Twitter Chats explained: How to take part & how to run them

It’s estimated that every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter. That’s a massive 350,000 per minute, equivalent to 518 million tweets per day!

So how exactly do we cut through this noise as marketers or should we give up and retreat to other social media platforms?

In this guest article, Cathy Wassell, founder of Socially Contented, shares why we should participate in Twitter Chats and how we can both take part and run them.


Twitter Chats Explained: How to Take Part & How to Run Them

What are Twitter Chats?

Twitter chats are a great way to build a community. You’ve probably seen the hashtags that suddenly populate your timeline at a particular hour? #TwitterSmarter, #NorthLondonHour, #WeddingHour.

What does it all mean?

Well, the hashtags are a means of pulling a group of like-minded people together for an hour. At best they will chat and have meaningful conversations about the topic, which will foster a sense of community. At worst it just brings people together to spout spam at each other.

While there is no requirement to register Twitter chats in any one place, you can find a great list of Twitter Chats over at twubs.com.

How do Twitter Chats work?

A Twitter Chat is designated by the hashtag, which needs to be added to every post, and it takes place at a designated time. Often this is once a week, but sometimes less frequently.

The chat will have a moderator who may provide the questions, which will be asked in advance so that you can be prepared and have any images you might need ready.

It’s usually best for a chat to have some structure, and it’s useful to ask participants to indicate which question they are answering. Often this means questions are in the format Q1, Q2, Q3 and answers have the prefix A1, A2, A3 etc. When this doesn’t happen chaos can ensue.

Why take part in Twitter Chats?

A good Twitter chat that fosters meaningful conversations can be beneficial for brand and individual alike. It can grow your social media following, show your audience your new and useful content and put you in touch with other people who have much in common with you.

It can also provide you with useful content and grow your potential to be known for thought leadership within an audience that generally knows their stuff. As long as you know your stuff of course!

Are you thinking about starting your own Twitter Chat?

As a brand, a Twitter Chat can bring opportunities to connect with potential customers in ways that just aren’t possible elsewhere. Participating can help to build relationships with valuable influencers in your sector and those who may be interested in your products or services. It can also help to establish you or your employees as influencers.

But remember this is not the time to start selling. Let your helpful answers do the talking, and that will build the authority of your brand. As the numbers taking part gradually grow each time, your brand will benefit from increased brand awareness with the engagement on Twitter.

Things to consider before you jump in and start your own Twitter Chat:

  • Running a Twitter Chat can be time-consuming. As well as setting it up you will need to spend a long time in the beginning promoting it to avoid just chatting with yourself. Even once it has got going, you need to continue promoting it and think up the questions to give it structure each time.
  • Most Twitter Chats are in the evening so you may need to give up valuable family time in order to run it.
  • Is your brand right to run a Twitter Chat? Consider carefully if your brand is one that might attract negative posts. A Twitter Chat is the format for opinions, so don’t venture into this territory if you don’t want them expressed!
  • Does a Twitter Chat support your overall social media marketing strategy and goals?
  • Do you have a clear idea of what you want your Twitter Chat to accomplish and how you are going to reach that goal?

Twitter Chats Explained: How to Take Part & How to Run Them

Do your research

Before starting, give yourself some practice and eye up the competition at the same time. Participate in twitter chats in your industry, your locality and wider business ones too.

Some of them are extremely fast-moving and will give you a taste of what it’s like to moderate a busy Twitter Hour. It will also mean you may get people willing to spread the love and come along to your Twitter Chat when it launches.

The hashtag

If you spot a gap in the market and would like to start your own Twitter Chat, the first thing you need to do is choose a hashtag and make sure it’s not  already in use.

Keep it simple, and make sure it is still readable as a hashtag and the words don’t run together to make it difficult to read.

Twitter posts only allow 140 characters so keep your hashtag relatively short to leave space for the valuable posts. Don’t choose acronyms that won’t mean anything to a wider audience.

Timing

Then fix a time and regular spot for your twitter chat (weekly, bi-monthly or monthly) and start spreading the word.

When fixing a time consider the time zone of your main audience segment, and whether you are competing against other busy Twitter Chats. You may need to beg everyone you know to come along at first so there is something going on!

Promotion

When you first start a Twitter Chat you are going to need to hustle. Hopefully you have some contacts and can invite them using their Twitter handles (using personalised, and not spammy invitations), but you are also going to need to schedule regular posts advertising the fact that it is happening and perhaps sharing the questions that can be expected too.

It helps to have created some valuable content around the subject of your upcoming Twitter Chat too, as promoting this will help with promoting the chat.

Your first Twitter Chat

The big day has arrived and you are probably worried that nobody is going to turn up, but if you’ve done your promotion properly you won’t be chasing tumble weed!

First welcome everyone and ask them to introduce themselves. Some of your tweets can be scheduled to give yourself time for interaction and ensure that you don’t forget to post any of the questions.

After that introduce a new question every 10 minutes or so.

Retweet and like as you go and try to get involved with a few of the really good answers. Delve deeper into these replies to encourage further engagement and chat around the subject.

Whether you are running the chat or just participating , you will need to either use Hootsuite or open multiple tabs to fully understand what’s going on. One stream/tab will be for the hashtag itself, on Latest Posts so that it keeps refreshing. One will be for your notifications so that you can engage and retweet. And if you are participating you will either need a tab open on the organiser’s page or to use something like TweetChat (http://tweetchat.com/) to see the questions as they appear.

Be aware if you go through the latter you won’t be able to see GIFs, which are often popular on Tweet Chats.

Closing the chat

At the designated time, thank everyone for participating and close the chat. You may want to announce the topic for the next chat.

People usually hang around for a while but try not to engage too much after the official time has ended.

After the chat

It’s finished and you can relax, but your work is not quite over. In order to see how successful your chat was, you will need to take a look at the metrics.

Decide what you want to measure and track these over time so that you can see if engagement improves. It can also serve to highlight areas that may benefit from improvement.

The next day you may want to create a summary of your chat using Storify. You can also use particularly good posts as future tweetables @mentioning the relevant influencers.

In summary

As you can see, a Twitter Chat is not an easy option but it can be great way to create a community and to get closer to your audience. Give one a try!

Your turn

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic too.

  • Have you participated in a Twitter Chat?  What was your own experience of being a participant?
  • Do you run your own Twitter Chat or are you considering starting one?

Please share your experiences below and feel free to ask if you have any questions.

Related Content:


About Cathy Wassell

Twitter Chats Explained: How to Take Part & How to Run Them Cathy Wassell Guest BlogCathy Wassell helps businesses with social media strategy and management at Socially Contented, a social media consultancy.

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About Vicky Gunn

Beach addict and crazy spaniel mum (thanks to Millie), I love helping others create memories. Founder of Millie's Lifestyle and avid blogger - life would be boring doing just one thing. Wouldn't it?!?!?