Over the past 4 years I’ve run a pretty popular Twitter chat, I’ve also worked with sponsors and brands to help them facilitate their own. Twitter chats can be an amazing way for your brand to connect with customers, if you know what you are getting into. Here’s how to get started:
1 – Pick a theme for your chat that’s related to your brand but not about your brand. This is a subtle distinction, but it will make all the difference in the success of your twitter chat. If you theme of your chat is related to the brand then it will be focused on the customer and their wants and needs. That’s how you’ll win their attention. Here’s a few examples:
Nikon – How to take amazing photographs
Southwest Airlines – Managing holiday traveling
Purina – Raising a happy and healthy dog
See how the focus has shifted to the customer? That’s what you want, ask yourself ‘What need is this chat addressing for the customer, or what problem is it solving for them?’ It will help create a popular and exciting chat which ends up being great promotion for your brand.
2 – Pick the day and time. Think about who you want to be in the chat and who you are connecting with. Factor in when they can be available to join a chat, and plan accordingly. Also, consider what other entertainment options might be available to them that could distract their attention. For example, if you decide to hold a chat next Thursday night at 8pm, remember that’s primetime for television watching so see if there is a major series or event that will be on opposite your chat that might steal some participants.
3 – Pick your schedule. Will your chat be regular, or a one-time deal? Fair warning, unless your brand is pretty big, getting traction from just one chat will be difficult. If one of the main reasons why you are starting the twitter chat it to raise awareness of your brand, then having a weekly chat is your best bet. Yes, it will be a lot of work and yes it will likely take a while to gain traction, but most things worth pursuing are a lot of work.
4 – Find Influencers, Experts and Customers that can help you get the word out about your chat. This really helped me take #Blogchat to the next level. After about 6 months or so of doing #Blogchat, we’d run through most of the ‘basic’ blogging topics, and needed some fresh topics. So I started asking blogging experts to come in and co-host on a certain topic that they were the expert on. They also brought their audience with them, so the reach of #Blogchat expanded greatly, plus it was good exposure for the co-host. You can do the same thing with your brand’s twitter chat. Look for customers that are already engaging with your brand (fans are even better) and ask them if they would be willing to join your twitter chat and participate. Also, if you have the budget, you can bring in experts that will not only help drive the conversation, they will also bring their audience with them. But it needs to make sense for the chat, for example if you are launching a twitter chat on gardening, Gary Vee might not be your best bet for a co-host. Sure, he’s a smart guy with a massive following, but you’d rather have someone whose following is interested in gardening, and a person that’s recognized as an expert in that space.
5 – Decide on how the chat will be organized and moderated. Most chats have a main topic, then ask a series of questions based on that topic. For example, many chats ask a new question every 10 mins or so. This is the most common form of organizing a chat. If you are going to do a weekly chat, ask your participants which method they want. For #Blogchat, I typically have the main topic then no more than 2 questions. But #Blogchat is such a large chat that I can do that, for a smaller one it would probably be better to have more questions to better organize the conversation and help facilitate it.
6 – Pick as short of a hashtag as possible for your chat. Remember that you are working within the restrictions of Twitter’s 140-character limit for tweets. So every character you use for a hashtag is one that you take away from the tweet you can write. You want your hashtag to be as short as possible and as memorable as possible.
Let’s take the above example from Purina starting a chat about raising a happy and healthy dog. Which hashtag makes more sense:
Yes, I know the good folks at Purina would love to have the Purina name in the chat’s hashtag, but I’m betting participants would much rather have #HappyDogsChat. Also remember the longer and more complicated you make your hashtag, the greater the chance that people will use the wrong hashtag or misspell it.
7 – Create prep materials for the chat. (Almost) every week for #blogchat I will write a ‘prep post’ that outlines what we will be talking about during that Sunday night’s #blogchat. Here’s the one from last Sunday. That way, participants know what to expect and the chat will flow better. Plus, an added benefit to me is that it sends traffic back to my blog. You could also post this on your Facebook page or on Google Plus, but it’s best if you post it on a property you own (blog, website) cause then that traffic comes back to you.
8 – Think about what action you want to drive from participants. Remember this, if you have created a valuable chat for your customers, then you have earned the right to ask them for something. Maybe you want them to go to your website and download a white paper, or signup for a free trial of your new service. Many brands will do giveaways in association with their chat, this is a great way to drive interest and reward participants as well. But you need to think about how you can move twitter chat participants OFF Twitter and onto a property you own.
9 – Invite and welcome newbies. As your chat begins you will likely see some people tweeting ‘Hey just found this chat, what is it?’ or similar. Always always ALWAYS welcome newbies and THANK them for joining. If they tweet asking what the deal is and are immediately welcomed and thanked for coming, that greatly increases the chances that they will stay and participate.
10 – Ask for feedback, and act on it. This is especially important if you want to run an ongoing twitter chat. Ask participants what you can do better. Ask them what topics they want to see covered. Yes it can be scary to ask for feedback and hear them tell you what you are doing wrong. But when you ask for feedback you are doing something very powerful: You are making the participants the owners of the chat. When Jessica tells you what she wants to see you discuss and then you pick her topic, then that chat is HER chat! That makes her more invested in the chat, so she’s more likely to participate and promote it to others. It also sends a signal to all the other participants that you value and appreciate their feedback.
11 – Say ‘Thank You’ and mean it when you say it. It’s damn hard work to get a twitter chat off the ground. Even if you only have 3 people show up for your first chat, make sure they understand how much you appreciate them, because that will encourage them to come back. And next time they’ll likely tell their friends to come with them.
If you’ve participated in brand-run twitter chats, what would you add to this list?