Ask Joy: How do I start a Twitter Chat?
I want to do something fun and different, particularly different for me. I’ve been toying around with the idea of starting my own Twitter chat. I’ve participated in a tonne of them and I’ve seen how it helped the owner’s Twitter following and reputation grow. I think that doing one myself will really help my branding, respect, and word of mouth.
The only thing is I have no idea what to do or how to do it. I’m also not sure what’s off limits to use as a topic. I don’t want to be boring and I don’t want to be a repeat. Can you give me some ideas of how to brand and publicize my Twitter chat successfully?
– Feeling Chatty
Dear Feeling Chatty,
I love Twitter chats! They’re a great way to share information, engage the Twitter community, gather fans and followers, sell products (indirectly) and just have fun.
I’ve helped market and grow Twitter chats and I participate in Kellye Crane’s #solopr whenever I can because I’m inspired by the topics. However, I’ve never started a Twitter chat myself because it is a true labour of love. Before you go down this road, make sure you have time to devout to it. The last thing you want is to start cancelling chats or letting your topic collect a thick layer of dust. With that in mind, branding and publicizing your chat boils down to topic, time, technique, and talking about it.
You can’t start from where you are until you know where that is, so, although picking your topic can seem banal, it’s actually fundamental. If you’re aiming for the chat to increase your brand awareness, then your topic needs to make sense for your brand and adhere to your key messages. If you keep your chat close to your brand’s core, you will better resist the temptation to let the chat be all things to everyone just so it will grow. Be on brand and on topic and grow a true community from there.
Your chat is going to be identified by a hashtag [ # ] and this needs to be catchy as well as memorable. Since tweets can only be 140 characters, I suggest picking a chat name that is 6-9 characters including the hashtag. This way, tagging won’t eat up too much of anyone’s tweet.
Once you have your topic and fabulous name realized, you need to decide when your chat will take place. Again, be realistic about how much time you can give this. The only rule with time is to be consistent. If you want to do every Tuesday at 2PM EST, then let it be that. If you know you only have the first Tuesday of every month, then you better pick that time slot.
Your chat can’t grow if folks don’t know when to find you. Recall every time a network has messed with the timeslot of your favorite show – it will feel just like that to your tweeps if you let them down with the schedule.
The next important step is to determine your technique or chat style. You can keep it free flowing and informal where everyone jumps in suggesting topics; you can be structured with a Q & A style; or, you can even bring in special guests who have deeper insight of the topic. Again, the only rule is to stay consistent so that people know the rules.
After you get all the details out of the way, you can move on to the publicity. You have to talk about the chat and give it life. Make a webpage just for the chat that explains what it is or add the details to your website. Let all of your contacts on all your social networks know about it and invite them to join in. List the details in your email signature and on your business cards. Seek and search for strangers on Twitter who might find interest in your topic and invite them to join in.
Don’t stop, yet. List your information in this free Google Twitter chat spreadsheet* that anyone can access as long as they have the link. Be friendly to newbies— who might be overwhelmed — by retweeting what they contribute or giving them a personal shoutout after the chat. Let all your chatters know that everyone’s insight is valuable.
By linking your topic to your brand, keeping a reliable schedule and format, and spreading the word in fun, friendly ways you can grow a Twitter chat that will complement your overall brand goals. Plus, you’ll meet some amazing folks along the way. It doesn’t get much better than that.
* (Ed. note: If you have trouble accessing the spreadsheet, you may need to have your own Google Account first. You can sign up for one using your current email address. Click here to see a video explaining how.)
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