SOCIAL MEDIA / AUG. 29, 2014
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How to Host a Successful Twitter Chat

Hosting a Twitter chat is a viable way of cultivating interaction with fans and followers. It is also an avenue to get a better perspective on your online community and brand your business without a pushy sales approach. Ann Smarty, columnist from the Social Media Examiner, shared that she has “seen the networking and promotional power of the Twitter Chat.” This article will address the benefits and some steps to take to host a successful Twitter chat.  

Benefits of Hosting a Twitter Chat

Basically, a Twitter chat is when a host has a public conversation online. The chat utilizes a specific hashtag which allows fans and followers to participate in the dialogue. According to Ms. Smarty, the majority of bloggers connect in chats by using the #BlogChat hashtag. By using the specific chat hashtag in each tweet, everyone can follow the discussion. Many times, such chats are scheduled to recur weekly, biweekly or monthly in order to continually connect with the online community. There are four main benefits of hosting a chat.

  • Online Branding and Promotion – Ms. Smarty advised that even though the chats “evolve around one hashtag” and are public, you have the chance to reach millions of twitter fans.
  • Receive Immediate Responses – Since the dialogue is happening in real time, you have a unique opportunity to actually listen to your online community. The fans and followers can be invited to ask questions and you can provide answers.
  • Cultivate the Online Community – Ms. Smarty stated that a “Twitter Chat is one of the most engaging social media activities which forms a habit.” When you create a successful chat format, your followers will become excited to return for future scheduled chats. According to Ms. Smarty, that’s one way to “turn your followers into your brand advocates.”
  • Opportunity to Offer Support – Some Twitter chats can become opportunities to offer customer support to your online community. The Directory Journal shares a listing of Twitter customer service chat examples.

Steps on How to Host a Successful Twitter Chat

Hosting a Twitter chat is not a difficult task. Hosts simply need to have an active Twitter account and create a game plan. The following is a listing of five basic steps.

1. Understand the Process

Ms. Smarty advised that prospective hosts should take the time to do their own research on hosting a Twitter chat. They can start by participating in some chats and follow the dialogue of chats that already occurred. Check out the #TwitterChat hashtag and scroll through some of the tweets to ascertain what types of hashtags hosts are using. TwChat.com is a great resource to find out information on upcoming chats. You can visit their chat calendar.

2. Formulate the Plan

Once you’ve done your research, you need to create the hashtag. Ms. Smarty advised that the “hashtag is what pulls the whole thing together.” Take your time to pick an exclusive hashtag since you don’t want to change it once you have begun promoting the chat. Hashtags should be short since they need to be included in each tweet. A long hashtag prevents participants from writing more in their tweets. Think creatively, but don’t create a hashtag that is easily forgotten. Ms. Smarty also offers sage advice about making the hashtag easy to type. For example, not everyone opts for the copy and paste route, but manually types the hashtag out. She recommends that hosts avoid “double letters, symbols, underscores.”  

  • Set the date, time and topic for the chat
  • Create the guidelines for the chat
  • Find a moderator for the chat or host yourself

Mack Collier is the host of the successful #BlogChat. He offers some excellent advice on 10 Steps for Creating a Successful Twitter Chat.

3. Promote the Chat

Once your plan has been formulated, you need to begin the promotion on your blog, in all your social media accounts and even in press releases and other forums. You need a page on your website which references all of the details of the upcoming chat and your can refer to this “static” page in all of your promotions. Ms. Smarty also suggests that you create badges which can be easily embedded and shared. This is how your fan base can become brand ambassadors.   

4. Host the Chat

This is where the fun part begins. You host the actual chat. The first time around you may feel nervous, but after several chats, you’ll gain your footing and become more unique in your own style and approach. Ms. Smarty advises that there are several steps you should take during the actual chat. You will start with a warm welcome to all of your guests and provide the opportunity for people to chat and introduce themselves. Remember to maintain control during the chat or have this responsibility assigned to your moderator.

  • Announce the topic of the chat and share your initial thoughts
  • Allow 5 minutes for guests to respond to the introduction
  • As you proceed, summarize key points and retweet exceptional tweets
  • Take time to ask some questions, labeled as “Q1, Q2” etc.
  • Again, summarize and then retweet the best responses
  • Be prepared to tweet relevant tools or links pertaining to the chat subject
  • Permit the participants to also share resources at this time
  • State the impending conclusion so that others prepare to wind down
  • Thank everyone for participating and tweet your final responses
  • You can then announce the date, time and topic for the next chat

You can read more details on Ms. Smarty’s Twitter Chat Guide. She shares some tools on running your chat as well as the many benefits of Tweet Chat which is another online resource for managing your chats on Twitter.

5. Analyze the Results

In order to continue hosting successful Twitter chats, you need to analyze the results of your latest chat. There are various online tools which can be utilized to summarize and archive your chats. Ms. Smarty advises that it is valuable to use such tools because they can “create transcripts of your tweets. Some of the tools are listed below.

  • Ms. Smarty suggests that Storify is one of the best options to utilize for analysis since it “lets you pick the tweets you want to be in the transcript and add some essential context for the tweets you choose.” Another valuable option is that your Twitter followers can subscribe to any new chapters that you publish through Storify.com.  
  • Another tool that she suggests utilizing is Twilert because the program emails you a listing of any tweets which contain your chosen hashtag. The email you receive is user-friendly and can then be easily blogged about.   

Utilize the summaries which these tools provide so that you can make your next chat even better. You can also use these summaries throughout the week in various blog posts and other marketing avenues as a way to gain more promotion out of the completed chat. Remember to utilize the official chat hashtag in all of your subsequent promotion.  

Hosting a successful Twitter chat is quite possible if you follow the steps outlined in this article. It is important to first research and then you must gain a complete understanding of the process. You need to have a comprehensive plan before you actually host the chat. Promote the post with enough lead time and then analyze the results.  

 

Photo Credit: rack.2.mshcdn.com          

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