Are you getting the most out of TweetChats?

unsplash Aaron Burden swings

Twitter Chat(or TweetChat) has been described as ‘business networking events without the dress code’. A Twitter chat is a timetabled online discussion. A group of Twitter users meets at a pre-determined time, to discuss a pre-determined topic, with a set hashtag. The host will ask questions and encourage participation from the group.

Why would you participate?

The question ought to be more why would you not? It’s a way to meet and engage with a group of like-minded people and/or your customers, and find out more about a subject. For B2B, it’s a way of finding people you want to engage with, and engaging with them, demonstrating your thought leadership in the process. It’s one more channel, and it allows you to go to your community, rather than waiting for them to come to you.  Chats are a great way to amplify your message if you’re already active on social media.

One business which has successfully engaged with Twitter Chat is Dun and Bradstreet, a B2B business providing data and insight. Perhaps more than most, that market lends itself to thought leadership, but Shelly Lucas, the senior marketing manager at D&B, says that the real draw for D&B is the chance to have conversations in real time, with groups of engaged people. She finds it particularly helpful for demonstrating the brand values and culture, and showing that there are real people behind the company’s Twitter handle. For her, it’s all about creating a human to human interaction.

Once you’ve decided that Twitter chats are for you, the next question is whether you join others, or host your own. Going where the community is already present, and joining other people’s chats is one option. Hosting your own chats means you can steer the conversation.

Practical pointers

Whichever you  decide, here are some steps that you should take to get the most out of Twitter chats.

  1. Be prepared – As a participant, take a look at the chat questions before the event. They are often posted on a blog, so you can think about what you might contribute, and also what you’d like to find out about the topic. You should also warn your followers that you’ll be participating, so that they know that there will be a high volume of tweeting going on. Some may also like to join in, so be sure to provide the details.
  2. Starting to host your own conversations – Before you host, join plenty of other chats, so you can get a feel for how it works. You’ll also need to think about suitable hashtags: short and sweet, since they’ll be attached to every tweet, but easy to remember and unique to the discussion. You also need to schedule your chat to suit your audience, thinking about time zones. As a host, make sure that you prepare a list of questions beforehand, and also publicise your chat well, so that people will join it. During the chat, introduce yourself and any co-hosts or special guests, and encourage participation from your audience.
  3. Keeping track of the chat – You will probably find it easier to keep track of the chat using one of the many tools that are available. The best seem to be Tweetchat, Tweetdeck, which is owned by Twitter and so integrates seamlessly with your account, and Hootsuite, but there are plenty of others. For hosts, a useful tool is Storify, which allows you to create a recap of the chat.
  4. Some practical points – Always use the chat hashtag in your tweets. If you’re engaging with one or more individuals, use Twitter handles to avoid confusion, but don’t keep a one-to-one going for too long. If you want to chat with someone in particular, follow up afterwards. And don’t be afraid to follow up with anyone you found interesting.
  5. What are your goals? – As with anything, you will get more out of Twitter chats if you are clear about why you are participating. Take time to think about your goals, and how you will know whether you have achieved them.

Finally, remember that a Twitter chat is a way of connecting and networking with your community, not an advertising opportunity. By all means make clear that you are tweeting on behalf of a brand, and share your expertise, but don’t squander your earned media by indulging in hard sells.

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