Are Twitter Chats part of your social media marketing strategy?
What are you waiting for?
Since Twitter Chats yield measurable social media results.
Twitter chats are social media's non-stop virtual cocktail party. – HeidiCohenClick To Tweet
Unlike real life events, you don’t need an invitation to attend a Twitter Chat!
And, in many chats, even newbies get the velvet rope treatment!
So here’s what do you have to do to participate in a chat:
- Show up at the designated time,
- Use the Twitter hashtag, and
- Participate as you would converse face-to-face with friends!
Wonder why you should spend your precious time engaged in Twitter Chats?
In terms of personal branding, these social media events allow you to connect with others. In the process, they reduce the loneliness of work-from-home (aka: #WFH) and help you to become part of a community of people with shared interests.
From a professional perspective, these social media-based virtual events help you to:
- Meet new peers and influencers,
- Learn from top people in your field, and
- Support your business and marketing objectives.
To help you get up to speed to become a champion, use this Twitter Chat Guide to get the most results from your time and engagement.
What Is a Twitter Chat?
Twitter Chat consists of a public discussion on Twitter. It usually occurs at a set time on a specific day of the week. By doing so, it builds your audience’s participation habit with consistent content.
The defining elements of this open social media conversation include:
- Use of a unique hashtag to allow people to follow the discussion and participate in it,
- Focus on a key overarching category of interest with a more tailored weekly focus, and
- Provides a recurring conversation on a set day and time.
Further, take a page from Content Marketing Institute’s founder:Create durable social media hashtags. So they persist over time. For example, #CMWorld. Joe PulizziClick To Tweet
The people and brands that follow Joe’s advice keep the conversation on Twitter active during the week and over time. This happens with the Content Marketing World hashtag.
By contrast, while many live and virtual events create a special hashtag, they make it event-specific so the conversation is by definition time bound.
Unlike other marketing channels, Twitter Chats tap into social media’s 3 forms of communication. At any given point in time, participants can respond:
- One-to-One to address one or a few individuals by using their Twitter handle(s). These messages can be public or private.
- One-to-Many to put a message out to the public. This is the traditional way marketers communicate with their audiences.
- Many-to-Many to offer their thoughts to the group and allow others to choose to respond.
- How To Create A One Page Social Media Strategy [Worksheet included!]
Why Your Marketing and Social Media Strategies Need Twitter Chats
Unlike other forms of social media communications and content sharing, Twitter Chats provide forums for participants with diverse backgrounds and interests to engage in real time.
As such, on-going Twitter conversations are based on social research by:
- Stanley Milgram’s Small World Theory (often known as 6 Degrees of Separation) and
- Malcolm Gladwell’s Law of the Few in his book The Tipping Point focused on Connectors, Mavens and Persuaders.
To support all types of marketing strategies, Twitter Chats help to:
- Keep the social media conversation going and evolving in real time. As a result, no one tweet needs to be a marketing hit. Where needed, take the discussion offline. Further, create a branded social media listening post.
- Support thought leadership development for a specific topic or niche. Since these discussions persist over time, change your specific marketing messages to be timely and relevant.
- Provide access to thought leaders and influencers. In short, Twitter Chats offer access to experts who may be difficult to engage with.
- Create community around your topic or business. Since Twitter chats take place on a weekly basis, your audience develops a habit of showing up and participating. As a result, you build share of audience attention (or SOAA). In turn, this supports content distribution and develops brand advocates.
- Develop and support other marketing goals. This includes building your brand and social media presence. Because it attracts new prospects, converts them into leads and customers, and offers on-boarding and customer support
- How To Build Your Network. Provides useful tips.
Twitter Chat Case Studies: 2 Chat Super Stars
Madalyn Sklar – Host of #SocialROI and #TwitterSmarter Chats
What Is Your Twitter Chat Secret Power?
Madalyn: “I’ve been running the #TwitterSmarter chat for 5 years. In that span of time, the chat has received 9+ billion impressions and 400 thousand tweets.“
All of this activity comes from a conversation about how to use Twitter better.
Each week the chat brings hundreds of people together for an active one-hour discussion.
How Did You Build Your Twitter Chat Community?
When you share valuable information and let others shine!
Translation: Make it about them, not you, to get great results.
But patience matters! It takes time to build your following.
While it takes a lot of work and persistence, the benefits of having your own Twitter chat yield measurable results. But you must stick with it and provide value to your community.
Erika Heald – Host of #ContentChat – Mondays at 3:00 pm ET
According to Twitter Champ Erika Heald:
The best way to get noticed in a Twitter Chat is to participate in it in real time.
- Have conversations with other participants not just the moderator,
- Be helpful, and
- Follow the 80/20 rule to go very light on self-promotion and to share your content.
In Erika’s opinion:
Often marketers treat Twitter chats as a place to promote their latest content or promotion. But this yields little if any measurable benefit.
What is the biggest challenge Erika faces with #ContentChat?
“Having hosted #ContentChat for 4 years, the biggest challenge is to keep the content and format fresh.” [Editor: Every content marketer faces this issue!]
“So I avoid repeating topics and/or guests unless a significant change has occurred. Instead, I experiment with community formats and topics.”
“To help participants, we work on a specific issue as a group or do a hands-on activity during the chat. For example, we helped attendees to craft a personalized career development plan for the year.”
How Did You Decide To Extend #ContentChat Community To Other Platforms And Real Life?
Erika also hosts a live meetup for #ContentChat regulars during Content Marketing World in Cleveland.
10 Tactics To Master Any Twitter Chat (aka: Rules of Twitter Chat!)
Want to become a Twitter chat champion?
Use these 10 tactics to become an active member of any Twitter chat to support your marketing, business and/or personal objectives with a social media marketing strategy.
First Rule of Twitter Chat: Do your homework
- Put Your Best Foot Forward. Dress your Twitter Profile for success. As Twitter business card, use a great photo, bio, and header image to grab attention and reflect your brand. Look at how Madalyn Sklar’s profile does this.
- Explore Different Chats. Determine which discussions are most relevant to your social media and personal branding needs. Lurk to get the hang of how people exchange information in each chat. Take note of how the regular participants interact with each other.
- Add Specific Chats to Your Calendar. Show up on consistently to become a Twitter Chat regular. Like any other marketing and/or personal relationships, the key to success is to build a participation habit. As a result, you develop closer ties and get recognized.
Second Rule of Twitter Chat: Understand The Communication Basics
- Introduce yourself when you join a chat to let others know who you are. Also share a personal detail or two. It’s like a face-to-conversation. Most chats start with an icebreaker question. Some chats ask lurkers, to say “hi” to get an idea of who’s attending.
- Let your followers know when you join a chat. So they know to expect more tweets than average and don’t get pissed when you fill their Twitter stream.
- Listen to Emily Post and mind your manners. As open conversations, chat participants have varying amounts of experience and come from different parts of the world. So show everyone respect and be polite.
- Be friendly. A limited amount of small talk takes place at the beginning of a chat. It’s like live events. When you’ve attended a few chats, reach out to newer attendees to make them feel welcome.
- Take a time out. If the chat discussion gets heated, walk away for a few minutes to regroup. Don’t let your fingers communicate in the heat of the moment. Since followers, attendees and the public can view your tweets. They leave a digital record.
- Show your appreciation to the moderator and others. Acknowledge the moderator’s work to guide the Twitter conversation. Also, thank those with whom you connected.
Third Rule of Twitter Chat: Follow The Question And Answer Format
To facilitate chats, they’re composed of a question and answer format.
The best chat leaders like Sklar and Heald follow these steps:
- Attract top influencers to be guests since the community admires their work and want to engage with them. Also, it builds real-time attendance.
- Select an engaging chat topic and title. Make the chat enticing to attract regulars and a broader audience.
- Develop a set of questions to generate interaction. Most chats last an hour and have about 8 questions. Often the guest has pre-formatted answers and responds to the conversation in real time.
- Create visuals for promotion and questions. This keeps the conversation on track. Also it attracts a broader audience.
Fourth Rule of Twitter Chat: Maximize Chat Participation In Real Time
Always include the hashtag in your tweets to get seen by the entire group. Where appropriate add other people’s names and hashtags to your tweets.
To this end, contribute to the scheduled chat conversation in real time include:
- Re-tweet useful information and comments.
- Share your insights or point of view.
- Reply to the guest and other participants.
Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t respond to you! Since participants use different platforms and devices.
As Erika recommends:
Limit your personal promotion.
Consider the impact of your tweets on others who read it from a different context from yours.
Also, when you share content on a Twitter Chat, ask yourself:
Does this information add to the conversation and the collective knowledge?
Fifth Rule of Twitter Chat: Create a Twitter Chat Strategy
Create a marketing strategy to guide your use of Twitter Chats even if you don’t create your own chat!
Since your time is scarce, you need to ensure that the chat yields measurable results for your marketing and/or personal relationships over time.
Decide on your goals for each Twitter Chat.
Specifically, do you want to:
- Meet new peers.
- Learn new insights, and/or
- Build relationships and community.
So neither you nor your boss view this Twitter social media activity as “wasted” time.
Create a set of relevant metrics related to your goals to you ensure that your Twitter Chat activity contributes to building business value.
Sixth Rule of Twitter Chat: Help Promote The Chat
Like any other form of content or marketing, Twitter Chats need to be promoted on a regular basis to stay top of mind.
Twitter Chat Promotion Tip:
Promote upcoming guests in the current chat while you’ve got the maximum attention!
Where appropriate, extend your hashtag to a much larger event. Content Marketing Institute did this successfully with #CMWorld.
If you run a Twitter chat, then use every form of owned and social media to support your efforts. As Madalyn advises, understand that it takes time to gain traction.
To this end, take advantage of co-marketing and tap into the power of the influencers you know.
As a regular participant, support the chat by sharing their promotions and tweets.
Seventh Rule of Twitter Chat: Follow Up Post-Chat
Since Twitter Chats help you to connect with peers, prospects and influencers, schedule time to follow up after each chat.
- Follow people with whom you connected. If you liked what they said in the chat, follow up them on Twitter. Take action while the conversation is still fresh in your mind.
- Gone but not forgotten. After a chat, monitor your Twitter streams to see if others respond to your comments. Where appropriate, answer them. Also, exchange ideas during the week through the use of the hashtag.
- Show your appreciation to the moderator and others. Acknowledge the work that the moderator has put in to help guide the conversation. Also, thank those with whom you connected.
Eighth Rule of Twitter Chat: Continue To Experiment With Different Social Media Experiences
Like other types of social media, Twitter Chats are evolving. But don’t be fooled as this doesn’t happen by accident.
Whenever Madalyn attends a conference, she holds her Twitter Chats Live. Even better, she gets companies to provide swag and goodies for the people who join her live at the event.
Beyond creating content, the people who participate in the live Twitter Chat get to connect and build deeper relationships! (Hat tip: Lisa Marcyes for the photo!)
So Madalyn experimented going from a Twitter chat to a Facebook Live stream. She invited her guest to join her immediately following the Twitter chat to continue the conversation. And the beauty of using Facebook Live is that the video replay lives on.
Ninth Rule of Twitter Chat: Maximize The Power Of Twitter Chat Content
(aka: Continuous Content Distribution)
Instead of considering tweets to be short and fleeting content, reuse the content created during each Twitter Chat. By capturing the most valuable gems, you can reuse them and keep them visible.
In the process, you provide useful, reimagined content for:
- Attendees who want to review key points
- Non-attendees interested in the topic and/or guest.
The most common options are blog posts and Twitter moments. Here are examples from Content Marketing World’s chat with Brian Fanzo on the topic of Digital Empathy.
Tenth Rule of Twitter Chat: Track Key Metrics
Erika does a Twitter Advanced Search for her hashtag and the timeframe.
In addition, she uses hashtag tracking tools such as hashtracking. Although typically, she skims the feed and decides (based on overall interaction/engagement) which tweets merit highlighting or publishing in other content.
Personally, I like the visual impact of charts like this one from Nodelgraphicgallery. It summarizes results to show the top participants. It also shows the data by question.
Twitter Chat Guide Conclusion
Twitter chats are the social media cocktail party where communications flow many-to-many.
Unlike your ordinary tweet, Twitter Chats provide longer term benefits for both your personal brand and businesses.
Because they create on-going communities where participants care about each other. Further, they build deeper relationships through their weekly consistency.
In an era of work-from-home and the gig economy, Twitter Chats provide a relatively stable environment. These communities provide friendship, engagement and information.
While still predominantly transmitted 280 characters or less, these communications force participants to focus on key information.
Take a page from Twitter Super Stars, Madalyn and Erika, don’t rest on your Twitter Chat laurels.
Instead you need to continually try new things and evolve to:
- Change up the content to prevent it from getting stale.
- Test new technologies and opportunities.
- Delight and surprise your community—on Twitter, other social media platforms, and real life!
Editor’s note: This article was initially published on January 21, 2011. Back then, I was an active member of Mack Collier’s #BlogChat and Chris Jones’s #SMChat. Further, I was an initial member of #USGuys who broke the rules on how to run a chat. Since then the article and information was significantly updated and expanded on June 21, 2019 and again on November 6, 2020.
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Photo credit: Superman manikin photographed by Heidi Cohen at CMWorld 2018. “Superman” and the Superman logo are registered trademarks of DC Comics.