If you’re using Twitter for business and you spend a decent chunk of your time marketing on Twitter (as we suggest you do), you’ve likely come across an organized Twitter chat. When done well, Twitter chats can generate a ton of social engagement, increase your following and maybe even propel you into the role of being a trend-setting thought leader within your industry. Done poorly, and you could actually damage the value of your brand. This guide is designed to help you become a master Twitter chat organizer in 10 simple — but important — steps.
You say you’re a total newb? No worries. We’re here to help, not judge, so let’s start with a couple basic definitions:
Twitter Chat – A public conversation on Twitter that takes place at a designated time, usually on a specific topic, and is tied together by participants using a common, unique hashtag.
Twitter Party – Basically the same thing as a Twitter chat, the term “Twitter party” has become more vogue in certain circles (think mommy bloggers, contest pros, etc.).
The two terms are often used interchangeably, with the Twitter party usually having the additional element of prize giveaways — a smart incentive if you’re hoping to draw a large, active crowd out of the gate. But whether you refer to your event as a Twitter chat or a Twitter party, the steps to preparing and hosting will remain the same.
Preparing for Your Twitter Chat
1. Choose a Hashtag – While it’s not the only social channel to utilize the hashtag, it is more important when marketing on Twitter than on any other social network. Any time you’re using Twitter for business, selecting an appropriate hashtag is key — and it’s never more crucial than when prepping for your company’s Twitter chat. Think of it as the invitation or password to your party. As stressful as it might seem, having the right hashtag might just make or break your Twitter chat. In order to make sure your hashtag is a boon to your chat, follow these four steps:
- Make sure it’s relevant to your brand – Many chat hosts use all or part of their company’s name in the tag for further branding. There's a fine line between being relevant and being too salesy, and you should make sure to stay on the right side of it.
- Keep it short & snappy – Keep your tag brief enough so that it will leave plenty of room for your chat participants to compose meaningful Tweets (remember, the hashtag will appear in every Tweet during the chat)
- Make it easy to remember and type – You want to make sure your Twitter chat is fun and easy for your guests and the tag should reflect that. If users misspell your hashtag, their Tweet won’t be seen by others who are following the chat. That’s bad, as your guests will quickly lose interest in a Twitter chat that doesn’t result in quick engagement.
- Don’t step on anyone’s toes – Above all else, never assume your hashtag is unique until you’ve thoroughly searched for it on Twitter and sites like hashtagify.me. You need to be 100% certain that the tag you’re promoting isn’t being used by others, as this type of mistake can create brand confusion, embarrassment and possible legal action.
2. Select a Well-Rounded Twitter Chat Topic – One common mistake people make when using Twitter for business is selecting Twitter chat topics that are boring or too specialized to encourage participation from those outside of their niche.
While it’s important to demonstrate your expertise, it’s also smart to seek converts outside of your inner circle when marketing on Twitter. One way to do this is to make the topic of your first Twitter chat something of a “101" level. This will encourage new followers, and the idly curious, who may be too intimidated to participate in a conversation that requires guru-like knowledge of the topic at hand.
3. Write Compelling Questions – Most Twitter chats are of the Q&A variety, so it’s imperative to compose your questions in a way that will encourage engagement from participants and lead the discussion in the direction you want it to go. A general rule of thumb is to write about 10 questions initially that can be pared down to seven or eight.
Eight questions asked over the course of an hour is usually enough to allow ample time for answers and discussions between questions. It’s good to have a few “bonus questions” up your sleeve in case any of your main questions fail to elicit a reaction from the chat participants. When you’re marketing on Twitter, few things are more brutal than having your Tweets ignored as they float around in the vast void of Internet space dedicated to things that nobody cares about. Preparing some backup questions might get you out of a scrape when you need to pivot quickly.
4. Plan & Share Your Questions – Assuming you’ll be having some special guest co-hosts or moderators (a great idea as we’ll explain in point #6), allow them and others on your social media team to see and comment on the questions well in advance of the chat. This will give co-hosts time to prepare answers that fit the character limitations, as well as shrink any links they may want to share. Sure, the chat should maintain a live feel, but not everyone thinks (or writes) well on their toes. A combination of thought-out responses and off-the-cuff remarks are safer bet than hoping everyone can quickly and eloquently Tweet their thoughts in the fast-paced environment of a Twitter chat.
Share all of the info about your Twitter chat on a shared Google Doc with the other people that will be helping you admin the event. This doc can include pre-written, numbered Q&A Tweets, shrunken links to relevant pages, optimally-sized images, and some talking points so that you won’t forget everything you’re trying to convey in the hour-long conversation.
5. Promote Your Twitter Chat – The first thing you’ll want to do is write a short article about your Twitter chat (including the hashtag, date, time and topic) and post it on your blog. This gives you a new landing page to promote and drive traffic to via your social channels. Mention your Twitter chat on all of your social media pages every day leading up to the event and create a custom graphic to get more attention for your posts. Sites like Canva offer excellent pre-measured templates to make pro-looking designs quickly and for free.
If you’ll be offering prizes during your Twitter party, you’ll also want to promote on sweepstakes sites like freestuff.com and online-sweepstakes.com. Once word gets out that you’re having a giveaway in conjunction with your Twitter party, similar contest sites will pick up the lead and help you promote the event to their readers as well.
How To Keep Your Twitter Chat Running Smoothly
6. Plan for Success (but Prepare for Disaster) – Remember that time you were enjoying your favorite show on Netflix and the Internet bumped you offline? Annoying, right? Now imagine that same Internet provider shutting down four minutes into your world reknowned Twitter chat! Planning for such a technical tragedy will ensure that your show will go on, regardless of how many bars the Wi-Fi gods bestow upon you when it’s go-time. To prevent an unfortunate bout of radio silence from taking over your Twitter chat, make sure to run your chat with a partner who is Tweeting from a different location (or at least running off of a different internet connection).
Stay in constant contact with this chat assistant before, during and after the chat. Skype, Google Hangout or speakerphone contact will set you both at ease and could come in handy for real-time instructions since your hands (and theirs) will be busy typing, copying, pasting and searching during the Twitter chat. This vocal partnership could include something as simple as “Hey, we’re getting a lot of engagement from so and so, can you retweet her while I look for the link I want to respond to the last person with?”
This lifeline of yours could really save the day if your browser crashes or you experience a power outage. That’s when the speakerphone part of your plan could include instructions like, “Okay, I’m not able to log in, be sure to copy and paste the questions from our Google doc into Tweetchat.com every 3-5 minutes. I’ll let you know once I’m back online.”
7. Pace Yourself – The key to an enjoyable user experience for your Twitter chat guests is controlling the flow of information that they view on their feed. On smaller chats with only a handful of participants you might need to space your questions out and try to elaborate on responses to keep the conversation moving. If, however, your Twitter chat or Twitter party is sizable (say 50-100 participants) the responses can fly at a dizzying pace.
You’ll need to stay in control of the Q&A to keep things on schedule and occasionally reel in the conversation if it goes down too many unproductive rabbit holes. With that said, allow participants to be themselves as humor can be the main ingredient of an enjoyable Twitter party with return guests.
8. Use Tweetchat.com – While there's nothing inherently wrong with using Twitter directly to manage your chat, your life will be made a lot easier if you adopt a third-party Twitter app. One of the best is Tweetchat.com. Here’s why:
- It’s free!
- It allows you to create a “Chat Room” (holler if you remember AOL!) where you and your participants only see the Tweets from your chat without the distractions you may encounter on your Twitter page.
- It automatically adds your hashtag at the end of each Tweet while still providing you with the other Twitter tools such as retweet, comment, fave and character count.
Keeping the Momentum Going
9. Follow Up On Progress Using Hashtracking.com – Once again, there are several services that allow you to summarize the chat based around your hashtag, but hashtracking.com provides a robust asssortment of tools to easily calculate your ROI (something everyone who is using Twitter for business should be measuring). Hashtracking.com offers free trials, and once you subscribe, you’ll be able to see:
- In-depth reports of all engagement (number of Tweets, timeline deliveries, participants, reach, etc.)
- Useful graphs and charts to share with your clients
- Buzzwords related to your Twitter chat to help you understand your market (and to help you plan your next chat)
- A transcript of the Twitter chat — something that could be useful for your own evaluation after the chat ends and could also be used as content for a blog post about your Twitter party
10. Reward Your Guests – Remember when you’d leave your friend's birthday party as a kid and some thoughtful parent handed you a little goodie bag on the way out? Even if the prizes were totally lame (and they usually were) it left you with positive feelings of your party experience and hosts. Twitter parties are similar in that your guests will appreciate a parting gift (or at least a chance to win one) even if the reward seems small to you. The truth is, some of your guests may only be there for the prizes. While this may leave you feeling used or like you’ve missed your target audience, it shouldn’t. Even those who are just attending your Twitter chat for free swag will provide a valuable service in helping you increase your reach by sending out retweets to their (often large) followings.
The prizes that you offer should be relevant to your business and be clearly explained and showcased in your blog post about the Twitter chat. You should also be clear about any age or country restrictions for winning and the means by which winners are selected (e.g.: randomly, by most retweets, most engagement, etc.).
Once your Twitter chat wraps up, select your prize winners and contact them quickly to get their addresses. In the pre-promotion, you should've reminded people to follow you on Twitter so that you can contact them for more info if they win. This boosts your following and makes chat follow up go much faster.
Be sure to ask your winners to Tweet an announcement that they’ve won and then again when they receive their prize, preferably tagging any giveaway partners. This way your Twitter chat hashtag gets even more reach, you’ve got fun content to share on all of your social media platforms and you’ve got valuable incentive to attract more participants to your next chat.
Our Twitter Marketing Toolkit
If you're planning on using Twitter for more than just a chat here or there, we suggest you get familiar with our favorite Twitter tools. While we've already gone over a few of these, all of them deserve your attention.
- Hashtagify.me — As mentioned earlier, Hashtagify.me allows you to analyze and search for hashtags. Not only can it show you what's currently trending, but it can give you a list of patterns that you can take advantage of, regardless of if you are planning a Twitter chat or you're just looking to expand your social media presence.
- Hootsuite — Hootsuite allows you to manage multiple social media networks inside one window. That way, there's no need to juggle ten different windows when you're trying to monitor all of your social accounts.
- Tweetchat.com — Tweetchat allows you to easily create spaces to monitor your Twitter chat, making it easy to monitor who is saying what.
- Hashtracking.com — Hashtracking is a more streamlined, yet more analytic-focused site that is similar to Hashtagify.me. Hashtracking also allows you to monitor your efforts over time, allowing you to pinpoint which Twitter (or Instagram) campaigns are working best.
- Google Docs — Google Docs almost needs no explaining — as a colobrative tool, you can't do better (especially since Google Docs is free!). If you plan on collaborating with partners while running your Twitter chat (or just your social media channels in general), then it's a good idea to take full advantage of Google Docs.
- Canva.com — If you're serious about using Twitter for business, you need to make sure the images you post are high quality. After all, if it looks like some lazy intern made all of your graphics in Paint, you're going to have some trouble expanding your influence. Canva allows you to make professional-looking grapics with an easy to use WYSIWYG editor — no art degree required.
- FreeStuff.com + Online-Sweepstakes.com — If you're looking for some free stuff to give away during your Twitter chat, there's no better way to create a stash than these two sites.
- Skype — Finally, you're going to need to keep connected if you're partnering with anyone else during your Twitter chat. We strongly suggest that, in addition to a cell phone, you also have Skype running. Remember: you want as much redundancy as you can handle, as it'll prevent a tech issue from causing your chat to go up in flames.
If you're planning on using Twitter for business, you should plan on having a Twitter chat on a fairly routine basis. Typically, your results will snowball over time as your Twitter network expands — and as your network grows, your reach will exponentially increase. Once you have a few chats in the bank, you'll be able to easily graph what works and what doesn't, allowing you to finely hone your social media strategies — and hopefully attract plenty of new business.
Do you have any Twitter tips that might help businesses expand their reach? Let us know in the comments! Likewise, don't forget to follow us on Twitter: @ContentFac