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11 tips for running a successful Twitter chat: Your ultimate step-by-step guide

11 tips for running a successful Twitter chat: Your ultimate step-by-step guide

Twitter chats are a fantastic way to communicate and engage with your social media audience. They can easily be integrated into marketing campaigns, and by making them a staple of your wider social marketing plan you can drive awareness for events, help establish and nurture influencer relationships, and create a thriving online community.  

However, they can also be fraught with danger and peril. How do you ensure anyone turns up to your Twitter chat? Will pre-event advertising work? Will the questions and subsequent conversations be rewarding? Worry not, we’ve put together 11 Twitter chat tips that will make your next one an absolute breeze.

11 steps you can take to nail your next Twitter chat

Before the chat

1. Decide on a time

There is no panacea here. Your optimum day and time will vary greatly depending on your audience. Twitter's audiences analytics provides a rudimentary insight into when your followers are most active, but consider tweeting a poll to discover what times work best for them.

Experiment with the two top responses and monitor which times yield the best results in terms of engagement and participation levels.

2. Create promotional assets in advance

Once you’ve settled on a time and date, get your design hat on and start creating some social-friendly assets to promote your Twitter chat.

Keep the assets as clean as possible (date, time, hashtag). Overcrowding the image with too much information will result in the important details being overlooked. If you don't have a team of in-house designers, Pablo is a nifty little tool for creating simple assets you can use to promote your next chat.

3. Invite relevant influencers

The benefits of involving influencers in Twitter chats are infinite. For starters, they can help with pre-chat promotion, provide that much-needed push for sceptical users, and increase the organic reach before, during and after the chat has taken place.

Depending on the topic you’ll be covering, use a tool such as BuzzSumo to identify influencers in the relevant sphere. And when contacting them, remember to outline exactly what they’ll be gaining from the chat. Whether that be third-party content hosted on your website, reciprocal links, or help promoting their own articles, you must prove the value of your Twitter chats if you're to have any chance getting them onboard.

4. Share the load

When promoting the chat, don’t just fire off generic messages from your company account. It’s spammy, impersonal, and can infuriate your followers. Instead, recruit your most socially-savvy colleagues to help widen the net.

Stress the importance of using their own tone of voice, rather than sending them exactly the same suggested tweets. And remember, you can tag up to 10 people per image on Twitter, so use a spreadsheet to assign your colleagues a handful of Twitter handles each, and pester them to get tagging.

5. Decide on the questions well in advance

How many questions you ask during the Twitter chat will vary, but we'd advise to post one every 10 minutes for an hour. Your influencers will really appreciate the chance to prepare their answers, so send over your questions to them a few days in advance, they’ll be much more likely to attend if you do.

In addition, make sure you create an asset for each question (and proof before finalising!). You can use the copy of the tweet itself to add a little more colour to the question, but images always work best. (See below.)

11 steps you can take to nail your next Twitter chat

During the chat

6. Highlight the controversy 

You’ve done all the hard work, so the next hour should be a passive mixture of nerves, page refreshing, and constant monitoring. Ideally, the only posts being fired off from your company account should be the questions themselves.

However, if anything particularly contentious or potentially divisive is posted, feel free to draw attention to it with a quote retweet. The more people talking, and the further the reach, the better. Another option is to tag influencers in the questions: even if they don’t see it during the chat itself, there’s a chance they’ll respond later that day. No harm done.

7. Don’t be afraid to have fun

Twitter chats are the perfect forum to establish a brand personality. Don’t be too crass, but equally, don’t be afraid to post a meme or gif here or there. If it’s relevant, it’ll do no harm. There’s nothing worse than a lifeless chat, loaded with clichéd, corporate jargon.

8. Say thank you

Remember your parents always reminding you to say thank you when you stayed over at a friend’s house? The same etiquette applies to a Twitter chat. Butter up your participating influencers even more with a tweet personally thanking them, and consider tagging the chat's top 10 most active participants with a more generalised (yet still personalised) post too. Little touches like this really do give your followers a fuzzy feeling, and will go a long way in ensuring their attendance at your next chat.

Finally, follow through on your chat’s objective. Was it to promote an event? Then fire off a quick tweet linking to the event post-chat while the hype is still strong.

11 steps you can take to nail your next Twitter chat

After the chat

9. Produce follow-up content

People are busy, so not everyone who expressed initial interest will have been available to attend on the day. An easy win is to produce a quick ‘highlights’ article and send it to people who were unable to attend or might find the subject matter useful.

To avoid the article losing its relevance, consider giving it a more generic, yet SEO friendly headline: for example, InTech Twitter chat: What did we learn about the future of technology marketing? This example appeals to those who missed the chat, but also generates long-term search engine value due to its keyword emphasis and provocative headline.

10. Build your Twitter list

Another essential post-chat tactic is to create a Twitter list and populate it with anyone who has attended past chats. After three or four sessions, you'll have established a strong list of your most regular attendees, meaning you can target them with personalised promotion for any upcoming chats you’re hosting.

11. Analyse the hashtag

While Twitter chats are a predominately informal forum, it’s still important to do some number crunching and data collection. Free hashtag tracking tools such as Keyhole and Hashtracking.com will allow you to determine the impressions, reach and number of users who interacted with your Twitter chat hashtag.

That way, you can analyse which times of day are conducive to higher levels of interaction, and will allow you to compile a neat summary of key stats you can show to the board to prove the value of Twitter chats on a more strategic level.