Twitter Chats: The Definitive Guide to Hosting (or Joining)

Twitter Chats: The Definitive Guide to Hosting (or Joining)

If you want to talk about the exchange of ideas in real-time online, Twitter is one of the oldest still-operating forums where this can happen. In fact, Twitter has historically been one of the most diverse discussion forums around, because there are very few limits on what you can talk about. Also, Twitter members come from all over the world and speak many languages. For that reason, it’s a clearinghouse of ideas like a few others.

However, Twitter is a lot more than an informal place to chat and share information. Instead, it’s a great place for us as marketers to talk about our companies and their products and services. Besides this, most companies can freely chat about the issues affecting their industries. One way to do this is with Twitter chats.

What are Twitter Chats?

what is a _____?

Twitter chats are a simultaneous, scheduled discussion on Twitter that centers around a specific topic. Usually, these chats are a regular occurrence, such as every Friday at 2 PM. Twitter chats have a sponsor who will usually host the discussion, though a handful of associated accounts can also share hosting duties. Off-topic Tweets aren’t welcome and can get someone removed from the chat.

Besides occurring at a particular date and time, the typical Twitter chat will also be relatively well organized. That’s because Twitter feeds will display the Tweets of other people the chat participant is following, and to have a discussion you must differentiate the chat-related Tweets from other traffic.

The 5 Elements of Every Twitter Chat

I’ve already touched on what defines Twitter chats. However, it’s one thing to define something, and another to explain what’s involved in holding these chats. Unlike “tweetstorms,” which are (sometimes heated) relatively disorganized exchanges, chats are well defined and have some elements in common. Without any of them, you wouldn’t really have a chat in the truest sense of the term.

Hashtag

Hashtag

First, Twitter chats wouldn’t be properly organized without a hashtag. In this case, the hashtag is dedicated and only used for the Twitter chat. One way to do this is by creating a hashtag that’s slightly different from your main branded hashtag or your @name. This way, the chat will always be associated with your brand.

Topic

Next, a Twitter chat should always have a particular topic that’s being discussed. Sometimes, this topic will be a particular industry question. For instance, I might hold a regular chat on a social media topic, with a hashtag like #maximizeyoursocialchat. One session might be on Twitter influencers, another one on Facebook ads, and a third about content creation best practices. Whatever the topic of each session, it should always be relevant to your brand and its audience.

Set Day and Time

Remember, people set aside times for recurring meetings, and Twitter chats shouldn’t be any different-particularly if you’re a B2B brand that hopes to do customer education. Your topic, the predominant time zones of the people who attend, and other factors can help you pick the regular meeting times. Just be sure that it’s consistent, and only change that time slot if a large percentage of participants request it.

Questions

Twitter chats wouldn’t hold together without questions. Unlike a lot of other forums, the hosts of a Twitter chat won’t drone on and on about a topic without asking questions. In fact, because of Twitter’s short post format, one-way conversations don’t work very well. Plus, if you want to issue a series of Tweets about something, it’ll show up on your follower’s feeds without your needing to have other people online at a certain time.

To meet the limitations (and opportunities) of Twitter, a Twitter chat asks questions and then invites answers. Hosts can also answer audience questions, and also provide the “company correct” answer to a question as appropriate.

Participation

Finally, Twitter chats involve audience participation. This means that audiences can ask or answer questions throughout the chat period. At the same time, the host will moderate the discussion to keep it on topic and deal with any challenges.

Further Reading: 9 Ways to Increase Your Twitter Engagement Today

The Benefits of Participating in Twitter Chats

With that in mind, it’s important to understand the reasons why people should participate in these chats. After all, marketers and potential customers alike are very busy, and it’s easier to do the bare minimum by not engaging with more people than is necessary. However, there are several benefits to joining Twitter chats that make them well worth your time.

Network

networking with other people

No matter what industry you’re in, networking is a great way to advance your career and sell more products. You never know when participating in Twitter Chats will help you get a new job, get a reference for promotions, or result in a large order that makes your boss happy. And for independent entrepreneurs, the right connections can really expand your business.

Learn

Even people that are experts in their field can learn something new. For instance, a lot of social media marketers don’t know much about TikTok or Snapchat. Depending on the topic of a Twitter chat, you can fill in the gaps. Then, you can apply this knowledge to your career. The best part is that the knowledge exchange through Twitter chats is mostly between peers.

Get On People’s Radar

Finally, Twitter chat participation can help you gain attention for your brand. People like myself, of course, have our personal/professional and company brands. This is often true for consultants and other solopreneurs. Other people build a brand that’s part of their company identity, such as a corporate CEO. Either way, any kind of Twitter chat that’s related to your profession lets you become more recognized in your field. Similarly, you can raise brand awareness for your company by representing them in chats.

How to Participate in a Twitter Chat

Ready to start participating in Twitter chats? There’s a bit more to it than just showing up and chatting away since there are a lot of chats on Twitter. In addition, there are some steps you can take to maximize the benefits of participation. Here are some top tips.

How to Find the Most Relevant Twitter Chats

TweetReports

The first thing you want to do is find the right Twitter chats to participate in. Chances are that there will be more chats than you want to participate in, but by searching the Twitter chat schedule you can find a few that are relevant. From there, you can look at logs and drop in for a trial run. The main search websites are the following:

Between them, I am confident you can find something interesting to participate in.

How to Prepare for the Twitter Chat

If you can, look over Twitter logs from the chats and see how the conversation flows. This way, you can be comfortable once the latest chat starts. Then, once you’ve settled on a chat start date, let your followers know that you’ll be there. It’s fine for your followers to lurk and watch the conversation, but be sure to contribute.

The Twitter Chat Begins: Introduce Yourself!

https://twitter.com/angelojasa/status/1354886248461185028

Just like any other conversation, you should always introduce yourself before participating. Your display name isn’t enough, though: let people know who you are, and what company you work for. This way, any contributions you make will help increase brand visibility. Besides this, someone you already know might welcome you to the chat.

During the Twitter Chat: Don’t Be Afraid to Chime in!

One of the great things about Twitter chats is that you can bring your ideas to the table. And in some instances, you can also ask questions that help you fill those knowledge gaps. You can also reply privately to the tweeter to help deepen a relationship. Either way, full participation helps maximize the time you spend attending the chat.

How to Finish Up the Twitter Chat

Always be appreciative of the chat hosts, since they often do a lot of preparation to bring you a meaningful experience. However, one of the most valuable things you get from these chats is new relationships. Follow those you’ve engaged with and slide into the DMs. By continuing the conversation, you can forge lasting relationships.

The Benefits of Hosting Twitter Chats

Of course, participating in Twitter chats doesn’t mean you have to always be a spectator or contributor. Instead, you may choose to host your own Twitter chat. You can host either as an individual or using a company account. Here’s why you should consider doing this.

Understand Your Followers

For all the work marketers do to define buyer personas and understand their social media audiences, Twitter chats are a unique opportunity. That’s because these events let you engage directly with your audience and answer their questions in a “no pressure” environment.

Further Reading: The Top 21 Twitter User Statistics for 2024 to Guide Your Marketing Strategy

Bring Your Community Together

In our industry, it’s so easy to think about our followers and clients transactionally. In addition, many brand communities do very little interaction within themselves: rather, they only talk to the company or community leader. With Twitter chats, everyone gets to talk with each other-much like conferences or seminars.

Get Feedback

Twitter chats aren’t only about exchanging ideas. Sometimes, they’re a great way to find out what people think about certain features in your products and services. For instance, if you just released a new product, you can do a chat that encourages people to share their thoughts and experiences. Or, if you’re looking to update products, finding out what people want to see in a new model is incredibly valuable.

Build Brand Awareness

Sometimes, simply hosting a chat can help build brand awareness, especially if you use the company account. However, you can also build awareness by mentioning your products on some relevant level during the chat. Many people will join Twitter chats because they’re interested in the topic but might not know about your product. Don’t miss the opportunity to introduce them to it.

Grow Thought Leadership in a Topic

https://twitter.com/DarrenBroad/status/930721817886588928

As you demonstrate knowledge of a topic, people begin to trust you and listen to what you have to say. In other words, you’ll become a go-to person for people who want answers on a particular topic. In other words, you’ll become a thought leader, which is great for business.

Make Connections

Just like Twitter chat participants can learn from hosts and other users, the host can always learn something new. However, learning isn’t the only great thing about chats. By listening to people, you get the opportunity to make a connection with them. For instance, you might find out that someone is an expert on a topic that your company needs right now. Or for that matter, someone whose expertise may become valuable to you down the line.

Gain Followers

Finally, Twitter chats are an important way to gain followers. Many people will come to your chats because they’re interested in a topic, or because someone they know is participating. Then, they might decide to follow your Twitter account to keep learning.

How to Host Your Own Twitter Chat

Want to try hosting your own Twitter chat? If this method of communication appeals to you, or if you/your company want to reap the benefits, then you’ll need to know how to run your own chat. Here are my best suggestions for starting your chat, and ensuring that it runs smoothly.

Participate in Other Twitter Chats to Better Understand Them and Find a Gap

Before you start hosting a Twitter chat, it’s important to understand how they work. You’ll see other hosts moderating discussions, including keeping the conversation going and dealing with disruptions (or off-topic Tweets). In addition, you want to find out what part of your industry isn’t being discussed on Twitter yet. Not only does a “me too” chat leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths, but having a chat that isn’t unique is unlikely to attract a lot of participants.

Picking a hashtag for your chat is similar to choosing one for your company, or for a particular Twitter campaign: it becomes part of the “branding” for your chat. Except that in this case, the hashtag will define your chat because everyone has to use the hashtag to participate. For that reason, be sure to pick a hashtag that’s both original and descriptive of the topic.

Think of It Like a Regular Event (Day of Week and Time) and Plan/Promote It as Such

Remember, one of the important aspects of Twitter chats is that they are a regular event. So, choose a good day and time, then broadcast your decision to your Twitter followers. In addition, consider mentioning the chat time on other social media channels, such as Facebook. Remember, some people will look forward to the chat at those regular intervals.

Further Reading: Twitter Giveaways: Benefits, Rules, Ideas, and How to Run Them Successfully

Recruit (Internally or Externally) a Moderator

Especially as your Twitter chat grows, you’ll need a moderator. After all, one person can only monitor a conversation that’s so large. So, find someone who is willing to help moderate. It can be a colleague, an employee, or someone else who’s interested in the topic and has some credentials.

Invite Experts to Join Your Chat as a Guest

Don’t forget to have special guests on occasion. After all, bringing other thought leaders to your chat helps boost your social proof and the profile of your event. Guests can even help you sell more products. Ultimately, it’s influencer marketing 101.

Further Reading: Twitter Influencers: How to Find and Connect with Them

Prepare Your Twitter Chat with Engaging Questions

Holding a Twitter chat won’t do you much good without some great questions. Something needs to get the discussion started, and good questions are the best way to do this. So, make sure you have several questions ready for your chat. Then, while it’s important to keep people on the topic, you can invite members questions.

Executing the Chat: Use Question Card Graphics

Question cards are text images that you can easily create in an app like Canva that asks a question and normally includes the question number so that Twitter chat participants can include that number as part of their answers. The advantage of using these in Twitter chats is that they make your question stand out from the other Tweets that get sent by other users, often at a rapid pace. Once you’ve displayed a question card, the conversation should shift to what you just asked.

Further Reading: How to Best Leverage Twitter Cards to Generate More Traffic from Your Tweets

Engage Participants

Don’t just ask questions: engage with participants as they respond to the question. This way, the Twitter chats become a genuine conversation, not just a situation of a host putting up questions and then listening as everyone else tries to answer. Besides, engagement helps you shape the discussion in a way that benefits your company and chat participants alike.

Concluding the Chat With a CTA

Remember, as informal as Twitter chats might be, the goal is always to encourage desirable behavior. In most cases, you won’t want to get overly “salesy” with these chats or people won’t consider them worthwhile. However, that doesn’t mean you should end without a call to action. This can be as simple as “check out our website” or “be sure to follow us.” Either way, it helps make the chat more advantageous.

Repurpose Your Chat into a Blog Post!

Finally, I’ve always been a proponent of repurposing content. Not only does this let you share ideas with people that couldn’t attend the chat, but it also helps encourage people to engage with you on other levels. To repurpose a Twitter chat, one of the best options is a blog post. You can extract quotations, summarize the results of the chat, and more.

Conclusion

The fact is that a lot of people haven’t heard of Twitter chats or, if they have seen them, don’t realize what term we use. However, the fact is that Twitter chats are an incredibly valuable marketing tool, both directly and indirectly. For this reason, it’s well worth giving them a try. By leveraging the knowledge and suggestions in this blog post, you’ll be on the way to great chats in no time.

Hero Photo by Rubaitul Azad on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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