that it won’t take up 1701348 characters of your tweet, and is not used by any other brand for another reason, particularly for another Twitter chat.
3) Determine the frequency of your chats.
The frequency of your chats can really be whatever you would like it to be, but we recommended starting with a monthly recurring chat. A month is long enough that you won’t feel like your Twitter chat is taking over your account, but it’s frequent enough that your community will become familiar with your chat and will be more likely to participate. Depending on your community and its size and level of engagement, you might find that increasing your frequency to weekly might be feasible.
4) Choose an ideal day and time.
It’s important to establish a day of the week and set time for your chat and stick with it whenever you run a chat. To choose a time, try determining the time when most of your followers are online by consulting your chosen analytics platform. This blog from Buffer also has some great data about when the best time is to tweet across the board that can guide you in making this decision. Be sure to also research Twitter chats in your industry and be sure to choose a different day or time to any pre-existing chats, as you want to be able to potentially draw some of the same users to your chat, and they can’t be in two places at once! In terms of length, we find that one hour is ideal and any longer will discourage participation.
5) Identify your crew.
Will this Twitter chat be sailed by a one-man crew? Or will you have a team of sailors to help you reach port? This will of course be determined by your current community management setup, but for bigger organizations that will likely see more engagement from their followers, your Twitter chat might be an all-hands-on-deck situation. Regardless of your team, it’s something you should always be aware of when planning a chat.
6) Pick some topics and write some questions.
Now it’s time to pick some topics for your Twitter chats so you can begin to build out a plan and an editorial calendar. For your first chat, you might want to start simple with a chat that helps introduce your participants to your brand, what you’re all about, and what your Twitter chat aims to achieve, before you dive into more heady topics. When planning out your chats sure to consider the time of year you plan to run each chat (seasonal topics tend to perform well) and design your editorial calendar around these specifics.
When you choose a topic for each chat, start thinking of the questions you might ask. We find that 6 questions per chat is the ideal number when you see moderate to high engagement so you could opt to include more questions if you think it’ll be hard to keep up momentum throughout the hour. Make sure your questions are specific enough that they can’t be misinterpreted but broad enough that you can receive answers from your community with a good amount of diversity. Key tip: make sure your questions are no longer than 140 characters long, minus the length of your chat hashtag!
7) Choose a Twitter chat partner or special guest.
We have found that Twitter chats are more successful when brands pair up with a partner or special guest during each chat. Featuring a partner or special guest can help with several aspects of a Twitter chat:
– When you have a featured participant you guarantee some answers to your chat. This is especially important when you are first getting started.
– A special guest can lend credibility to your chat, especially if the featured individual or brand is well-known in your industry and is a thought leader in their own right.
– Featuring a special guest can help build community within your industry, making and sustaining connections where there were none before.
– Pairing up with a featured guest will mean increased promotion for your chat as they will more than likely share the fact that they are featured in your chat with their followers as well.
A Twitter chat partner or special guest can be anyone from a thought leader in your industry to an employee at your organization with some expertise in a certain field. They could also be another brand that you might collaborate with regularly or just respect enough to want to share their perspective with your following. The possibilities are really endless, but this step is really important because you need to get people on your side offline before you expect their participation online.
8) Reach out to your network.
Speaking of which, in addition to partnering up with a featured guest for your chat, make sure to reach out to your network – be that colleagues or contacts in your industry who are active on social media – via email to inform them of the chat. This will help increase the visibility of your chat because even though we like to think it is, Twitter is not the center of everyone’s universe. As a courtesy, send these potential participants the list of questions so they can prepare their answers if they so choose.
9) Begin promotion!
In order to make sure you have participants in your chat it’s also important to promote your chat. If you are running a monthly chat try using this simple promotion schedule:
3 Weeks Before – General reminder Tweet about monthly Twitter chats and tease this month’s topic.
1 Week Before – Begin daily promotion of your upcoming chat including frequent mentions of your featured guests.
Be sure to create a branded graphic that contains all of the details for your chat including the date, time, topic, hashtag, your Twitter handle and your featured guest’s name and Twitter handle. You won’t be able to fit all of this information into one Tweet so this graphic will ensure your followers have all of the information. For accessibility purposes, however, make sure you try to Tweet each of these details at least once so that those who are using text-readers can know everything they need to know (text-readers can’t read text in images). When you have these graphics created, share with them some of the most trusted individuals in your network to share and promote as well to help build awareness and anticipation. Also, just because it’s a Twitter chat that doesn’t mean you only have to promote on Twitter. Reach out to your other networks as well to bring in followers to Twitter from other platforms.
10) Create question graphics.
Tweets with images perform much better than Tweets without and identifying a question among hundreds of other tweets during a chat can be very challenging. For these reasons we suggest you create a branded graphic with the question on it so your participants can easily identify the question they are meant to be answering. Plus, this helps frame the story of your Twitter chat in a visually impactful way.
11) Set up Hootsuite
Twitter chats can be a very chaotic thing to manage as a community manager, so when I am running a chat I make sure to set up a thorough tab in Hootsuite dedicated to the chat. I include the following tabs to ensure I am covering all of my bases:
– Scheduled Posts (depending on the levels of engagement you see you might want to schedule the question Tweets at regular intervals throughout the hour.
– Mentions (sometimes users will forget to use the hashtag or will mention you in a side conversation and you will want to keep track of this)
– Hashtag Feed (feed of your chat’s dedicated hashtag. Watch this feed like a hawk for that whole hour.)
– List of Twitter Chat Participants (I like to keep a running list of individuals who have participated in a chat as they are more likely to return. This helps cover all your bases in case a user forgets to use the hashtag for one of their answers.
12) Build anticipation.
Prior to the chat send out a couple tweets referring to the chat and building excitement. This will help catch any last-minute participants and remind those who may have forgotten.
12) Get to know everyone.
Get the Twitter chat going by welcoming all of your participants and perhaps asking your participants to send an introductory Tweet about who they are so your wide range of participants can get to know one another and so your community managers can also help contextualize their answers.
Send out a housekeeping Tweet to remind your participants of the best practices and etiquette that help make a good chat great. Learn more about these best practices in the first part of this Twitter chat blog series.
14) Start the chat.
Follow this rough outline to help you run and engage throughout the chat.
i) Tweet out your first question including “1)” at the beginning and your chat hashtag at the end along with the graphic.
ii) Monitor your hashtag feed for engagement with your chat. Retweet the answers of your featured guest first and then follow with your participants.
iii) Engage with your participants by responding to their answers, giving a few compliments and engaging in lively dialogue (where possible) with people in the same industry.
iv) Once the incoming messages have slowed down a bit, repeat steps i-iii, changing questions in between.
v) once you have completed your chat and all questions have been thoroughly answered, sign off by thanking your participants both through an all-encompassing tweet and individually. Also take a moment to promote the next Twitter chat you have lined up.
15) After the chat.
Head on over to Storify and login or create an account using your organization’s Twitter handle. Storify is a great platform in which you can create stories from your activity on social media. It’s a great thing to do when you want to recap an event such as a Twitter Chat. The platform is designed so you can easily search the relevant social networks by hastag or by user and then drag and drop the messages you want into a story. If your Twitter chat hashtag has been used correctly this should be an easy job as all you will need to do is drag and drop the posts in chronological order to tell the story of your chat. You don’t need to include every post, so try to curate them and include the best/most engaging posts and interject with some narrative text to help guide your story and provide more context for your readers.
Once your Storify is complete, share the link with your followers frequently within the weeks following and encourage your participants to share as well by sending the link to them in a follow-up thank you email. If your Twitter chat topic was seasonally relevant or if the answers provided will provide value to your followers in the future, archive this link and incorporporate it into your editorial calendar so your followers will continue to benefit from your Twitter chat efforts.
Now you know how to both participate in a Twitter chat and how to run a Twitter chat on your own! Now, go forth and get chatting!