How to host a Twitter chat in 10 steps
Conversations take place around hashtags on Twitter day in, day out. Twitter chats are a particular form a Twitter conversation that typically take place at a predetermined time and last for an hour.
If you don’t find a Twitter chat relevant to your interests you might want to consider starting your own.
You need a firm objective and purpose that will inspire people to engage and join your conversation.
You also need a clear objective. What do you want to achieve? Possible reasons for hosting a Twitter chat include consultation, crowdsourcing and promotion.
You need to be able to summarise the purpose and objective in a single sentence and be able to sustain a discussion around six or seven questions over an hour.
Next you need a hashtag. It should be original, short and relevant to the topic of your conversation.
It also needs to be memorable. You want potential participants to share it ahead of the discussion.
The spirit of a Twitter chat should be open and conversational.
A Twitter chat should be a positive experience for participants. If I’m participating in a Twitter chat I want to learn and meet people.
There are plenty of Twitter chats that are promotional rather than conversational. If that’s your gig then good luck but it doesn’t work for me.
Branded Twitter chats have the potential to backfire when a brand’s behaviour or language are mismatched with the participants. It has almost become a sport. You have been warned.
You’ll need to promote your conversation among networks of potential participants.
Inviting participants and speakers can help as they can support your promotional efforts through their own channels and networks.
If you allow a few minutes for introductions you’ll need six to eight topics or questions at rate of one every seven or eight minutes to sustain a conversation for an hour.
These should be planned well in advance. Inviting suggestions from guests or potential participants is a good way of ensuring relevance and engagement during the conversation. It’s also a way of building confidence that you can sustain the conversation during the agreed timeframe.
Visual assets with details of your Twitter chat are useful for promotion. They are easily shared in social networks and are a good prompt.
Use a square for Facebook and Twitter and a pillar box for Twitter. Include the time, date and hashtag and keep messages simple.
These enable you to track the conversation in a single stream. Both Tweetchat and Twubs will automatically append a hashtag.
Twitter is a noisy environment. To keep track of the conversation pose questions using the format Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4... and invite responses using A1, A2, A3, A4... etc.
You may need to remind people to add the conversation hashtag to tweets to ensure that everything appears in the comment stream.
Invite responses over several tweets rather than limiting people to a single tweet - it’s a conversation.
As the host of a conversation respond to key points to develop the conversation and reshare interesting responses with a comment. The RT with comment function on Twitter is useful.
There’s no rigid format for a Twitter conversation but planning helps keep the conversation following naturally. Here’s the format that I use. I’ve set out a schedule assuming that #hashtagchat kicks off at midday.
11.45 Tweet 15, 10 and 5 minute #hashtag and conversation countdown
12.00 Welcome everyone who joins and ask people to introduce themselves; what’s your name and where are you from?
12.02 Explain how #hashtag chat is going to work; I’ll be posing questions using the Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4... Please respond using A1, A2, A3, A4... Please add #hashtag to your responses so that it appears in the Twitter stream for the conversation.
12.03 #Hashtag chat progresses with a question every 7 to 8 minutes. Note there will be a latency after every question as chat apps tend to take 60 seconds or so to refresh.
12.55 Announce that #hashtag chat will end in five minutes
13.00 Announce the end of #hashtag chat, thank the participants and leave the conversation.
After the conversation is over creating a blog post or Storify is a good way of summarising the discussion and pulling out the key highlights. Here’s an example that I created earlier.
Finally, review whether your Twitter chat met its original purpose and objective. If it didn't what would you do differently next time?