“Let’s host a Twitter chat!” A phrase uttered in hundreds of PR and marketing meetings daily across the country. But then you actually get the green light – now what?
There seems to be a Twitter chat for everything these days, and in my personal experience, if you’ve tried to participate in one but found it frustrating, it can be hard to go back. Yet when executed thoughtfully and transparently around a topic that really matters to your audiences – not your advertisers – a special thing can happen. A few dozen to a few hundred people are suddenly connected from all parts of the country (and potentially, globe), bonding with newfound comrades over shared tips, personal experiences, challenges, fears, and hopes.
The chat was held late in the evening to accommodate our primary audience of moms, who often hop online once the little ones are down in order to catch up on work, personal reading and social media interactions. We had a blast throughout the hour-long chat and are eager to share a few key tips for hosting a successful Twitter chat of your own!
· Plan! And then plan some more.
Twitter is a real-time platform, but it is very obvious if a chat host is not well prepped and organized before things begin. Know what questions you are going to ask, and in what cadence, and have plenty of thought starters and interesting facts at the ready to move the conversation if things slow down.
· Pick your #hashtag wisely.
It probably goes without saying these days, but make sure your hashtag isn’t so long that it compromises Twitter’s 140-character space limits. And don’t hijack a hashtag or use one that is so obscure that people who may have otherwise stumbled onto the chat by chance are confused by its meaning. (you can link to article on hashtags… for choosing or searching)
· Partner with experts.
For nearly every topic you can imagine, there are dozens of credible experts who posses a notable Twitter following and are open to conversations about partnering for a chat. Just like with traditional PR, having a third-party expert in a formal chat role helps endorse your brand, expand your outreach and can go a long way to building relevance with new customers and followers.
· Have fun!
The cost of most chats is very minimal and, in many cases, only equivalent to time involved. Therefore, unlike a major ad spend or blogger campaign, you can have fun and try some new things, test emerging messaging and let your true brand/organizational culture shine through.
Twitter chats are not the place for a hard sell, but rather a concentrated moment in time to interact person-to-person with your community. Thank them. Celebrate them. Reward them. If you build a community that is willing to sit down and take 30 – 60 minutes out of their hectic day to talk with you and your community, you’ve already won.
We’d love to hear from you about Twitter chats as well! Have you hosted or participated in one? What did you like or dislike, and do you see them as a viable tool within a strategic communications plan for brands and organizations?