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The latest in marketing strategy, technology, and innovation.

Thinking of Starting a Twitter Chat? Read this First.

Anyone who’s spent significant time on Twitter has probably jumped on a Twitter chat, or at least seen one in action. You see a hashtag and, suddenly, your Twitter feed is popping up with questions and answers around a particular topic.

If you’re charged with developing a brand’s social media strategy, creating Twitter chats can be tempting. After all, they are an inexpensive way to drive engagement and build community. But it’s not that easy.

We consulted with the experts and identified 6 elements you need to consider before launching branded Twitter chats.

First Ask Yourself, “Is this Needed?”
“Twitter chats that don’t work, it’s usually because there’s wasn’t a need for it or there was already another out there,” said Sarah Evans, who runs the well attended #Journchat.

Launching a Twitter chat no cares about, or someone else is already doing perfectly well, is a rookie mistake. Before you put another chat out into the Twitterverse, look into whether the topic is already covered and whether you can attract a social media savvy audience on a regular basis.

Research = Relevancy
A good Twitter chat needs to be relevant. And relevancy works in more than one way.

“If a brand is considering starting a Twitter chat, they need to focus the topic on how customers use their products, not on their products itself,” said Mack Collier, who started the popular #blogchat. For example, Patagonia should start a Twitter chat on Environmentalism, not outdoor clothing.  Kodak should start a Twitter chat on Photography, not digital cameras.”

13 Twitter Chats You Should Check Out 

 

The best way to learn about running Twitter chats is by participating in them. Here are 13 that are worth a visit.

#adchat Weekly chat on the advertising industry for students and professionals. Thursdays 8PM-9PM ET.

#Blogchat Weekly chat for bloggers by bloggers. Sundays 9PM-10PM ET.

#brandchat Weekly discussions around personal and corporate branding. Wednesdays 10PM-11PM CT.

#cloudchat A Twitter chat for those in the cloud computing industry. Thursdays 4PM-5PM ET.

#EmailChat Covers all sorts of topics on email marketing. Wednesdays 2PM-3PM ET.

#eventprofs Twitter chats for event professionals. Tuesdays 9PM-10PM ET & Thursdays 12PM-1PM ET.

#HigherEdChat Discussion forum for all those interested in the higher education industry. Wednesdays 4PM-6PM ET.

#InfluenceChat Twitter chat on how on online influence and influencer marketing. Tuesdays 12PM-1PM ET.

#Journchat Conversations for journalists and public relations professionals. Mondays 8PM-9PM ET.

#legalchat Twitter chat for those involved in the legal profession. Fridays 11AM-12PM ET.

#MMChat A gathering of marketers on Twitter. Mondays 8PM-9PM ET.

#ProfsChat A Twitter chat for marketers run by MarketingProfs. Fridays 12PM-1PM ET.

#saleschat Conversations among sales people about technology. Sundays 5:30PM-6:30PM ET.

 


But the research goes beyond the general topic of your chat. You need to bring fresh topics every time you host a chat. Evans says she crowdsources new material by poking around in a private online community for journalists she has access to. But it also should be a topic that resonates with the platform, meaning people using Twitter. Like content marketing, a worthwhile social media strategy can't waste people's lives.

 

Do it Right or Don’t Do it at All
“I recently did a Social Media Strategy Audit for a client that's trying to get a monthly Twitter chat off the ground,” Collier told me. “Their chat is a great topic and they have the expertise for it, but at the time they are doing it as a monthly chat.  I told them if they can't commit to doing the chat weekly, they need to end it.”

In other words, if you don’t have the time and energy to invest, don’t even bother. (Seriously, there are a lot of elements to juggle here.) Twitter chats are time consuming; they involve research, community management and follow-up. You’re better off without one if you can’t dedicate the time. Few people will ask why you never started a Twitter chat; many will ask why your Twitter chat disappeared.

Be Prepared…and Ready to Change
Before a scheduled #Journchat, Evans “researches the hot media topics of the day” and she “never automates” any of the moderator duties.

If you’re going to run your own chat, you need to come prepared every time. If your plan is just to wing it, then you don’t have a plan. At the same time, you need to be ready to roll with the punches, adjusting pre-planned questions in response to where the conversation is going. Said Megan Leap, online marketing manager for MarketingProfs and moderator of #ProfsChat: “I’d say have the questions available, but also make sure you’re agile and able to moderate the conversation.”

 

Timing is Everything
Pop quiz: What does your audience’s weekly schedule look like?

Might sound like a weird question, but the answer has huge implications for the success or failure of your Twitter chat. For instance, Leap said her chat originally ran at 8PM until they realized most of the participants tweeted in the daylight hours. It was rescheduled for noon on Fridays.

“That’s when people are winding down their week,” Leap said. “You kind of have to find a time that makes sense for your audience, but, again, not when another chat is taking place.”

 

Listen and Learn
The longevity of your Twitter chat depends on your ability to listen and learn from the community. After a few weeks, you should start soliciting feedback and making adjustments to your strategy.

“#Blogchat participants started asking if we could review their blog, so I decided to start doing it the third Sunday of the month,” Collier said. “And by listening to participants and incorporating their ideas into the format, that increases their loyalty to the chat.”

Do you run a Twitter chat or several chats? What best practices have you learned in the process? Share in the comments below.

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