By Sue Brady
First a definition. A Twitter Chat is an online gathering of a variety of folks who are interested in discussing a particular topic. The successful Chats are regularly held so that someone interested in your topic knows that every Tuesday at noon for instance, they should tune in. The conversation is tied together through the use of a unique hashtag that makes the chat trackable (by participants).
In a Twitter Chat, the conversation is ongoing, meaning that a question is posed and multiple people will send through tweets that answer that question. You’ll see side conversations as well. My favorite Twitter Chat is #cmworld. If you do a search for that on Twitter, you’ll be able to see some of the chats.
Twitter chats are useful on a number of levels:
They are a great way to learn about a particular topic.
They can position you as a thought leader.
They are a great way to identify potential prospects for your company.
If you are in need of a product related to the chat, it’s a way to connect with others who might be able to help you with recommendations.
- Decide on your topic.
- Create a hashtag to identify your chat. Short and easy is best. This hashtag is used by the chat participants so that their answers/questions are viewable by those participating, so you want the hashtag to be easy to type and also unique to you.
- Figure out when to host it, keeping all time zones in mind. And also check that there isn’t a similar chat happening at the same time. You’ll want to do some research to try to find other chats that already occur on similar topics so that you can avoid those times.
- Post the chat on a Twitter Chat schedule. This one is a good source: http://tweetreports.com/twitter-chat-schedule/
- Write 8 – 10 pre-determined questions and post them in advance.
- Ask someone to be a subject matter expert (this can be you, someone else in your company, or someone else entirely). They should have the questions in advance and have pre-written answers.
- Make sure you know how to find your audience to invite them to the chat.
- Search for related hashtags, find folks using them and send them a Twitter message about your chat.
- Reach out to others in your field to see if they can help you spread the word.
6. Take a look at the various tools you can use to keep track of your chat when it’s in progress. You can use Twitter, but it can be hard to follow the conversation only there. I like Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck allows you to see all posts on your hashtag, alongside notifications that you might want to respond to. Tweetdeck is owned by Twitter and you use your Twitter account to sign in. You might also think about having someone help you to monitor a few different screens, because chats can be fast and furious.
What to remember when starting your chat:
At the start of the chat, remind participants of the general format:
- State the number of questions.
- Remind participants that when answering a question, they should precede their answer with A1, A2 etc. (meaning Answer for question 1, 2 etc.).
- Remind participants to always use the identified hashtag in their tweets.
- Introduce your host and mention their credentials.
- Ask participants to introduce themselves.
- It’s nice to acknowledge some of your participants with either a ‘thank you for joining our chat today’ or ‘hope you aren’t getting too much snow today.’ You get the idea.
- Post the first question. Make sure you give a few seconds for participants to start responding before the host posts their response.
- Have the host respond to questions that pop-up. The community will chime in, but your host should be able to chime it too.
- When you see answers to the first question start to slow, or to get a derailed chat back on track, post the next question.
- At the end of the chat, thank everyone for attending.
After it’s over, post a transcript from the chat on your website or blog (it’s great for SEO too!). Before your next chat, send reminders via Twitter to those that participated. Happy chatting!