A tweet chat is a great way to bring your community members together and talking about a topic of common interest. It can help promote you as a host and the key words, concepts and causes you want to be associated with. Here are some tips to help get you started!
Pick a hashtag
The hashtag is key to your chat; it helps outsiders know what everyone is chatting about and it is included with each post to tie it to the chat. You want to keep your hashtag short, relevant, unique, easily identifiable and easy to remember. If possible try to avoid acronyms and branding (unless your topic is explicitly about a well known acronym or your brand) this is to keep the chat topic obvious to onlookers and appealing for people to join. If you brand your hashtag other might be reluctant to join if they perceive it as a sales pitch or strictly a self serving marketing ploy.
Decide when you plan on launching and holding your chat, decide on a time, day and the frequency. When planning when to host your tweet chat consider your audience time zone and lifestyle – this may mean you need to hold it “after hours” to reach your audience effectively, be prepared to follow through if this is the case. There is no point in holding a teachers chat at 10am on a week day when most teachers will be in the classroom and not online! Your frequency can be weekly, monthly, bi-weekly or whatever works for your schedule – just remember that you will need to not only attend these chats yourself (you can’t be late!) but you also need to prepare the questions, promote them, possibly write a blog post and more! Be sure you have the time to commit to the schedule you choose – you don’t want to be changing the time, date and frequency after you set your schedule, you will confuse and loose participants.
Write a blog post or start a website
If you want your Twitter chat to have staying power set up a web page or blog post with all of the details. Include the schedule, example topics, why you are hosting the chat and who it is for. There are some great Twitter widgets you can add that will showcase the latest tweet from your hashtag, if you want to get fancy. Be sure to include your Twitter handle in case people want to ask questions or connect with you ahead of time.
Use your mailing list to help promote your chat and gain some interest, send out a blast a week or two before your chat starts with all of the details. If possible include a calendar plugin or ask people to add it to their calendar so they don’t forget (remind them to make it a recurring event), also ask them to connect with you ahead of time on Twitter and to share the event with friends and peers that might find it relevant.
Promote on social media, event sites
In the two weeks leading up to your event regularly promote your event; share links to the blog post, share the kickoff date and hashtag and work it into conversation when natural to do so. In addition to just posting the chat details, set up events (like Facebook events, Google events) and use event sites (community listings, Tweetvite, etc) to get the word out. Add the tweet chat details to the Google Docs Twitter schedule – make sure to include as many details and key words as possible.
Directly invite people: participants, celebrity presence
Each day in the two weeks leading up to the chat personally invite relevant people to the chat from Twitter; let them know what it is, when it is and what’s in it for them. Try your best to not look spammy, personalize the messages when you can. You may want to help persuade influential users but offering to make them a moderator, special guest or letting them submit a branded question.
Consider an incentive during kick off – coffee cards, swag, iTunes credit
If you have SWAG or a small budget to offer some incentives to participate and promote that you will randomly draw 1-2 posts per chat to win your SWAG or small prize. (This does not need to be large, just enough to get someone to tweet!) Let them know to be eligible they need to follow the host account so they can DM with delivery details!
Plan your topics, questions
Plan at LEAST 2 chats in advance so you can talk about the next chat in your first chat! Each chat should have a topic and 5-8 questions. Questions should be open ended and generate conversation (instead of “Do you..” try starting with ‘How do you..”) questions that ask about opinions or feelings are often successful at getting people to open up. Start with some easy questions to answer – some great chats start with more generic questions like “what is making you happy today” “what are you working on now” “What is the best part of your day so far” then ask an easy topic specific question and follow up with tougher, heavier questions in the middle or near the end when everyone is warmed up and chatty.
Bonus: If you can, schedule your tweet questions to roll out automatically so you dont have to watch the clock, then you can just focus on the conversations and engagement!
Figure out your timing
2 minutes before announce that you will start in 2 minutes
Start of the first 5 minutes with – introduction of the topics, best practices, welcome participants, introduce special guests
Intro tweet 1: Thank you for joining #xchat! Today’s topic is “topic”
Intro tweet 2: Each question will be numbered (Q1) retweet the question then post your answer including the #hashtag & the question number
Intro tweet 3: Let’s get to know each other! Introduce yourself, where you’re from & why you are joining us – include #hashtag then follow away!
Intro tweet 4: Keep it positive! #NoBullies! Be supportive! RT & comment on others’ answers to let them know you like their ideas! Now, lets go! #Hashtag
Next space out your questions 6-8 minutes apart depending on how many questions you have and how much chatter you think they will generate. During the chat RT the great answers, ask follow up questions and LOL at jokes – it is your job to make sure everyone feels like a part of the group and stays engaged. If you see any bullying, intimidation, insults or other undesirable behaviour in your chatters remind them directly (with a mention, without the hashtag) that the goal of the chat is to create a positive and productive sharing environment.
5 minutes before the finish- Announce the time and topic for the next chat; invite participants to share a link or closing thought and encourage them to connect with each other.
After the chat but within 24 hours post a blog entry reviewing the chat and the highlight responses (tools like Storify can help here!) Share the blog link on your social channels and send the link directly to individuals you quoted.
Any other tips? Share them in the comments!
Image source (Creative Commons): http://www.flickr.com/photos/thecampbells/