Why and How to Host a Successful Twitter Chat
Want to build community around your business? Needing to up your game and increase visibility on social media? Hosting a Twitter chat is a super effective way to achieve both of these goals, yes even in 2018! After hosting multiple chats that have gone from ‘sucked’ to ‘success’, I’m here to share the top 5 reasons why you should host a Twitter chat and exactly how to make sure yours gives you a great return on investment!
Reason #1: It doesn’t take up too much of your time
Once you’ve hosted a Twitter chat, you’ll realize how easy it is to get set-up, host and reflect. It doesn’t require you to block out huge amounts of time in your schedule (in fact you can absolutely get it all planned out on an evening. You’ll already have defined your audience, have set a time, have chosen a hashtag, have images ready as templates and have a promotion strategy. All you’ll have to do is pick a topic, plan out your questions & answers, pick a date, schedule your tweets and promote (trust me, this really doesn’t take long). A community like a Facebook group or Slack channel (mastermind) requires ongoing attention, taking up more of your time and is limited to those who are members. Hosting a Twitter chat can be a once-per-week or once-per-month thing, and it’s only for a set duration.
Reason #2: You can set up the whole thing without needing to invest any money
Create your images using Canva, schedule your tweets and view multiple feeds at once by using Hootsuite. Each of these are really simple and quick to use, plus they won’t cost you anything.
Reason #3: It strengthens your content marketing strategy
Make your Twitter chat about a blog post you’re writing or a product/service you’re launching. You can use it as a research tool before you publish, or as a follow-up to continue the conversation after you’ve launched. It’s a great way to get your audience really involved and invested in what you’re doing, plus it helps you to improve what you’re doing too by validating your ideas. If you’re considering hosting a monthly chat, choose a theme that you stick to across all of your platforms each month. This gives you and your audience consistency so that you can plan in advance and they know what to expect/look forward to and when. It also enables you to talk about/share content that fits in with the topic, driving traffic to your site which could convert into email subscribers, clients or customers.
Reason #4: It showcases you as a leader in your niche/industry
Got the courage to step up and ask the questions people are dying to know? Ready to dive in with a strong response and effective questioning? I love this because it gives me the opportunity to demonstrate my knowledge and expertise – to show that I can think on my feet and not avoid any awkward answers (just like a Facebook Live). Even better if you own up and say “I don’t actually know the answer to that, but here’s someone who might”. It shows that you’re not winging your way through, and that you’re willing to support others. Encourage people to find the answers themselves, that’s what a true leader would do.
Reason #5: You’ll get to know your audience & get the feedback you need
Have you held surveys that just haven’t seen the amount of responses you’d hoped for? There could be a number of reasons for this, but if it’s questions like “what would you most like to learn about X?” then hosting a Twitter chat is far more effective at getting answers. It’s super appealing due to its’ fast-paced interaction, which also gives people the chance to be really honest. They’ve got just 280 characters (for now) and a matter of minutes to get their answer to you before the next question comes around. Sometimes not leaving people with too much time to think through and change their mind is best, as you’re likely to get the most honest reply. With the option to quickly jump in and out of the chat, it’s easier to get people involved and also gives them a reason to be online. As I encourage all of my readers to be purposeful and practical with their approach to entrepreneurship, I would always recommend they spend an intense hour participating in a chat.
So, what did I personally get out of hosting Twitter chats?
- As the host of the Twitter chat, participants tend to follow you so they can easily see when you tweet out a new question and get updates about when you’re hosting another. More Twitter followers means your tweets are being seen by more people, which increases the opportunities for your content, products, and services to be consumed, shared and/or purchased. (In an algorithmic feed, you need to get the initial traction (engagement) to keep the content out there).
- By asking about my audience’s problems and sharing my knowledge and expertise based on their situation, I received more client enquiries for my business. This was also the perfect way to extend the relationship and build trust by inviting individuals to have a discovery call with me without it feeling like a sales pitch. Quickly after the chat, I followed up with these prospective clients and booked them in.
- I was also able to provide resources to support my answers and what my audience needed from me in the form of sending over a link to a relevant piece of content… resulting in more website traffic. I recommended content by others which demonstrated that I have knowledge of my niche/industry and increases trust with my audience.
- And of course, I really got enjoyment from the experience (and I was nervous too! “What if nobody turns up?” went through my head before every chat). As an introvert, I found it the perfect first step to interacting with people I don’t know. Live webinars/workshops are likely out of most people’s comfort zones as a starting point, but hosting a Twitter chat eases you in gently, meaning I had loads of fun.
How to get started (a summary)
- Join a Twitter chat as a participant, testing out tools like Hootsuite
- Follow a host during a Twitter chat, observe what they’re doing and make notes
- Volunteer to host an existing Twitter chat to get a feel for it
- Reflect on what you’ve learnt so far and what should be done next time
- Plan out your own Twitter chat, host it and reflect again
How to Host a Twitter Chat – A Step by Step Guide
1. Define your ideal audience
Something that as a business owner, content creator or influencer, you should already be aware of is who your target audience is. Knowing this enables you to deliver content that meets their needs and wants, and to really evoke an emotion that will lead to them commenting, sharing and/or purchasing from you. In particular when you’re planning your Twitter chat you need to consider: their age and location (step 2 will make it clear why these are important), and how/when/why they use Twitter. Get really clear on your audience’s habits so you can determine how they find out about Twitter chats, when in the day they use it and what is likely to make them want to join.
2. Decide on a date and time
Deciding on a date is easy – pick a day not in the too distant future (but gives you enough time to promote) and that doesn’t have a whole bunch of other Twitter chats going on. When it comes to picking a time, this is when the age and location part of step 1 comes in. You need to consider whether your target audience will be at work/school/commuting/asleep. Most Twitter chats are held in the evening when people are winding down (not busy cooking or getting the kids stuff ready for the next day). From my personal experience, I have found 8-9pm to be the optimum time for hosting a chat.
3. Pick your topic
If you’ve got a product launching or a monthly content theme, you might already know what topic you want to go with, but consider something that’s really going to get people talking (especially for your first chat). Hint: People love to talk about themselves so give them the opportunity to do so, then wait until you’re asked before you give your answer – this shows that you’re a great listener!
4. Research your hashtag
Nowadays people hashtag everything. There’s not much that hasn’t been ‘hashtagged’ but your aim is to find something that’s not being over-used, is fairly short (so there’s still plenty of characters left in the tweet), but something that accurately describes your chat. If you’re considering hosting multiple chats then picking one hashtag that applies to your brand rather than the specific topic will add consistency. It’s important not to mislead people though, e.g. I could call my chat #RVchat (my initials) but it could be mistaken for a chat about recreational vehicles rather than about digital marketing!
5. Plan & schedule your questions and answers with images
The most important part of hosting your own Twitter chat is to ask questions that really spark responses. You don’t have to be controversial, but you could for example make a statement that has caused a divide and ask for opinions. If you want to keep the peace a little more, then opt for more open questions. When hosting a chat, it’s good to ask people to introduce themselves at the very beginning and also share a little about you before delving into the questions. Each question and answer should start with Q1, Q2, Q3 and A1, A2, A3 etc to help people who might be jumping in late to know which question they’re responding to. From hosting my own Twitter chats, I’ve found that posting questions and answers at 5 minute intervals (so Introduction at the starting time + 5x Qs + 5x As + Thank you’s at the end time) is a good way to space them out. It’s a real timesaver if you create an image template that can be used for each question (and for future chats), then schedule both your questions and answers before the chat begins using a tool like ContentCal, Sprinklr, Buffer, Hootsuite or SmarterQueue.
6. Set goals
Like I mentioned earlier in this post, I’m a huge advocate for purposeful and practical goal setting. It’s worthwhile setting a measurable figure i.e. how many participants you hope to join in order to see how successful your chat was and/or identify barriers that might have prevented more people joining afterwards. It’s also valuable to consider what you want to get out of hosting a Twitter chat so you can keep that in your mind as you interact with people. Do you want to get more traffic to your site? Then what questions can you ask that will spark an answer that you have a piece of content about?
7. Plan the promotion
Of course, for people to turn up to your chat you need to get the word out there. Brainstorm all of the potential opportunities for informing people about your chat. Remember, if you add it to a piece of evergreen content, then it’s important to remove the information about it after the chat so you’re not leaving out of date events up (so avoid mentioning it on the blog post image/in the URL/in the title). Think about when you’re going to start promoting your chat, how often you’ll mention it and how you can remind people without spamming.
8. Make notes during the chat
Open up an app or grab a notepad so you can make a note of anybody to follow up with, any recurring topics that your audience were interested in plus anything that you notice could be improved next time around (you can also Bookmark a tweet if you’ll remember to look there).
After everything you do, it’s good to spend even just a few minutes to reflect on what worked well, what didn’t, what you could do in the future, how it made you feel, whether you achieved your goals and any other ideas or revelations you had.
Hosting a Twitter chat isn’t half as scary as it sounds. To break you in gently, be sure to join others’ chats focusing particularly on what the host is doing and how people are responding to that. You could also volunteer to host an existing chat to take away steps 1-4 as a starting point. You’re guaranteed to learn what works best and what’s not necessary along the way, plus you’ll really start to connect with your ideal people and reap the other benefits that come with it.
Bonus: PRO Tips
- Be flexible - it's really important to be aware and be considerate of world events - hosting a Twitter chat after a tragedy for example is in bad taste.
- Get a sponsor - when your Twitter chats gain traction, get a brand or influencer involved. When I've teamed up and ran a giveaway, more people have helped us to spread the word and have come back because they enjoyed it so much.
- Use Twitter Moments - pull together the best of your chat to summarise it for those who missed it.
PS, If you are feeling brave enough, the concepts in this post also work for Facebook/Instagram Live and webinars!