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.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Connie Reece July 13, 2010 at 10:14 pm

With #blogchat, you’ve done for Twitter what Liz Strauss did for blog conversations with her Open Mic nights. Well done!
.-= Connie Reece´s last blog ..The biggest obstacle standing in the way of companies’ embrace of social media … is corporate =-.

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Mack Collier July 14, 2010 at 9:15 am

Yes the OPEN MIC we have every last Sunday of the month was stolen from Liz’s Open Mic nites on her blog ;) Liz’s idea was a great one and its amazing how many comments she gets on those posts!

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Lori Ruff July 14, 2010 at 3:12 am

Mack – My first experience with #blogchat was this past Sunday night on the advice of a Twitter friend I’ve been chatting online and offline with.

LOVED IT!

I wonder if we could talk…
.-= Lori Ruff´s last blog ..USA Today portended social media saying- “Best Friends Good for Business” =-.

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Mack Collier July 14, 2010 at 9:15 am

Aw thank you Lori! We can absolutely talk, please email me at mack.collier@gmail.com

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Heather Villa July 14, 2010 at 5:34 am

Thanks for sharing all this insight Mack! I think consistency is the key. You can’t expect to build a following if you aren’t going to have the event each and every week. I like the fact that you didn’t cancel when you couldn’t attend.
.-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..Focus to Move Forward =-.

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Mack Collier July 14, 2010 at 9:18 am

Yes, this is why I say you need to pick the day/time quickly, and stick with it. I noticed during the very first #blogchat I did (before I even knew I wanted to do it every week), I already had people tweeting ‘So does this happen every Sunday nite? How long has this been going on?’.

Pick the day/time, then make sure that everyone knows what it is, so they can communicate it to their networks!

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DJ Waldow July 15, 2010 at 10:43 am

Mack – I agree w/ Heather here. Consistency is a key. Very hard in the beginning as you will likely not see the traffic early on. Need to stay focused and not get discouraged. You know my thoughts on #BlogChat – 100% kicks ass. On the timing, Sunday nights USED to be good for me, but with @babywaldow, it’s become a bit more challenging. So be it, right?

DJ Waldow
Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
@djwaldow
.-= DJ Waldow´s last blog ..6 Things I Suck At =-.

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Mack Collier July 16, 2010 at 11:25 am

DJ I agree, consistency is the key. I think it’s like so much with social media, it can take a while to get the ball rolling. And unfortunately, many people want to quit right before they reach the ‘tipping point’. I was lucky in that I already had several thousand followers when I decided to start #blogchat 16 months ago. Not everyone is in that place.

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alison July 14, 2010 at 8:57 am

Thanks for these tips! I really need information, and it is extremely informative and useful. So glad DJ connected us! I hope to meet you (in person) soon! Let me know. Take care, Alison

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Mack Collier July 14, 2010 at 9:19 am

Thank you Alison! I am tentatively planning on being in Birmingham in about a month, I’ll let you know if i can make it!

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DJ Waldow July 15, 2010 at 10:43 am

LOVE that the 2 of you have connected. Face to face meeting soon!

DJ Waldow
Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
@djwaldow
.-= DJ Waldow´s last blog ..6 Things I Suck At =-.

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Mack Collier July 16, 2010 at 11:26 am

I am hoping to be in Birmingham once if not twice in August, Alison and I will definitely have to connect then, thanks again for introducing us, DJ!

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@JesseLuna July 14, 2010 at 10:30 am

Great tips Mack. You’ve done an excellent job managing the chat community.

I set up a permanent Tweetdeck column for #blogchat. It’s awesome seeing all the sharing that goes on throughout the entire week.
.-= @JesseLuna´s last blog ..5 Hot Tips For Serious News Hounds =-.

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Mack Collier July 14, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Thanks Jesse, I’ve done the same. It used to be that all the tweets about #blogchat were on Sunday, now there’s some every day of the week! Awesome to see!

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Srinivas Rao July 14, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Hey Mack,

As always you provide practical immediately applicable advice. I’ve used some of your design suggestions to improved my subscription rate and Iv’e also used many of your twitter strategies to get more traffic to my posts. I think I’m going to have to start podchat since I’m a podcaster :).

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Mack Collier July 14, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Srinivas I think #podchat is an EXCELLENT idea (surprised someone hasn’t beaten you to the punch on that). I would definitely get started on that, it would probably be a big success for you!

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Linda Sherman July 14, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Thank you for this useful list Mack. I also congratulate you for being the guy that appears to have kicked off hash chats. I have been wondering why you haven’t registered #blogchat on Twubs or Tagal.

By the way Liz had an Open Comment/Open Mic night last night after a hiatus since last fall. I happened to participate in that and then immediately following in #custserv. Whew! Many of the people on Open Mic were not on Twitter so it can be more encompassing. But what is convenient about hash chats for the user is that Twitter refreshes automatically while a blog comment section doesn’t.

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Mack Collier July 16, 2010 at 11:29 am

Hi Linda, I think Liz has been doing Open Mic on her blog for a few years now. I remember seeing one BT (Before Twitter) and that post got well over 200 comments. It’s a great community-building tool!

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Marjorie Clayman July 14, 2010 at 6:10 pm

This is an AMAZING post, Mack. Wow. What a treasure trove of knowledge.

Blogchat has been an awesome “find” for me. Thanks again for starting it up!
.-= Marjorie Clayman´s last blog ..Checklist- Launching a Website =-.

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ArtseyC July 15, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Well, Mack, if anyone is the go-to on growing a tweetchat quickly and with loyal advocates, you’re the one. I’ve watched #blogchat balloon in # of participants in the past few months, and what you say here is true: you make us feel welcome and appreciated, and acknowledge that we all have something to offer that may be of value to someone else. I’ve also learned gobs of great info and met some amazing people via #blogchat. Kudos to you, & thank you for your hard work! We appreciate you back!
.-= ArtseyC´s last blog ..ArtseyC- Was about to say that Id like to see the @OldSpice guy brandish a chainsaw And there it is http-bitly-bnK54x =-.

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Mack Collier July 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Thank you Amy! I appreciate your comments, and as we both know, #blogchat works because of ALL of us. It’s not just me, it’s people like you and Victor that contribute and grow the community every single week!

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Jonathan Saar July 15, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I believe #blogchat needs a theme song or something…maybe “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang? Thanks for the image love again Mack. Great 10 point list for twitter chats. I have seen other chats come and go as a result of no guest moderators, no specific topic, and no continual outreach. That is certainly not the case with what you and all the supporters of the chat. The chat is as ingrained as checking the weather from my perspective. Great post sir.
.-= Jonathan Saar´s last blog ..NAA Then and Now—Always be Human =-.

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Mack Collier July 17, 2010 at 12:07 pm

No problem Jonathan, you may see that image again, may have to work it into the #OptSum deck ;)

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Mike Whaling July 15, 2010 at 11:29 pm

All great suggestions, these are things I’ve had to learn along the way with my own chat. I couldn’t agree more with #5, 6 & 7. Two other things that we did that may be valuable for your readers:

1) We extended the reach of our chat by creating a Facebook page and separate blog where we share the transcripts and recaps of previous chats. People seem to really appreciate the ability to go back to a specific topic at a later date, especially if they couldn’t make the chat when it happened live.

2) Occasionally, we personally reach out to remind people of the coming week’s chat. Sending a quick DM or creating an event invite through the Facebook page always seems to result in a nice bump in attendance.

You’ve created a great forum through BlogChat, Mack … thank you for that.
.-= Mike Whaling´s last blog ..Green Apartment Management =-.

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Mack Collier July 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Mike those are two great additions. Honestly, I would *love* to spend more time with other initiatives to grow #blogchat even more, but I just don’t have the time. At some point, it becomes a trade-off between spending time on something I love (#blogchat), versus something that pays the bills (work). It’s a tradeoff, but that comes with the territory and I’m sure you’ve seen the same with #aptchat!

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Sue Anne Reed July 16, 2010 at 12:03 am

Mack – I think there are three different options for #4. There’s
a) Have a general theme but leave the chat mostly unstructured.
b) Have a general theme and keep that theme tightly controlled to a series of questions related to that theme.
c) Don’t have any overarching theme for the entire chat, but keep the chat tightly controlled on a series of questions.

#blogchat does a great job with option a); #sm?? (the weekly social media chats) do a good job with option b) (#pr20chat often has an underlying theme as well); and #journchat does a really good job with option c).

I think ultimately it’s the “chat owner”/moderator’s job to decide what works best for them, and what will keep them motivated to do more. And, it’s the audiences job to follow along or voice an opinion if its not working out for them.
.-= Sue Anne Reed´s last blog ..The importance of blog design – blogchat recap 06-13-10 =-.

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Mack Collier July 17, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Good advice, Sue Anne. I think the chat moderator/originator needs to take ownership of the flow of the chat, otherwise, as you said, they’ll lose interest and won’t be as motivated to keep it going.

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Swan July 23, 2010 at 11:51 am

Those interesting in Twitter Chats might find one that fits their interests from the over 150 on the Twitter Chat Schedule: http://bit.ly/ChatSched

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Katherine Salt January 7, 2011 at 7:10 am

Have recently started coming to your #blogchat and have now been inspired to start my own! This Sunday will see the initial #lingeriechat, thanks for the tips!

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JD Ebberly January 24, 2011 at 12:03 am

I am ABSOLUTELY IN LOVE with Blogchat! I don’t think you’re a genius, Mack Collier, I happen to KNOW you’re a high-end genius. Your Blogchat is an All-Time masterstroke and I cannot ever get enough of you and your fellow chatters’ Smartitude!

I LIVE for Blogchat all week long! My family is used to seeing me dance around with sheer JOY every Sunday Night as Blogchat time approaches! Blogchat has utterly REVOLUTIONIZED my blogging knowledge and I have gotten to meet literally HUNDREDS of new bloggers through your dazzling chat!

ROCK ON!!!!

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Mack Collier January 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

Thanks JD, you are one of the true #Blogchat all-stars that make the experience what it is every Sunday nite ;)

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INDIEbusiness May 10, 2011 at 10:12 am

This is a super update with easy to implement and follow advice. I have hosted a few “practice” Twitter chats in the past to kind of get my feet wet and figure out what would work best for my audience. Watching you and enjoying #blogchat when I can has been fun and educational. I finally decided on #handmadechat since I serve and connect with handmade micro-business owners nationwide. I hope it will be fun and empowering for everyone. Thanks for your inspiration, Mack!

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sambeamond July 25, 2011 at 11:29 am

I recently discovered #blogchat and wrote a bit about it. http://bit.ly/r1gL6f

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rickyyean August 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Mack – awesome post. Our #SMOchat is entering its 10th week in a row, and has started to build a small but engaged audience. Great to see you break down the lessons and hope to share our learnings with you more in the future. Thank you again!

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Joanne Cipressi August 31, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Mack,

I just started my first TwitterChat called #InspireChat. My second week is coming tomorrow and I was referred to this blog for your tips! Love them!! I completely see the benefit in each of these tips…and I am only doing about 4 of them. I have much work to do. :)

Thanks so much for sharing! :)

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Danika November 29, 2011 at 7:22 pm

I’ve peaked in on #blogchat a few times over the last year or so and loved it. Twitter parties and chats were how I really started meeting great people and brands when I joined twitter. Sadly, some of my favorites have fizzled, likely due to the amount of work involved. I recently took over the #ecowed (eco-Wednesday) chat because the host was burned out and I just couldn’t see it die. Now I’m researching how best to grow it and make it my own while staying true to what the originators started. It’s always been a combo of a chat and sponsored party, so it’s an interesting ride. Now…off to do more research ;)

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Ayi Bunbun March 31, 2012 at 10:24 am

Hello Mack, I come late make a coment. I realy like your post, It’s informative. Thank’s alot.

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