Twitter chats: A social media marketer’s best friend

Ever been to a meetup or a party and felt bored because the conversation is not of your liking? Ever been forced to participate in a conversation because the person would not give up on you. Twitter chats are just what you need.

Twitter chat to the rescue

Guys and gals, now you can take part in conversations that you like, and connect with not one but tens of people like yourselves who are interested in the same topics. A Twitter chat can be on any topic and gives you valuable insights to keep your ‘A game’ up.

What is a Twitter chat?

A group of Twitter users come online at a said time every week to discuss a certain topic, using a unique hashtag (#) for each tweet contributed. Every chat has a host or moderator who asks questions (designated with Q1, Q2…) to elicit answers from the users (using A1, A2…) and facilitate interaction. Twitter chats typically last an hour.

According to Buffer, a Twitter chat is a business networking event — but without a dress code and with a keyboard instead of a bar.

What do you get from Twitter chats?

Knowledge, network and feedback…

  • Knowledge: Twitter chat is an awesome learning experience, and you get to share and learn tips and techniques for the topic of your choice.
  • Network: Follow up with people after the chat and you can connect with like-minded people and get to build your own community.
  • Feedback: You can ask any question and people will give you healthy feedback.

How to host a Twitter chat?

  • Understand how a Twitter chat works: Easiest way to learn hosting a chat is participating in not one but multiple Twitter chats.
  • Formulate a strategy:
  • The first step would be to brainstorm a hashtag as it’s the oxygen on which a chat survives and prospers. The hashtag should be unique, as short as possible to make sure it does not take up too many characters of the short 140 character limit, easy to remember for the participants, and easy to type so that participants don’t have to think twice before typing or make mistakes during the chat.
  • The next step would be to decide the day and time as a Twitter chat is usually held on a weekly basis. As a thumb rule, don’t select a time which clashes with a popular chat on a similar topic.
  • Find the right moderator(s). They could be anyone - your team members, active members of your existing community or your close social media acquaintances.
  • Create the rules of the chat. E.g. welcome new members and/or special guests at the start of the chat, ask an ice-breaker question before starting the chat, the number of questions that would be asked, etc.
  • Announce and promote the chat: Create tweets and graphics to promote your chat, and ask your followers to retweet to their network. Make sure you promote the time zone along with the other details since anyone from around the world could join in.
  • Topic and questions: Since you have decided the hashtag your chat will be about, now it’s time to decide the topics and questions in advance to build a schedule. A typical Twitter chat has 6–8 questions and it’s good to plan in advance so that you can create graphics for each question to make it more appealing to your audience. Also, have some extra questions in the bucket in case the conversation takes a different turn. It’s always wise to be flexible and adaptive. Give 5 minutes per question so that the participants have enough time to share their ideas. Have your own answers ready too and share them before the next question.
  • Guests: To get a wider audience for your chats, invite experts to answer the questions. The best way is to approach in advance via email or DM and if the guest agrees, send him/her the questions one week in advance so that the answers can be prepared in advance. Also, it gives you ample time to promote the chat with the added information about the special guest being there to answer your community’s questions.
  • Engagement is key: Make sure you get people to introduce themselves. Good way to do that is to ask them the location they are tweeting from or asking them what they do for a living. Announce the rules for the new participants. Encourage everyone to invite friends and colleagues to the chat. Retweet the best answers during the chat and summarize all the answers after the chat in the form of a blog for your community.

Three Twitter chats that I love and so will you!

  1. #TwitterSmarter: Hosted by expert Madalyn Sklar every Thursday at 10am PT/1pm ET/10.30pm IST, this chat is a must attend if you want to learn everything about Twitter.
  2. #HootChat: Hosted by the team behind Hootsuite, this chat happens every Thursday at 12pm PT/3pm ET/12.30am IST (Friday) and gives a valuable insight into social media, content marketing and technology.
  3. #Bufferchat: This one is hosted by Buffer, whose blogs by the way are a must read, and takes place every Wednesday at 9am PT/12pm ET/9.30pm IST and covers everything from social media to video storytelling.

If you have participated in Twitter chats before, what advice would you give? If you are yet to join a Twitter chat, what other queries do you have? Get in the comments below!

Nilesh is a marketer, foodie and a die-hard Manchester United fan. Follow him on Twitter at @nileshsurana for updates on marketing and the Red Devils.