10 Steps to Creating a Successful Twitter Chat

by Mack Collier

#Blogchat is now about 16 months old and based on number of tweets and contributors, it looks to be the most popular chat on Twitter.  It’s definitely been a labor of love for me, and I am a HUGE proponent of Twitter chats.  So I wanted to write down the ten steps I’ve taken to build #blogchat up into the success it has become.  I would hope you can use this advice to start your OWN successful Twitter chat.

The focus and structure of the chat

1 – Pick the theme of the chat.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but you need to be careful here.  I picked #blogchat on purpose because I wanted to be able to cover all forms of blogging.  These leads to a wider audience, and allows me to tweak the weekly topics to appeal to a wide or smaller group.  For example, if I had gone with #corporateblogchat, then the theme of the chat is much smaller.

I think a broader theme leads to a larger audience, while a more niche theme will lead to a smaller following.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just depends on what you want to discuss.

2 – Pick the time.  Think about who you are trying to reach.  If the majority of the people you want to reach will be working a 9-5 job, then you probably need to pick lunchtime or the evening for your chat.  In general, I think lunchtime and early to mid-evenings are the best times for Twitter chats.

3 – Pick the schedule.  Most Twitter chats are weekly, but that doesn’t mean yours has to be.  If you are going with a niche focus, you might want to start out with a bi-weekly or monthly chat, then increase the frequency as demand warrants.  But make sure that you at least lock-down the day of the week that your chat will be, and stick to it.  Others can’t promote the chat to their contacts, until they know for sure when it is.  And no matter what day and time you pick, someone will say it isn’t the best for them.  I am constantly having people tell me they want to join #blogchat, but can’t because it’s on Sunday nites.  But sometimes when a holiday or special event falls on Sunday nite, I will move #blogchat to Monday for that week.  And as soon as I do, some people will tell me that they can’t join because Monday nites are no good for them.  So pick the day that works best for YOU, and stick with it.

4 – Decide on the flow.  Will you tightly moderate the chat, or will it be very loose in structure.  My thinking with how I moderate #blogchat has always been ‘get out of the way of the smart people’.  So I basically throw a topic idea out for each #blogchat, and let the smart #blogchat participants do their thing.

Now if that’s your cup of tea, fine.  But many chats go with a very structured format, with a chosen topic, then multiple questions asked around that topic.  A new question is asked every 15 or so minutes.  Some people really like this format.  In the end, it really comes down to which YOU like, but definitely pay attention to what the chat participants are telling you.

Building a following for your Twitter chat

5 – Ask your chat’s participants for their feedback, then act on it.  One of the things I often do is ask #blogchat participants to help me pick that week’s topic (seriously after a few weeks, you are probably going to be scrambling to find new topics to cover).  If I decide to go with a suggestion from one of the participants, I point out to everyone who suggested the topic, and thank them.

Another example is OPEN MIC.  Several months ago, I wasn’t able to join #blogchat one Sunday nite.  So instead of canceling it that week, I decided to make it OPEN MIC for that week, meaning everyone could talk about whatever blogging topic they wanted.  I was afraid the idea would be a disaster, but instead it was so popular with #blogchat participants that I decided to make it a monthly event.  So now, the last Sunday nite of every month is OPEN MIC.

6 – Bring in co-hosts.  As part of the listening to #blogchat participants, I could tell that many of them wanted to discuss how to improve the SEO of their blog.  I am NOT at all qualified to discuss this, so I asked Lee Odden if he would join us, and he graciously accepted.  Over the last 16 months, I’ve brought in several co-hosts to help me cover topics.  This makes the quality of #blogchat better PLUS, it provides additional exposure for #blogchat, since the co-hosts have a natural incentive to promote their involvement in #blogchat to their networks.  So it’s a win-win.  And the good news is, as your Twitter chat grows, it only becomes easier to attract co-hosts.

7 – Invite and welcome newbies.  As #blogchat has grown, it has attracted a lot of new people that want to see what the big deal is.  But the problem is, if you aren’t familiar with #blogchat, it can be completely overwhelming the first time you join.  So whenever I see someone tweet that they are joining #blogchat for the first time, I reply welcoming them, and invite them to join in, and also encourage them to let me know if they have any questions.  That’s a great way to ensure that they stick around and give #blogchat a chance, plus it lets them know that I really do appreciate them joining us.

8 – Shift ownership.  If you think you can build a successful Twitter chat by yourself, you are insane.  It’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication, and it is going to take acknowledging and empowering the people that are helping to grow your chat.  If someone does a recap of one of your chats, RT that.  If others are helping promote when the chat is and what it’s about, send them a quick @ or DM thanking them.  Let your chat participants know that THEY are very much a part of the success that your chat is having.  That will simply give them the incentive to promote and grow the chat even more.

9 – ‘No experts allowed’.  I make sure everyone that joins #blogchat understands that NO ONE there is an expert, and that we are all there to learn from each other.  I think this puts participants at ease, and makes them more likely to participate.  I want this, because the more people that participate in #blogchat, the better the quality of the chat.

10 – Say ‘Thank You!’, and mean it.  If you’ve participated in just one #blogchat, you know that I appreciate the hell out of everyone that takes the time to join #blogchat.  I love the community we have at #blogchat, and am so grateful for their contributions that have made #blogchat the success it is.  And I think most of the people that join #blogchat realize that they are appreciated, which makes them that much more likely to help grow the chat, and promote it to others.

So these are the steps that I’ve used to grow #blogchat into the success it has become.  Hopefully, it can help you launch and build your own successful Twitter chat.  I really think Twitter chats hold a ton of potential for bringing together people and growing ideas.

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