How to Hold a Successful Twitter Chat

Host a Successful Twitter Chat

Marketing managers in the B2B space recently voted Twitter as the most useful social network for business. 93% of those participating in a survey said that they prefer the microblogging platform over any other social platform. This is no real surprise. Facebook has always been deemed to be a platform more suited to B2C, although for many B2B niches it is also useful.

When it comes to Facebook, it’s difficult to gain reach and you do have to put the work in. But recently, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the site had achieved one billion users in one day, so it’s definitely never worth dismissing Facebook out of hand. Considering that around one person in seven uses the site globally, some of your clients are sure to be on there.

To host any kind of community event on Facebook is relatively difficult, though. Twitter on the other hand is often host to organised chats by businesses of all sizes, in many industries. With that in mind, today we’ll be looking at what you need to do to hold a Twitter chat, considerations to bear in mind and how to make sure it’s a resounding success.

Why Host a Twitter Chat?

A Twitter chat gives you the opportunity to fully engage with your social audience. Social media is all about building relationships and that means that if you spend time doing more than just retweeting content, you’ll see your audience grow and become much more engaged.

Chat benefits also include:

  • Exposure for your company/brand
  • A boost for thought leadership for your brand
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Increase in followers and engagement
  • Connection with potential customers

Ideally then, the chat should boost awareness of your industry expertise, by sharing information and inviting your audience to do the same and discuss.

Start Research Early

As with many things in marketing, holding a Twitter chat takes planning. Whilst you can just announce on Twitter one morning that you’ll be holding a chat later, without planning you’re likely to be chatting mostly with yourself.

First of all, set yourself a date at some point in the future – a good month away at least. You can tie this date to events that might be in the news, such as an industry conference to boost interest. Do make sure that the event isn’t going to eclipse your own chat though.

You’ll need to research the following, in the first instance:

  • Chat subject/title – consider what your audience love when it comes to content and what provokes discussion. If you’re unsure, refer to your content marketing plan and check out analytics to discover what content your audience has engaged the most with. You should also take a look at other industry blogs – especially the most popular – to determine what the overall industry audience really connects with.
  • Best time – look carefully through your social analytics to determine what times of the day your audience engages with your content.
  • Influencers – identify key influencers in your niche with a view to getting them involved directly in the chat.
  • Questions – think about what you can ask the audience in order to spark discussion. Consider how you can structure these questions so that the audience has to give more full answers than yes or no.
  • Content – what content will you need to have on hand in order to answer any company-specific questions?
  • Personnel – who will host the chat? Will it be you and a key member of the product development team, for example? Or will it be you and an influencer? Think about who will be able to answer questions fully and with authority.
  • Marketing – think about how you will spread the word about the chat on Twitter and other channels. Consider too what hashtag you can use to further boost visibility on the day.

Putting in the research at this stage will pay off when it comes to the big day. You want to make sure that your subject matter is solid and something that resonates with your audience. Don’t leave anything to chance, but build the chat out on good foundations in order to ensure its success.

During the research phase, you should also look to participate in others’ chats too so that you can get yourself out there. Check out the Twchat Calendar to find upcoming chats and to ensure that on the day, your chat won’t clash with any from industry leaders. You can also take a look at Tweet Reports, which lists chats and allows you to add your own.

Identifying and Contacting Influencers

Getting an influencer in on the chat can really boost its visibility and authority. Many influencers have large audiences that they will involve in the chat too. To identify an authority in your niche, use tools such as Followerwonk or Buzzsumo (or your favourite tool).

You can then contact via Twitter or email to ask if they would be willing to participate.

Do make sure that you first familiarise yourself with the influencers work and do keep emails brief and to the point. Many influencers are hugely busy people and only check their mail a couple of times a day. Give them a week to reply and then follow up – don’t bother them though, if you don’t get a reply after a couple of mails, then move on.

In the initial mail, do include,

  • Date, time and subject of the chat
  • Why you think they would benefit/be suitable for the chat
  • A rough outline of the chat
  • Time necessary
  • How it will be marketed both before and after

Invite one main speaker if you want an influencer to add their expertise and further guest influencers to participate in the chat.

How Long Should it Last?

A good chat will need to have enough time between questions for the audience to respond. I’ve participated in a few chats where it’s been so fast moving that the next question is up before I’ve had time to respond to the previous one. This is frustrating to users, so allow around 15-20 minutes for each segment.

To help you with this, set up a schedule in the first instance. You can have some segments that are longer than others if you anticipate that certain questions will get a good response and provoke further discussion.

Your schedule should look something like this:

  • Introduction – 5-10 minutes
  • First question – 15-20 minutes
  • Second question (influencer) – 15-20 minutes
  • Questions from participants – 20-30 minutes
  • Wrapping up – 5-10 minutes

This is a rough guide and you can of course add further segments and make the chat longer. You don’t want it to go on for too long however, as it’s likely that you will lose followers and engagement if you do – the audience are likely to be busy professionals, so ensure that you spend their time well.

Choosing a Hashtag

Try to keep hashtags succinct and to the point. Longer hashtags are more difficult to read and take up too much room. Consider if your company name is well-known enough to withstand using it as a brand hashtag. If not, then think about how to craft a hashtag that resonates with the audience.

The hashtag mustn’t be used for anything else, so even if you use a brand hashtag, it will have to be unique – you can simply add ‘chat’ to the brand name however, such as #XenChat.

Following the chat, you can track and analyse your hashtag using a tool such as Hashtracking.

Spread the Word

At this stage, you should have everything in place. Your influencers should have agreed to the schedule and questions and all of the groundwork should have been undertaken. Don’t announce the chat to your followers too early on however, as busy people tend to forget and won’t attend. Instead, look to promote the chat 24 hours in advance. Announce it on Twitter itself and in your newsletters, as well as on the other social platforms that you use.

When promoting your chat, be sure to inform the audience as to why it will be useful and what they stand to gain when it comes to industry knowledge. A good title can convey this if you ensure that it is explicit about the subject matter.

The Big Day

As well as your influencers and guests, you will need at least one moderator to look through the questions so do ensure that these are set up and familiar with all of the necessary information.

To easily organise the stream by hashtag, you should look at using a tool. There are plenty out there that can help, such as:

  • Hootsuite – allows you to add a stream, search for the hashtag and then monitor and moderate the chat from within the Hootsuite dashboard.
  • TweetChat – use to filter the chat conversation by hashtag using this, which will need to be authenticated through your Twitter account. You can also tweet from within TweetChat and it will automatically add the hashtag to each tweet. You can also filter out retweets and block spam accounts.

Find further details of tools for helping you to manage your chat on Brandwatch.

Ready to Go?

You should already have an outline to work from which you and your selected influencers should all have a copy of. Once you’re ready to go, announce the chat about five minutes from the start and introduce the hashtag.

Then it’s just a case of starting the chat and introducing your participating guests before moving on with the main content.

Remember at the end of the chat to thank your guests and your audience and give further information on any plans you have for the content. By this, I mean that you can use the chat itself to create a blog post, webinar, slideshow or even a whitepaper/report. This will ensure that the chat gains further reach and brings additional value to the brand.

You should also now give details of any further chats that you plan to hold in the future.

Tracking Your Campaign

Like any marketing activity, it’s useful to track your chat to understand the impact that it’s had on both your audience and your brand.

You should look at:

  1. Reach
  2. Engagement
  3. Outcome (leads, sales, brand awareness)

When it comes to the latter, you should have already defined your goals for the chat in the first instance in order for you to be able to measure them effectively.

For tracking, check out this list of analytics tools to help you.

The Results

Your very first Twitter chat can be difficult when it comes to getting people to participate. However, with good planning, research and guests, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a resounding success. The outcome of this chat will help you to determine whether it’s worth holding another one.

Make sure that you remain in contact with the influencers who have participated and inform them of any further related content. You can even plan to hold a webinar based on the questions brought up in the chat and ask the influencers to participate in this too. This will ensure that you boost reach further as the influencers will share additional content with their own audience too.

If you want to connect an offer with the chat, you can set up a special landing page which you give out the URL for at the end of the chat. This can be a ‘thank you for participating’ offer in the form of a voucher, a download or even a competition entry. This will also then allow you to collect email addresses as the landing page should contain an email entry field that needs to be filled in for the user to collect the promotion.

Twitter chats can be great for really connecting with your followers and to boost expertise and brand awareness. Plan yours well and you should find that you increase followers and engagement, as well as forge new and useful relationships.

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Kerry Butters

A prolific technology writer, Kerry was an authority in her field and produced content for a variety of high profile sites in her niche. Also a published author, she adored the written word and all things tech and internet related. Sadly she passed away in February 2016 after a valiant battle with cancer.