Social media has become a powerful component of PR and communication campaigns for brands big and small.
Twitter, in particular, offers a huge opportunity to gain visibility—companies can share their news, voice their professional opinions and even participate in or host specialized discussions, known as tweet chats or Twitter chats. By simply participating in these chats, brands can gain both social exposure and followers.
As a PR professional, I encourage you to take it one step further by hosting a tweet chat of your own. In doing so, brands can further strengthen their voice within their niche communities and directly engage with other thought leaders in their fields. These chats can be recurring (monthly, quarterly, etc.) or spontaneously tied to client news or events.
Ready to get started? I’ve outlined a few key steps to ensure a successful tweet chat.
Pre-chat prep to ensure a lively conversation
Most of the work that goes into hosting a tweet chat happens before the event actually occurs.
First and foremost, you should pick a chat topic for which your internal thought leader can serve as an expert. Anything too broad could result in too long of a chat session, so a specific angle or subtopic works well. For example, an email marketing company might want to host a chat on the basics of A/B split testing.
Next, decide if your brand wants to partner with an outside expert or influencer in the field. This tactic will bring higher visibility to the chat and also add an extra layer of legitimacy to the session. Not sure who the right person is for your topic? You can use Twitter itself to find viable influencers and approach them about co-hosting a chat.
Once you have an expert co-host on board (or if you choose to proceed without one), you can get started on the basics. When scheduling the chat, aim for 30-60 minutes. Make sure your date is at least a month out so you have ample time to promote it. Additionally, create a unique hashtag for promotion and participation purposes. The hashtag is how your participants engage with you throughout the chat, so take the time to ensure you come up with something short and memorable.
When these tasks are out of the way, focus on the structure and content of the chat. In addition to the outside expert, determine who on the brand’s side will participate and what role they will have during the chat. One suggestion is to have two people on the brand’s side involved—one operating the brand’s handle, running the chat and posing the questions, and another (the one you are leveraging as the thought leader) on their personal handle, responding to the questions.
For content, draft the questions the moderator will be asking and responses the thought leader will be offering ahead of time (keeping in mind the 140-character rule, including the hashtag). Tweet chats can move quickly, and this trick will help participants stay up to speed. For a one-hour chat, draft around 8-10 questions. If time allows, it’s a best practice to create images that include each question. This makes the chat’s questions prominent in participants’ twitter feed, ensuring questions don’t get lost in the conversation.
Lastly, promote promote promote. Take to Twitter to communicate save-the-date messages. Create a simple image with the basic chat details and hashtag to catch followers’ eyes. Write a promotional blog and post it on your website. Send e-invites to friendly media folks so they can either participate or monitor the chat in real time. Identify individuals who are active in similarly themed chats and directly tweet at them inviting them to your chat.
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, the chat can practically run itself. That said, one piece of advice is to have all participants dial into a conference number a few minutes before the chat is set to begin. This will allow for quick intros of the influencer to the brand participants, and the ability to address any last minute questions. Have everyone stay dialed in with their phones on mute for the duration of the chat; if the need for direct communication between you, the client or the partner expert comes up, you’ll have a means of instant access.
At the top of the chat, the moderator should thank attendees for coming; directly tweet them if you have time, but don’t wait too long to get the ball rolling. Have the moderator pose the first question and allow for the “experts” to weigh in with their pre-scripted responses. Give ample time for chat attendees to ask or respond to questions, and be sure that the moderator favorites and retweets some of the responses in real time. Allow for about 5-7 minutes between each question before asking the next.
Encourage your chat hosts to not just stick to the script but to also offer off-the-cuff responses to some of the questions—they should feed off of the conversation as it flows in order to not sound too groomed.
Lastly, the value of a tweet chat is not limited to only the 30 or 60 minutes in which it occurs. You can extend its shelf life by using the material to create further content, such as blog posts, infographics or SlideShares highlighting the top takeaways from the chat.
For instance, Highwire client Corvisa recently teamed up with customer service expert Shep Hyken to host a twitter chat, “Today’s Customers: What Do They Really Want?” Afterward, Corvisa repurposed the content of the chat for a recap blog.
If you are ready to engage with your brand’s audience and fellow thought leaders like Corvisa did, get the creative process started by checking out some upcoming chats to see what’s trending in your industry’s social spaces. Whether it’s a first and only or the first of many, tweet chats are a must-try for any brand.