Twitter chats can be incredibly powerful tools to communicate directly with your audience. They can also be absolutely terrifying if you’ve never hosted one before. When hosting a Twitter chat use these five tips to keep from falling flat on your (digital) face: 1. Invite Partners to the Conversation. When it comes to Twitter Chats, remember—the more the merrier! The whole point of a chat is to engage people in a conversation, so make sure to get your partners—who are often your top advocates—to join in. You’re likely to widen your typical audience and expand your reach by including your partners who may have a completely different base of Twitter followers. Additionally, you can bounce off each other’s comments to make the chat more dynamic. Non-partners will benefit as a result.
2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you’re not the expert in the room, take the time to meet with them in advance and talk about key topic points they want to discuss during the chat. Don’t be afraid to ask them the hard questions—it’s better for your team to think through controversial topics now instead of the day of the chat. Once you’ve done your homework, prepare your tweets and gather any links, photos, videos, or other content you intend to share. Give your expert and partners adequate time to review the content beforehand and make tweaks. And don’t forget to send a final copy of the tweets to everyone before the chat begins.
Bonus Tip: Unsure how many tweets to write? Follow this general rule of thumb—plan to tweet at least every 1-2 minutes during your chat, regardless of whether anyone actively engages. For example, if I’m hosting a one-hour chat, I aim to develop at least 50 tweets in advance. Often, when people do ask questions, I’m able to tweak one of my existing tweets to respond to their question quickly and deftly.
3. Promote the Heck Out of It. What’s the point in hosting a chat if no one shows up for it? Before the big day, make sure you adequately promote the chat through your Twitter account. Providing sample promo tweets to partners and your stakeholder champions in the crowd will make it easier for them to promote the chat too; with their help, you’ll be able to reach a wider crowd of potential followers and chatters. And while social media platforms are an ideal place to promote the chat, don’t lose sight of more traditional platforms as well. Sharing information about the chat through press releases, blogs, listservs, and other forums can engage a new audience who may not track Twitter as closely.
4. Don’t Forget Logistics! It may seem remedial, but logistics are a crucial part of any successful Twitter chat. Before hosting a Twitter chat, make sure to: 1) send out a meeting invite so participants and partners don’t forget to show up, 2) book a room with a projector and screen so the person tweeting can share their screen, 3) arrange for a conference call line and, if possible, set up a Web conference meeting so remote partners can see and hear you. The day of the chat, show up at least one hour in advance to set up your equipment and make sure there are no A/V or network connection issues—the worst thing that can happen is you miss your Twitter chat because you couldn’t get online. Encourage your expert and partners to join you in the room or online at least 15 minutes before the chat begins to hash out any remaining questions.
5. Stay Calm and Carry On Tweeting. When you have a high volume of questions coming in, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. This stress can often impede your ability to think quickly and craft responses on the fly. To help manage this, I encourage you to have at least two staff members support the chat. One person should serve as the primary tweeter, posting prepared tweets and crafting new responses, as needed. The second person should serve as the Twitter monitor. Their role is to track designated hashtags and notify participants when a new question arises. Often, this person can also help keep the conversation on track by reviewing prepared tweets and finding responses that can be tailored to the question posed. With at least two staff members covering Twitter, the expert and partners can focus on how to answer unexpected questions.
Developed through a good amount of trial and error, each of these tips has enabled me to host smooth, successful Twitter chats. What has helped you? Tweet to me at @LGBackhaus or comment below!
Interested in more social media tips? Download Corner Alliance’s toolkit, Social Media for Government!