Twitter chats have enjoyed something of a renaissance in the past couple of years, re-emerging as an engaging - and fun - way for businesses to connect with stakeholders in real-time. Twitter chats provide an equitable way for businesses of all shapes and sizes to connect with their audiences in real-time, with dedicated chats already established on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from critical infrastructure and cybersecurity (see the most recent #ChatSTC) to classic movies (see #TCMParty - one of my personal favorites), and, of course, social media trends (look no further than #SMTLive).
But, for a business interested in launching a chat, what's the ROI?
As we've discovered, Twitter chats are often more than a brand awareness activity. They can also be a mechanism to:
- Complement your content strategy (and SEO) - By covering topics that align with your broader SEO plans and leveraging opportunities to share relevant content - for example fact sheets, case studies, infographics, and earned media - throughout the chat, you're broadening exposure to that content.
- Deliver enhanced CX - Given the real-time nature of Twitter chats, they provide an exceptional forum to engage customers and demonstrate that your company promotes transparency - and wants its customers to talk back.
- Build alliances and partnerships - One of the most meaningful, though initially unintended, benefits of these chats has been the opportunity to build new partnerships. In inviting other Twitter users to attend as featured panelists, we've given individuals an opportunity to further position themselves as experts in their fields, which has been a first step in creating more meaningful relationships with them. Anecdotally, it's through #ChatSTC that Level 3 and NCSA were first connected, and we've partnered closely on cybersecurity initiatives for over two years now. And this is just one example.
So, how do you ensure your Twitter chat becomes a success? Here are five tips:
1. Partner Up
Chats work best when there are other people to chat with. Once you've defined your subject, start by reaching out to individual subject matter experts and inviting them to participate in the chat as featured panelists. We recommend sourcing a minimum of one internal SME and five external SMEs to participate. And, since this is Twitter, we suggest evaluating panelists based not only on their existing expertise, but also on their existing Twitter footprints - number of followers, level of overall activity, etc.
2. Plan and Promote
Beyond defining your topic, organizing your panelists, and setting your schedule, there are a host of other planning points that go into a successful chat, including:
- The hashtag - Before picking the hashtag, do some research. Where possible, pick a hashtag that's both memorable and concise.
- Publicize the chat - This feels like a no-brainer, but besides shipping a few tweets to let your Twitter audience know the chat is coming, consider also adding visual content to accompany each and every post (and not just on Twitter). Here's an example from Level 3's last Twitter chat:
- Arm your featured panelists with social content - This enables them to easily share the details with their network. For example, NCSA sends proposed Tweets to its participants ahead of any upcoming chats (per below).
- Provide panelists with the list of questions beforehand - Chats aren't meant to be a test, so there's no cheating if the questions are passed around ahead of time. This gives panelists the opportunity to prepare, especially if you like to include emojis or GIFs in your Tweets (like we do).
- Put both paid and earned media behind your promotion plan - Consider activating Twitter ads, issuing a press announcement, or writing an article to help get the word out.
3. Make Time for Conversation
As host of the chat, the temptation is often to draft a bevy of questions in order to "keep the conversation moving." However, that can often leave those participating scrambling to keep up - or worse yet, it leaves little time for participants to interact with each other. We recommend a general chat outline as follows:
- 1-3 introductory tweets: Welcome, introduce featured panelists, and queue up the questions
- 6-8 total questions
- 1-3 wrap-up tweets: Thank featured panelists and participants, include a departing call-to-action (e.g. "watch for our wrap-up blog!"), and sign off.
4. Hit the Highlights
Within a few days of the chat, write a wrap-up blog. There are several out-of-the-box solutions to help you do this, but the bottom line is that it's an easy and effective way to tell the story for those who may have missed the live event.
Check out a few examples here:
- NSCA's #ChatSTC
- Level 3 Communication's #ChattheVote
- SAP's #TheWorldYouWantToLiveIn
- McGraw Hill's #SXSWHE
- Content Marketing Institute's #CMWorld
5. Evaluate Your Success
How were your engagement metrics impacted over the course of the chat? What hashtag data can you glean from your social listening tool? Who were your most engaged participants? Discover, learn, and adjust accordingly.
More than anything, Twitter chats are meant to be informative and fun - you can orchestrate a chat to rival the Boston Pops, but if no one's having fun, then you've missed the point.
Are we missing out on any good Twitter chats? Tweet us at @karawright and @sassymarketeer and let us know - these days, I'm particularly interested in finding a good chat about cat ownership.
This blog was written in collaboration with Kara Wright, Director of Digital Strategy, National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). Kara leads the wildly popular #ChatSTC on Twitter and tweets alongside other NCSA staff from @StaySafeOnline and @STOPTHNKCONNECT