You know those get-togethers where you’re all crammed into a tiny room, and everyone is yelling over each other?
Well, sometimes Twitter can feel like that.
It is loud. It is crowded. It is unfocused.
(Basically, it’s a lot.)
But Twitter chats allow you to carve out your own corner of the couch for the conversations you want – a secluded little spot where you can connect with others who share your interests.
If your own cozy corner sounds inviting, read on, party-goer…
What’s a Twitter chat?
A Twitter chat (or Twitter party, or Tweet chat) is a conversation led by an individual or organization around a unique hashtag and topic. The chat goes down at a specified (and often reoccurring) day and time.
They go down live, but that doesn’t mean they’re a free fall. While there might be an occasional rogue participant blasting off random streams of consciousness – or even the occasional troll – a reputable Twitter chat has structure.
It’s the moderator’s job to tease out questions related to the chat topic, and to keep the convo in check.
Okay, what’s in it for me?
Whether you are participating in an existing chat or hosting your own, the benefits are as solid as they come:
- Gain followers: Attract the right kind of followers – the active and engaged rockstars of the community.
- Feed your brain: Throw yourself into the belly of the market and walk away with firsthand market feedback. You can’t buy this kind of info!
- Show off: Build authority and tout your thought leadership skillzzzz. Don’t forget to get your team involved. Regardless of the social media channel, your people are often your greatest advocates.
- Make friends: Network and make connections in a non-door-to-door or cold-call kinda way. Attendees are leaning in, eager, participating, and engaged. Heck, half the work is already done!
There are two ways to get involved: join existing chats or host your own.
Let’s learn more about ’em!
Joining an existing Twitter chat
If you’re a newbie to the Twitter chat, we highly recommend starting as a participant and working your way up to running your own chat (more on hosting them later).
How do you participate in (and rock) someone else’s Twitter chat?
First things first – get out there and find some chats!
There’s no sign-up or invite needed to join a chat. You just show up – but first, you’ve gotta figure out where you’re going.
Twitter doesn’t have a “chat” section, but you can quickly locate chats of interest.
- Scan the feeds of industry leaders and peers. What chats are they promoting or participating in?
- Ask for recommendations. Ask your direct network, but expand your reach by poking around on forums like LinkedIn and Facebook Groups, or Quora.
- Discover category or industry specific events with a third party chat directory.
Focus on chats that’ll help you achieve your company goals and the benefits bulleted out above (you did read those, right?).
You only have so much time in the day, so make your involvement worthwhile!
Okey-dokey – you found some chats. Now what?
Jump in and get chattin’ with these tips in mind:
- Study up: You should know the topic in advance, so do research and come armed with a point of view, questions, and challenges. Despite the live environment, set yourself up for success.
- Break the ice: Who’s talking about the upcoming chat? Any regulars? Chat these people up BEFORE the scheduled event. If participants are already familiar with you, they are more likely to pay attention to your responses, follow you, and become a real connection (the living, breathing, engaging kind).
- Stand out: Remember to use the hashtag associated with the chat for all Tweets and retweets. Otherwise, peeps won’t know you’re part of the convo! Find ways to shine. Come prepared with graphics, images, gifs, quotes, and linkable articles to help you break through the noise. Experiment with free tools that make creating visuals super easy.
- Focus on the guests (not just the host): The moderator will tweet questions that you should field, but don’t neglect participant inquiries. Answer their questions as well. If you don’t know the answer, connect the guest with someone that can via an @-mention. Don’t forget to retweet your fave comments and follow up with the major players after the chat concludes.
- Be a resource: A great salesperson does absolutely zero selling (or at least makes you think that). If you provide answers, insights, and actionable advice, you’ll eventually cash in a crucial currency – their trust.
The more chats you participate in, the more you’ll learn – and the more you’ll strengthen new and existing connections!
If people like what they see from your participation, they will advocate for and participate in your own hosted chats. Plus, you’ll have built up a whole arsenal of do’s and don’ts to put into action when you decide to take the stage (or return to it).
Hosting your own Twitter chat
You’re amped up! You’re ready to dive in!
We heart the enthusiasm, but before you go all gangbusters on the chat scene, lay some groundwork.
1. Set goals: What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to reach? How will you define success? Goals aren’t just for measuring how awesome your chat was after it wraps. They also help you focus your efforts, strategize, and hold yourself and your team accountable.
2. Brainstorm theme: Pick an overarching theme that corresponds with your business. If you’re a small business coach, perhaps focusing on tips and tricks that help these businesses succeed makes sense. Although niche-specific, your theme should be open-ended enough to allow for a variety of chat topics. If you’re hosting on the regular, you don’t want to exhaust your topics in the first or second go!
3. “Claim” a hashtag: Your theme and hashtag go hand in hand. Pick a hashtag that’s self-explanatory, related to your theme, concise, and up for grabs. You can’t stop peeps outside of your chats from using the hashtag, but you can claim unofficial ownership of a hashtag through consistent use, promotion, and lots of hashtag activity!
4. Sketch out a loose editorial calendar: Schedule out your chat topics in advance (assuming this is a reoccurring chat event). You’ll be amazed how new ideas will pop up during chats or participants even request topics. Crowdsource ideas from your internal team of brainiacs, check out what people are rumblin’ about on social media (we love LinkedIn Groups for this!), and ask your sales or customer service teams what they hear on the ground.
5. Prep questions: Alrighty, Question Master! Head into your scheduled chat with a variety of questions queued up. Agility is the name of the game, so be prepared to pivot if needed. Remember this is a conversation, not a rigid line of questioning. Lead with open-ended, compelling questions and carefully guide the conversation.
6. Pick a time and date: Experiment with days of the week and times that work for your audience. Keep time zones, holidays, and work schedules in mind!
7. Promote, promote, promote: Schedule and automate social media posts to build excitement for your chats (Edgar can help!). Announce special guests, tease out reminders, distribute related content, and include highlights from previous chats. Whether via email, podcast, networking event, or brand advocate, GET THE WORD OUT. We also recommend building a dedicated landing page that contains upcoming and archived chats for easy reference.
8. Line up a chat tool: Unfortunately, the native Twitter app doesn’t make chat management all that easy. A convo can quickly get legs of its own if the moderator doesn’t have a firm handle on things. Fortunately, there are loads of tools that make hosting (and participating) in chats easier. Give Tchat.io, Tweetchat, or Twitterfall a whirl.
9. Go live: Get fueled up on coffee, check your wi-fi, and go! Oh wait, but first, a quick refresher on the recommended rules of operation:
- Be a good host: This is your house (well, your rented Twitter property), so be welcoming. Tee up an intro Tweet at the exact start time, welcoming people and introducing the chat. An icebreaker can help get people warmed up (hey, we all like a few warm-up rolls at the bowling alley, right?).
- Guide the convo: The host’s job is to move the conversation along, recalibrate focus when things get off track, and keep participants engaged. Pump out your questions strategically – every five to 10 minutes is typical. Over time, you’ll learn how many questions you need each chat. We see anywhere from six moderator questions all the way up to 12.
- Engage: Create an enjoyable, informative, and collaborative atmosphere. As head honcho of this party, you should reply to people, ask for clarifications, push notable comments to the top via a retweet, and connect participants.
If you don’t break a sweat, you aren’t engaging hard enough – just kidding, you’ll be a pro in no time!
10. Learn, iterate, and improve: Whether this is your first or fiftieth chat, there’s always room for improvement. After the chat concludes, ask yourself and your team these questions:
- What was good?
- What could we do better?
- What was so incredibly amazing that it literally made you weep with its brilliance?
Keep track of this qualitative analysis in one place (Google Sheets, anyone?), but also track and analyze the quantitative metrics.
Focus on stats you can report on consistently, like unique vs. returning participants, hashtag impressions, hashtag mentions, and follower growth.
11. Keep that momentum: Curate the best Tweets and embed them in a blog post, or use them to create a Twitter Moment. Tee up Tweets with valuable quotes, takeaways, and screenshots. Follow and continue the conversation with key participants privately or publicly. Comb through the conversation and tweet out answers to unanswered questions, and ask your community for feedback.
Now go get ‘em!
How do YOU get the most out of Twitter chats?
Any Twitter chats you’d recommend?
What tips and tricks have you learned by participating in Twitter chats?
Are you a hosting pro yourself?
Share the goods in the comments below!