By Andrés Uribe, Expedition PR
Want to connect with your community in a fun and casual way? Well a Twitter Chat, sometimes called a Twitter Party, might be for you.
First off, what is a Twitter Chat? A Twitter Chat is a way of using Twitter to create an online, public chat forum that revolves around a central conversation theme. Participants are given a unique hashtag to use during the chat, a host or hosts to follow who will help control conversation and chat flow, and a date and time to join in on the chat. Chats usually last 1-2 hours, and many offer giveaways throughout the chat.
Besides being fun and entertaining for all parties involved, Twitter Chats offer companies a way to connect with and grow their audience in a personal way. Given the live nature of the chat, participants aren’t seeing the usual company messages that have gone through multiple rounds of edits and revisions, but rather something raw and real that they can connect with. This raw nature of the chat can become a double-edged sword, and it is for this reason that preparation is key to a smooth and successful Twitter Chat experience. Here are a few things you should do before hosting a chat that will help make it a success:
1. Send out an RSVP form. When promoting your Twitter Chat, it’s a good idea to send out an RSVP forum with your promotional tweets. Gmail users can easily create their own forum by going to the Drive and creating a new Google Form. When creating the form, ask for participants to tell you their name, Twitter handle, email address, where they heard of the chat from, and if there is anything they’d like to discuss during the chat. With this information you’ll be able to do things such as.. send out a reminder Tweet/email before the chat starts, easily contact winners should you decide do giveaways during the chat, and better include participants by discussing their topics during the chat.
2. Have a script. While the chance for live interaction with participants is what makes a Twitter Chat a really special marketing tool, a prudent host will prepare a script. The purpose of the script is to drive conversation and ensure a timely and on topic chat. A script should include a series of topics for discussion during the chat, along with background info and sub topics to help push conversation for any topic that might not immediately spark conversation. The script should be written out in a ready to Tweet format, this way the host can easily copy and paste Tweets into the chat.
Two important things to keep in mind when constructing your script: 1) The script is only meant to spark conversation and should by no means encompass the entirety of your Tweets during the chat. A good host will have around 20% of his Tweets come from a script; the rest should be live interactions with chat participants during the chat. 2) Although a script is a good way to control chat flow and ensure that your chat stays within the time originally scheduled, it’s never a good idea to auto-schedule your script. While, based on experience, each topic usually provides for around 10 min of lively conversation, this can vary. Your script should allow you the flexibility to give a particularly interesting topic some extra time to discuss, and cut short any topics that might not spark as much conversation as originally expected. Continual lively conversation is essential to a successful Twitter Chat, and a script can be your tool to help make this happen.
3. Plan for Twitter Jail. A good Twitter Chat tends to produce a lot of Tweets in a short amount of time. Although this is a good thing in terms of chat success, Twitter views this as potential spam. In order to combat spam, Twitter automatically temporary locks any account that Tweets more than 100 times in an hour, or 1000 times in a day. Although the amount of time your account will be locked for tends to vary, this lockdown period is generally known as ‘Twitter Jail’.
There are two ways to combat Twitter Jail. The first one is to not get locked up in the first place. A good way to do this is to spread your tweets across multiple hosts. You can do this by having one account that you will post script topics from and another account of two that will be used to actively participate in the chat. Should you get thrown in Twitter Jail, it’s a good idea to have another account handy that will take over your hosting duties. At the beginning of your chat, inform participants to follow @YourTwitterAccount and @YourTwitterAccountJail. By creating a simple variation of your account with jail at the end, chat participants will know that this is only a temporary account and that in the future they should interact with your primary account.
4. Make sure your #hashtag is unique. Although this might seem basic, it is important to check and see if the hashtag you have chosen for your chat is unique, or at least scarcely used by the general Twitter population. By choosing a hashtag that is not unique, you run the risk of having off topic Tweets end up in your chat stream. For example, while #LoL might seem like a good hashtag for a group of League of Legends (computer game) players to use for a chat, chat participants might become a little confused when @GossipQueen13 enters the chat with “All I’ve eaten today is a banana and an Italian ice #lol”. A good rule of thumb, do a search for the hashtag you’re considering using. If it’s been used more than 5 times in the last month, look for another hashtag.
These tips are by no means all inclusive; Twitter Chats are fast paced and require a good amount of prepping to ensure a smooth chat. But follow these guidelines and you’ll be off to a good start when prepping for your next chat!