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 a Twitter chat online allows 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 distribute your interests.
If your own cozy corner sounds inviting, and you want to discover Twitter chats, read on, party-goer…
What is 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. Typically Twitter chats are led by one or two moderators who ask questions. Twitter chat participants answer the questions and engage with each other’s answers. The chat goes down at a specified (and often reoccurring) day and time. Tweet chats are live, but that doesn’t mean they’re a free fall.
How to chat on Twitter
So you may be thinking, okay, what’s in it for me?
Whether you are participating in an existing chat or hosting a Twitter chat of your own, the advantages are as solid as they come:
- Gain followers: Attract the right sort 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 sort of info!
- Show off: Create authority and tout your wondered 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: Chatting on Twitter helps you network and make connections in a non-door-to-door or cold-call kinda way. Attendees are leaning in, willing, participating, and engaged. Heck, half the work is already done!
How to discover Twitter chats?
There are two methods to get involved with the best Twitter chats: join existing chats or host your own.
Let’s learn more about ’em!
Are you a newbie to the Twitter chat, and wondering how do Twitter chats work? We highly recommend starting as a participant and working your way up to running your own chat (more on how to host a Twitter chat later).
But how to join Twitter groups (and rock) someone else’s Twitter chat?
Twitter doesn’t have a “chat” section, but you can quickly locate chats of interest.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- 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.
- Find category or industry-specific events by checking the hashtags you follow.
- Use a third-party tool like Tweet Deck or TwChat to browse topics and hashtags specific to your industry.
Focus on chats that’ll help you achieve your business goals and the advantages bulleted out above (you did read those, right?).
You only have so much time in the day, so make your involvement worthwhile!
How to join a Twitter chat
Okey-dokey – you found some chats. Now what? How do you join a Twitter chat?
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! Discover methods 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 Twitter hosts): The moderator will be able to 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 important 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 be able to 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
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 be able to 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 themes
Pick an overarching theme that corresponds with your business. If you’re a small company 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
Build a tweet chats schedule in advance (assuming this is a reoccurring chat event). You’ll be amazed how new ideas will be able to pop up during chats or participants even request topics. Crowdsource ideas from your internal team of brainiacs, check out what people are rumbling 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. Finding Twitter questions shouldn’t be difficult if you’ve done the prep mentioned above.
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 create excitement for your chats (Twitteroid can help!). Announce special guests, tease out reminders, share 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. (It’s the moderator’s job to tease out questions related to the chat topic, and to keep the conversation in check.)
Fortunately, there are loads of tools that make hosting (and participating) in chats easier. Give Tchat.io a go, or check out the list of Twitter chats on TweetReports, or give 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 begin 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, re-calibrate focus when things get off track, and keep participants engaged. There might be an occasional rogue participant blasting off random streams of consciousness – or even the occasional troll – but reputable chats on Twitter have structure. Pump out your questions strategically – every five to 10 minutes is normal. Over time, you’ll learn how many questions you need each chat. We see anywhere from six moderator questions up to twelve.
- Engage: Build 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. Remember that engagement builds trust with your followers.
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 all the time 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 build 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.
Discover content opportunities in all you do. We mentioned that Twitter chats are a breeding ground for market research (seriously, you can’t pay for this knowledge!), but they’re also an easy content solution.
What do you do at the end of your Twitter chat?
So you killed the chat, here’s how you can create momentum after the chat is over:
Keep things going with an after-party
Ending your Twitter chat on time is good etiquette, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer up options for people who want to keep the convo going.
For example, maybe you announce when you’re stepping away (and people can stop expecting new questions and answers from you), but encourage others to keep talking to each other using your chat’s hashtag.
If you make this a regular thing and keep building momentum, you might even build a Facebook or LinkedIn group where participants can dive a little deeper into the topics you covered.
Wherever those conversations are happening, you should read back through the conversation later, and distribute responses to unanswered questions using your hashtag. (People might still reach out to you after the chat technically ends!)
Parties are a meeting ground. What you do with the connections you make is the difference between an acquaintance and a full-blown friend.
Professional connections, like friendships, need nurturing – so here are a few methods we like to cultivate our new connections:
- Rolodex it: Keep a participant list, so you can interact with the most committed and influential of the group. If there are contributors that make you giddy with excitement, keep track of ’em!
- Give props: Highlight key contributors publicly. (Everyone likes to be recognized for their amazingness!)
- Be grateful: It might sound rudimentary, but all the time thank your participants. For example, you might show your appreciation by hooking peeps up with exclusive or free stuff like a free trial period, swag, or giveaways. (This doesn’t mean unloading a bunch of t-shirts with your old logo. Make it about THEM, not your office decluttering efforts!)
We get by with a little help from our friends – so ask for it!
Whether it’s from your internal team or your followers, it’s okay to lean on people every now and again. After a chat, ask your internal team for feedback. Heck, ask your friends for feedback!
Other people might have great ideas for how you can change things next time – questions you could ask, changes to your timing, that kind of thing – so don’t be afraid to solicit some opinions.
Get your ducks in a row for the next shindig
Unless you’re holding a Twitter chat for a one-off special event, reoccurring chats drive loyalty with a community around a shared interest.
That means as soon as your chat wraps, you need to get working on the next party.
(We know, we know – no rest for the weary.)
The good news is, you already have your topics planned out in advance! (We believe in you.) You’ve applied actionable takeaways to your chat strategy, and you teased the date, time, and topic for your next chat session at the end of the latest one, right?
Okay, keep going with those promotions. There are a few things you can do to cut back on the heavy lifting (This is where Twitteroid comes in!):
- Set it and forget it: Schedule your promos in advance, so you can strategically tease out updates. (“Forget it” is a figure of speech, though. Check in like all the time to see if people have questions or comments leading up to the thing!)
- Recycle: Things move fast in the ol’ socialsphere. Chances are, most people aren’t seeing your posts, so distribute them again and again to avoid being lost in the shuffle.
- Personalize automation: Leave the audience interaction to an actual human – like, say, you. Crack open your Rolodex of chat participants or identify a handful of top contributors, and extend a personal invite to them via an @-mention. Let them know how much you value their participation!
Pull off this routine a few times, and soon it’ll be easy as pie! (Which can actually be tricky to make sometimes, but you get what we mean.)
Now go get ‘em!