Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Five Steps to a Successful Twitter Chat

Are you looking for a unique, meaningful way to connect your target audience? Do you want to engage your customers in a dynamic discussion while at the same time demonstrate your knowledge and expertise? One very effective way to accomplish all of these objectives is to host a Twitter chat.

What are Twitter chats, you ask? Twitter chats are regularly scheduled discussions held on Twitter moderated by one or more people. These conversations often include a guest expert or industry thought-leader. Twitter users gather together on a specific day and time to answer questions and give opinions on specific topics of interest.

During a Twitter chat, participants follow and contribute to the conversation through the use of a distinct hashtag. Using a chat tool like Tweet Chat or a 3rd party Twitter application such as Tweet Deck, where tweeters can track the discussion, respond to questions shared by one of the moderators, and read comments posted by other chat participants.

But just how do you manage a discussion on Twitter and what is involved in hosting one? Here are five steps to help you organize and host your very own Twitter chat. 

Step 1: Planning

Decide on the hashtag to be used for the Twitter chat and perform a Twitter search to determine if it is available. Choose the topic, date, and time for the discussion. Then determine who will host and moderate the conversation as well as any special guests or subject experts who will contribute to the chat.

Step 2: Preparation

Create a set of guidelines and instructions for the chat that can be sent out as tweets just prior to the start of the discussion. Write up a list of questions to ask during the conversation. Gather a list of articles, quotes, and other resources to can be shared during the chat. Be sure to include content and information from your own website as well as other resources. Follow-up with moderators and guests to confirm their participation,share prepared materials, and address any questions they may have before the day of the chat.

Step 3: Promotion

Announce the Twitter chat on your blog. Share information about the chat in your email newsletter or send a special invitation to customers via email. Schedule it as an event on Facebook and invite the community on your Facebook page. If your business or organization has a group on LinkedIn, list details about the event and create discussion around the topic of the Twitter chat. And, of course, send out several tweets to promote the event to your Twitter followers.

Step 4: Participation

About 10 minutes prior to the chat, send out tweets explaining the format and rules for the discussion. Begin the chat by introducing your guest. Contribute your own responses to questions to start the conversation. Keep the discussion flowing from one question to the next, but allow plenty of time for participants to share their thoughts. It can sometimes take several minutes for responses to start coming in. While you are waiting for replies, you can fill the "dead air" by sharing some of the resources you gathered before the chat.

Step 5: Post

After the chat is finished don't forget to send a message to the moderators and guests thanking them for their participation. Then create an event summary post for your blog that includes the best responses tweeted during the discussion. Share the post on your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts so those who didn't get the chance to join the conversation will know what they missed.

Use the following questions to measure the success of a Twitter chat and evaluate your return on investment:
  • How many new Twitter followers did you get during and after the chat?
  • Did you get any new sign ups for your email list as a result of the Twitter discussion? What other calls to action got a response from participants?
  • How long did the conversation last? How dynamic was the discussion?
  • Who took part in the chat? How many unique Twitter users sent out messages?
  • How many tweets were sent out with the hashtag for during the chat? How many retweets were sent?

After you have rounded up all the data, create a report for yourself (or your boss) to summarize the impact of the discussion to make improvements for your next Twitter chat.

So, there you have it. Did I miss anything? Do you have any other tips or tricks for hosting a successful Twitter chat?

Additional Resources

For those of you who would like to learn more about Twitter chats before hosting your own, I've gathered a few additional resources to help you join the conversation.

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