Megan Berry is marketing manager for Klout, the standard for online influence. She also blogs at The Huffington Post and Brazen Careerist. You can follow her on Twitter at @meganberry.
Twitter chats are an increasingly common way for people to discuss a topic or passion online. Basically, a group will organize around a specific hashtag so people can follow a single thread of conversation on Twitter. There are now hundreds, if not thousands of regular Twitter chats going on, and for good reason. It's an easy, low-commitment way to get involved in a conversation with other people in your industry. It's also a great way to network and get new ideas.
Starting a Twitter chat, however, requires both time and effort. Make sure you're setting yourself up for a positive outcome with these seven tips.
1. Be Clear About Your Goals Going Into the Chat
Some say there are already too many Twitter chats. How does creating a new one (as opposed to joining existing ones) help you or your company? When I spoke to creators of successful chats like #wjchat, #blogchat, #smmeasure and #u30pro, they pointed out some powerful benefits of doing it right. For a company, it can position you as a thought leader and grow brand awareness. For an individual it can help you meet people in your industry and grow your personal brand.
Still, it is not something to take on lightly. You'll have to put in serious time before you see any results. If you're in a company, make sure you talk about what success looks like before starting your chat. Consider metrics such as the number of people participating, mentions of your brand, sentiment of mentions, and lead generation.
2. Choose a Topic People Care About
How do you know if people care about your chat? They should already be discussing it informally. 'It's better to build a twitter chat around a topic of interest that's directly related to your brand,' says David Spinks, creator of #u30pro, a Twitter chat for young professionals. 'In the end, the participants will still relate the chat back to your brand because you're the one organizing it.
3. Be Authentic
'The key to true reach and success is being authentic,' says Robert Hernandez, founder of #wjchat. '#wjchat is something organic and represents a passion shared by others. â€¦ If you have a topic you are passionate about, there may be others that are looking to connect with you.' Don't do it just because you think you're supposed to. Do it if you are genuinely looking for a way to engage and communicate with a community. Use that passion to stick with the chat when it starts out slow. Spinks says #u30pro's first chat only had seven people and 150 tweets. Today, their typical chat includes 150 people and 1,200 tweets. Keep engaging and the right people and community should find you.
4. Choose a Schedule and Be Consistent
Most Twitter chats occur once a week for an hour, but if you're just starting out, you may consider a bi-weekly or monthly chat instead as it's easier to add sessions than to try and cut back. Sheldon Levine of #smmeasure says if he had to start again, he might have made #smmeasure a bi-weekly (as opposed to weekly) chat, simply because of the time commitment involved. Mack Collier of #blogchat points out the importance of choosing a time that works for both you and your audience. You want people to have time to join your chat. Collier suggested 'either in the middle of the day around lunch time, or at night around 7 or 8 p.m. Central.'
5. Plan, But Stay Flexible
Most Twitter chats have a topical focus each week. The goal is to facilitate the conversation without getting in the way or letting it get out of hand (easier said than done). 'Realize also that a Twitter chat for your brand will be another avenue for customers to express their complaints,' Spinks warns. 'Twitter chats move fast, and can get out of hand quickly. It's real time to the fullest.' Get ready for just about any question to come up. If you're a business, make sure the person running the chat is someone who can speak for the company.
6. Bring In Thought Leaders
Don't be afraid to get others involved, whether you need a partner to develop and plan the chat (#u30pro is operated by a team of four), or great guest 'speakers' to help bring in audience. Twitter chats are successful because of the people in them. Do what you can to get great people involved, especially when you're just starting.
7. Thank People Who Participate
If people take the time to engage with your chat, take a moment to thank them individually or in the chat itself. Collier has found huge success by following this strategy. 'These are your rock stars, and you need to treat them as such,' he said. 'That will simply give them more incentive to spread the word, and help you grow your community.'
Have these tips helped? What advice can you give for organizing a Twitter chat? Let us know in the comments below.
Author: Megan Berry / Posted: 23-06-2011