As a social media marketer, you're aware of the impact Twitter can have on a brand's success. We've all seen (or maybe even been a part of) some Twitter conversation with a brand that spreads like wildfire. Think about Wendy's big moment last year with #NugsForCarter. Everyone remembers that moment as a hilarious (and brilliant) marketing win for Wendy's.
Although those one-off moments are rarely planned, they show the impact that a brand-to-customer interaction on Twitter can have. And like these viral moments, Twitter chats can generate a similar sort of buzz within your specific follower community.
Why host a Twitter chat, you ask?
If you're at all interested in being a thought leader, generating engagement, growing your following, building community relationships and simply stepping up your Twitter game, hosting a Twitter chat is an easy way to achieve all those goals.
Twitter might not be the #1 social network out there, but when it comes to cultivating conversation and engagement, Twitter is king. It's time to take the reigns and be the one leading those conversations.
All that being said, if you're a smaller business (or even an individual looking to grow your personal brand) you can't just decide one day to host a chat hope #fingerscrossed people show up. You'll need to put in a little work.
So how do you begin to prepare and eventually host a Twitter chat? There are 8 major keys you need to remember when planning your first chat.
8 Steps to Running a Twitter Chat
Chose a host: Are you going to be the voice of this chat or are you planning the chat for your boss or your company? Will you be working with an influencer or hosting solo? Either way, you will need to decide which account you will be hosting from because every Twitter chat needs a leader.
Example: I run Social Media Today's #SMTLive Twitter chat's on our company Twitter account. So in this case, @socialmedia2day is the host and occasionally we collaborate with influencers in the space to help lead more niche chats.
- Select a hashtag: Sounds simple, but this is probably the most difficult part. Choosing the wrong hashtag is the worst mistake you can make. Do thorough research to make sure you don't pick a controversial hashtag or aren't jumping onto another well-established thread. I see this all the time — when a company doesn't do their research, it's not only embarrassing but confusing to your audience.
Example: I often see other companies trying to start conversations and share their own content (that is not at all related to digital marketing) using the hashtag #SMTLive. As you may guess, none of these efforts take off. Do your research!
- Choose a time and day: This is important because you need to decide on a time and day that work best for your audience. Make sure you pick a time you know people will be available and interested. If this is going to be a recurring chat, make sure you get a schedule in place that everyone can remember.
Example: Because the majority of Social Media Today's audience lives in the US (heavily on the east coast), plus the fact that our topics all cover social media business strategies, #SMTLive runs every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month at 12pm EDT (east coast lunch time and west coast morning coffee time).
- Create a schedule: (This is only for recurring chats. If you are only trying to host one chat, skip to the next.) This goes hand in hand with your time and day. You will need to build a schedule for your followers AND yourself.
Example: To remind everyone of the schedule, I created an #SMTLive landing page with all the information for upcoming chats. I also have my own schedule with a checklist for social media promotions, newsletter reminders, etc. for the week leading up to the chat.
- Decide on a topic: What are you going to talk about? It can literally be anything (as long as it aligns with your brand image, is something you're qualified to discuss, generates interest among your following, has the potential to interest others in the industry, and meets your general social media engagement goals). So think about topics in your space, do some Googling and stalk your followers to see what chats they're interested in.
Pro-tip: After you've run your first chat, ask your participants what they would like to talk about next time. This reminds them that this is an ongoing chat and helps you understand better what topics they are interested in being a part of.
- Prepare questions and answers: The chat should be more than 30 minutes, but less than 90 minutes. This gives people time to jump in and jump out, so depending on your topic and on how long your chat is, you should have questions (and a few responses) prepared. I usually give 7-10 minutes for each question to take off because the hope is that each question sparks a discussion. Write questions that get people thinking and evoke a response more in depth than just "yes" or "no". Also, having a few responses prepared doesn't mean you need to use them, but can help you during lulls to ignite the conversation and steer it back on track.
Note: Nothing brings me more joy during a Twitter chat than when two or three participants run off on a separate thread sharing their struggles and advice with each other.
Thank you for joining the chat today! And we love seeing you all making friends :) pic.twitter.com/Ig4Ta73qge— Social Media Today (@socialmedia2day) July 25, 2017
- Start promoting: You have to get the word out now. Nothing is worse than going through all the prep of a Twitter chat and having nobody show up. The entire point is real-time conversation and engagement, and you cant accomplish that on your own. Promote on all your channels (not just Twitter). Start reminding people at least a week before and keep those reminders coming. Tweet a countdown and ask your followers to share on their accounts.
Pro-tip: Send out a calendar reminder or create a Facebook event so that people who show interest are reminded the day-of with a notification from Facebook or their calendar.
- Run a Twitter chat: Remind your audience a few minutes before the chat that you are starting your #NewTwitterChat. When you begin, post your questions (probably in a social graphic form) in order and numbered (Q1, Q2, Q3, etc.). Don't forget to use your hashtag! This seems painfully obvious, but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't made that mistake before. Be well-versed in the topic you're discussing and ready to respond to everyone — yes, everyone. Try and show your audience you care and prove that you are listening. Respond to people, ask more questions, like and retweet your favorites, have fun! Your engagement matters just as much as your participants.
After your first chat, give yourself a pat on the back. Your first time managing a chat can be a little scary, but soon it'll feel natural.
It isn't necessary to do a recap, but I always do a write up on Storify to share the highlights from the chat for participants and for those who couldn't make it. Here's an example of my last chat recap: How to Improve Your Facebook Organic Reach & Engagement [#SMTLive Recap].
Check hashtag analytics to see your engagement numbers. If you pay for a social media management system, you can export analytics there or use free tools to get basic analytics. I've used a variety of free tools such as Keyhole and Hashtracking to see how many people showed up and measure our reach. It's rare that your first chat will generate the type of engagement you're looking for, but use those numbers as a benchmark for future chats. Measure progress like any other social media campaign; if over time these chats improve engagement and help build your Twitter community, then you've just discovered a fun and easy new strategy for community growth and management.