Twitter chats are one of the best features of Twitter. There are chats on most every topic imaginable. The chats provide an easy way to learn about a topic. You can share your expertise and help build a following, which enhances your online brand. It’s also an easy way to network online with professionals in your field, those sharing an interest, people focused on a particular health topic – all kinds of topics.
To help build your personal or company brand, consider hosting a chat. You can host a one-time chat, or one on a regular basis such as weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or some other interval. Hosting a Twitter chat is a monumental undertaking and requires great commitment over the long term. However, it’s definitely worth it. I hosted a chat for several years for the technical communication industry and learned much about all aspects of management. In this post, I’m sharing what I learned. Read on for some tips.
Research, research, research your chat hashtag. Don’t just pick one without looking. You have to check directly in Twitter, not just in a third-party app. Here are some steps and considerations.
Search for your hashtag idea in Twitter.
See if it’s already in use. Someone might be using it for a completely unrelated topic. Said topic might be something you wouldn’t want associated with your business, organization, or topic.
Carefully consider the use of numbers in the hashtag.
Use of numbers can be very helpful and at times unavoidable. One example is a hashtag an annual conference where you have an acronym for the organization name followed by the last two digits of the current year. Example: #ORG17 or #ORG2017. (ORG = organization)
If you think that you might want to use a chat tag that includes a number, this is one important consideration to keep in mind. Know your audience. If many people participate in the chat via their mobile phone, then addition of a number would make typing tweets more difficult. Why? Because numbers are on a different keypad. It might take longer to switch from a letter keyboard to one with numbers. Of course, a person could copy the hashtag and then just paste it in on any tweet. However, it could add a level of complexity that needn’t be there. I know this because I changed my chat name to #tcchat20 after a short hiatus.
For your chat, if you can get away without having a number in the hashtag, I would consider using that one if it meets other criteria.
There are two main scheduling considerations: day and time.
Of all the aspects related to scheduling, time zones can be the most difficult. It certainly was for me. The techcomm chat included people from all around the world. It was extremely difficult to determine a time that worked for the various time zones in North America, Europe, India, Australia, and all points in between. A morning chat in Pacific time occurs during the evening commute time in much of Europe. During later hours, it could be the middle of the night in some places. For a while, I had two sessions so that folks in Australia could join in and still include those in the Eastern North American time zone. Frankly, it’s nearly impossible to find a time that works for everyone in a global chat. Do your best! You might have to experiment a bit.
One very interesting aspect of Twitter chats to keep in mind is this: annual seasonal clock changes. Setting the clocks back or forward an hour isn’t universal in its timing. In fact, it occurs at different times. For global chats, just know that twice a year you’ll have added work needed to share information about clock changes. Keep your day and time, but be aware of what’s occurring in other countries. Let’s look at a hypothetical. Let’s say that you have a chat that begins at 10 am in your time zone. Then your clocks change by rolling back an hour. Your chat still begins at 10 am. However, if the clocks have not yet changed in Country A, then the chat will have a time change for them until their clock changes are made. If Country A’s time for the chat begins at 8 pm, when you set you clock back, their chat time would change to 7 pm until their clocks change. Also, if some other country has a clock change before yours, you’ll need to share information about that.
Here’s something that helps tremendously with both of these items. Bookmark this site if you have a global chat. It’s a lifesaver.
World Time Zone: map that shows current times and time zones around the world
When choosing a day, do some research beforehand. There are many Twitter chats. See if there are already some related to your topic. If there’s one on a Wednesday, choose a different day for yours. When I completed research for mine, I found that there were many chats on Tuesday. They covered varied topics, but it was a busy day overall. It was an easy decision to select a different day. It’s worth the time to research before selecting a day.
If you have a global chat, also look into what the weekends are in various countries. Most are Saturday and Sunday, but that’s not the case everywhere. Friday is a day I crossed the list of possibilities in part because of proximity to the weekend.
Preparations for Chats
I don’t think you can ever be over-prepared for your Twitter chat. My advice is to create a list of questions to use in the chat. Anywhere from 5-10 questions is a good number. It depends on the chat topic. You also might not use them all, but it’s good to be ready. I always typed up my questions in Word beforehand so I knew that they were under 140 characters and had the appropriate hashtags. Then all I had to do was copy and paste them into tweets.
Depending on the topic, your chat questions might require some preliminary research. Plan for that as well.
Guests are a wonderful addition to any chat. If you do have a guest, you’ll need to spend some time corresponding with them to obtain information about the topic and to review chat procedures. At this point, I assume that most people are familiar with Twitter chats. Even so, it’s always helpful to review the overall plan and flow of the chat so that the guest knows what to expect.
Also, determine how the guest will be involved. Is it an expert Q&A where people ask questions on the spot? Will the guest mostly interact with the host? It’s best to define all that beforehand.
When having a guest, try and do so with as much lead time as possible. Then you can market the chat – and your guest – over a longer time period. This also helps generate interest in the chat and provides the guest with some added online exposure.
Plan to spend much time marketing your chat. That’s not just overall chat exposure. It’s ongoing for each and every chat. This can take quite a bit of time, so add it to the to-do list!
Chat Twitter Account
I think it’s worth setting up a Twitter account just for the chat. That makes it easier for use during the chat, especially when posting questions. It also makes it easier for people to find out more about the chat when it’s not in progress. It’s also helpful to set up a Facebook page. You can then add the tweets to the page and gain added exposure in that platform
Search Story About my Twitter Chat
For my chat, I ended up creating a Google Search Story. I don’t believe it’s possible to create these any longer. It was fun to make and nice to have a little video for the chat. That’s another consideration for you. Think about making a short video to introduce people about your chat. You could even have a Facebook live post right before it starts and then move into the chat.
Note: some of the references in the actual video use the #tcchat tag, which was the original tag.
There you go! I hope that all these tips help you. Whether you’re having a one-time chat or plan to establish one long-term, these tips should help. Chats are much work, but definitely worth it. Good luck!
For other tips in this series, see the following post.