There’s no doubt that marketers understand the importance of daily social media engagement, but few utilize Twitter Chats as a way to engage with individuals on a large but still personal level. Not familiar with Twitter Chats? They are a way for people of similar interests from all over the world to participate in a real-time conversation on the social channel. Businesses have started using them to connect with individuals in a more personalized and engaging way regarding topics relevant to their brand audience.
If you’re planning to host your own Twitter Chat, you’ll need to:
Understand the format. The conversation is led by a host (or a panel of hosts), uses a question-and-answer format, requires a specific hashtag and generally lasts about an hour.
Determine your goal. Twitter Chats are great for brand awareness, creating buzz, learning more about your audience and developing relationships with your customers. They can also increase website traffic and possibly lead to conversions.
Decide on key players. If you have a large, well-known brand, you may be able to host the conversation on your own. But smaller brands may benefit from partnering with a social influencer, blogger or public figure to help gain more traction. Other important people or departments to involve may be customer service, marcomm, PR and legal teams. They don’t have to participate on Twitter, but should be available during the live Twitter Chat to help answer any questions or conflicts that could arise.
Create a hashtag. A Twitter Chat can’t exist without a hashtag. This is because the hashtag is the “glue” that pulls all of the participating tweets together in a search stream, which is how people find the conversation and know what is being said. Therefore, your hashtag must be unique so that it’s not being used by people outside of the Twitter Chat. It should also be short and easy to write, and could possibly be branded. You can use Twubs to see if a hashtag is being used and to claim your own.
Draft a script. I suggest drafting some opening “welcome” tweets to all the participants asking them to introduce themselves, then 10 questions, and a few “closing” and “thank you” tweets at the end. If you send each out every 3 to 5 minutes, you’ll complete your chat in about an hour. (Remember, each tweet including the hashtag can’t be more than 140 characters – and I suggest limiting it to 120 if you can!)
Plan for all possible scenarios. Could there be potential backlash during a chat? What if something goes wrong? Brainstorm all possible scenarios in advance and prepare responses. As previously mentioned, have your PR and legal counsel in the room during the live Twitter Chat.
Promote the Twitter Chat. Even with all the planning in the world, a Twitter Chat can go flat if no one participates. Be sure to get the word out starting about a week in advance. Promote it on your social channels, reach out to relevant social influencers and bloggers, send out an e-blast and even consider social promoted tweets and a custom landing page.
Measure your results. TweetReach is a tool that can give you a report on how many Twitter accounts your hashtag reached, how many impressions it received, how many contributors there were, what tweets were most frequently retweeted, and more. I also recommend tracking how many new social media followers you received, how much website traffic resulted from social referrals and any conversions (if applicable). Some of this data may require use of tracked links.
During your first Twitter Chat there are bound to be little quirks that arise, but keep in mind that these chats are supposed to be a fun, informal way for you to connect with your customers – so have fun with it! After your first few chats you’ll be a pro and likely wanting to host them more often!
Devon DeMars helps brands understand their online audience and reach their social media goals as the Director of Social Media at Internet Marketing Inc. She’s particularly passionate about building authentic relationships between brands, bloggers and consumers; and educating on the word-of-mouth marketing power of social media. You can connect with her at @ThereDGoes.