Twitter chats have really been taking off lately. You’ll see a new one cropping up all the time. They’re one of the best forms of online community building by creating a space for people to share their ideas on any given industry topic. Not to mention, these chats can generate so much conversation and give people an opportunity to build genuine relationships with individuals scattered across the globe.
That kind of conversation is beneficial to the industry, community and host alike. It may open the doors to future collaborations, a greater presence on social media and provide you with valuable feedback to use to your advantage.
Have you come up with a great idea that could really resonate within your online community? Why not start a Twitter chat? If you’re thinking about it, here are a few steps to get you started.
Why start a chat?
Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’, is one of my all time favorites. It really does reinforce that every business venture needs to be anchored with a purpose. Twitter chats are no different. They are a part of a much bigger picture. Not just in terms of your own professional development, but the community as well.
Hosting a chat requires a lot of time, effort and commitment. If you’re going to start one, it has to be something that you’re passionate about. If you don’t have a vision or a purpose, there’s a chance that the community won’t really take to it.
Understand how they work
Before you host a chat, make sure that you clearly understand how they work. Twitter chats may be an hour long Q& A session, but they can also come in several different formats. You should definitely spend some time participating before hand.
You can benefit in two ways: 1) you will understand the different paces of a chat. This will vary depending on the size of the community and how engaged they are with the topic. 2) You get to meet new people and integrate within the community. Get to know them. It all starts with understanding your audience.
2. Find people to collaborate with
Twitter chats require a great deal of work behind the scenes. As a participant, all we see is the list of questions and the occasional guest promotion. But you need to create graphics, brainstorm topics, find out what’s striking a chord within the community and even create recaps.
Find people who share your vision and passions. That way, you can share the workload and stimulate a quality conversation within the community.
3. Choose a Hashtag
The hashtag that you use can give your community a great sense of direction. Make sure that it’s short, simple and clearly conveys what the topic of discussion will be. Try to steer away from abbreviations that won’t be understood. You want to encourage as many people to participate as possible.
Consider this as an opportunity to create a branded hashtag that can be re-used to continue building your community outside of the chat hours. Remember that the participants only have 140 characters to work with! You need to give them as much space to share their thoughts as possible. Either way, as soon as you decide – snap that Twitter handle up!
4. Decide on the Format
As I mentioned before, twitter chats come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure that you decide on the format during the planning phase. Consider whether you would like to have guest appearances, feature a live Google Hangout, Meerkat or Periscope, or even stick to the traditional question posting.
5. Schedule the Chat
This can be a little trickier. Especially if your community is spread across several time zones. Think about this; 6 pm in New York is 11 pm in London, probably not the best time to be hosting a chat!
Also, consider whether your chat could be conflicting with other popular chats that already have a strong following. It may be difficult to tear them away from what they’re already familiar with. Take a look at some Twitter chat schedules like, Gnosis Arts, to see what spots may be available.
6. Topics, Questions and Guests
These three elements will really determine whether you have people coming back every week. Before deciding on anything, take this into consideration:
- What topics are really causing a stir in my industry?
- What problems does my community need solving?
- Who does the community turn to? What experiences do they have to offer?
- How can I encourage the community to converse?
If you’re struggling to think of topics, use a listening tool like HootSuite to search for industry key terms and figure out what is making people tick. I’ve turned to inspirational TED Talks to search for topics and questions for the #BizGalz chat!
7. Promotion – Now Start Spreading the Word
Planning complete! Although this is a great milestone, now you have to make sure that the right people know that you’re the new kid of the block. Give yourself enough time to tell the world and still maintain their interest. Start by creating promotional tweets from the chat and host twitter accounts. Give them a small insight into what you have to offer but leave them wanting to know more.
— Jaime Stein (@jaimestein) September 16, 2015
If you’ve been participating in Twitter chats for long enough to develop relationships with other communities, tag those that you know well. Give them the inside scoop and if the topics resonate with them, they may become future brand, advocates. Try to align your content strategy with your chat topics as well. If you’re discussing the future of women in business in your next chat, post some pieces by the women who are creating waves in their industry.
8. The First chat
Now you’re ready to launch! But there are a few steps that you should put in place to ensure that the chat runs smoothly. Start by setting a few automated posts about ground rules. Not to stop people from sharing their thoughts but to ensure that they respect one another’s. Also clarify the format of the chat so that they audience understands.
Automate your questions so that you have one less thing to worry about (which then gives you the head space to focus on engaging with the community). Kick off with a welcome tweet; encourage people to introduce themselves and if you have any special occasions to celebrate, share that with the community!
— BizGalz (@BizGalz) September 14, 2015
Even if you do have moderators, make sure that there is someone managing the branded handle. You can encourage more conversation, like or retweet great answers and follow people who have begun to participate regularly.
Close the chat by thanking everyone who joined in and give them an insight into next week’s chat. Now you’re set for the next round and, if you have a guest, can introduce them to the people they’ll be engaging with.
9. Summarise and Analyse
You’ve reached another check point! The first chat is complete and while you should take a moment to celebrate, don’t forget that there’s still some work to do. Starting with the recap. This is a chance to summarise what you and the community have gained from the chat while providing those who couldn’t make it with some great content to refer back to.
Now it’s time to use some analytics to track and measure your engagement. Decide on what insights you want to see. Mentions, impressions, users, reach? Look for statistics that show any extreme highs or lows so that you can determine what your strengths and weaknesses are. Whatever metric you choose to follow, it needs to be measurable in the long run to help your chat progress and develop.
There are some great tools like Bluenod and HashTracking that will give you an insight into the community that you’re building. Make note of particularly active community members and make an effort to stay in touch with them. Remember that the chat is only the beginning. Now, you have a group of people to build relationships with!
Don’t be afraid to make changes along the way. As the community develops, the chat will too. Try new things, run tests and make sure you’re having some fun too!
10. Tools to help you along the way
Twitter chats can move at an unbelievable pace. Take a look at #brandchat or #twittersmarter, there are so many people participating, it can be difficult to keep up. One of the greatest things about investing in a tool is that they often do the hard work for you. Here’s a list that can help you along the way:
TweetDeck integrates with your Twitter account and can really streamline your experience of Twitter. Create a stream for the chat, notifications and your inbox to keep track of the insights and all of your conversations.
Nurph is one of the most well-developed Twitter chat tools around. Nurph saves you time by automatically adding the hashtags to your tweets. It also provides a pretty extensive analytics so that you can monitor the progress. Making it beneficial for both the host and participants.
There’s plenty of work to be done after the chat too! You may want to consider writing up a blog post or presenting the conversation in visually digestible chunks. TagBoard allows you to curate the tweets that really had an impact and present them to the community in a neat package.