This article originally appeared on PR Daily in January of 2017.
During the past year, I’ve invited dozens of communications pros to share their expertise with the #ContentChat community.
Although some guests are social media pros plucked from the community itself, I often invite authors of blog posts I’ve enjoyed, or speakers I’ve heard present at an event, to spend an hour in our fast-paced Twitter chat.
With dozens of participants and hundreds of tweets during the course of the hour, it’s a lot to take in. That’s why I’ve compiled my recommendations for how to get the most out of your Twitter chat guest slot:
1. Attend a prior Twitter chat as a participant
When the questions are all being directed at you, it can be hard to stop and soak in how the chat flows overall.
Attend the chat a week or two before yours is scheduled. It will help you get a feel for the pace, and how the conversation flows. Is it a chatty group? Are folks sharing GIFs and memes? Or does it have a more serious, educational, classroom-setting tone?
2. Review chat recaps
Look for recent storify Twitter archives of recent chats or for Twitter chat recap blog posts posted by the chat host or recent guests.
This is especially helpful for seeing whether there is any potential overlap between your topic and recent guests’ topics. That way you can explore a different aspect of your area of expertise.
3. Prepare your answers
Your Twitter Chat host should send you the questions in advance. Use this to your advantage by preparing some possible answers and keeping them close by during the chat.
This ensures you won’t forget key points and helps you get comfortable with your 140-character limit. It also gives you more time to respond to the conversation. Due to the organic nature of conversation, you might opt to revise some answers along the way.
4. Don’t forget your answer format
Always start off your answers with A1, A2, A3—corresponding to the question number.
This helps the hots and your fellow chat participants to track the conversation and responses.
Also, don’t forget to use the Twitter hashtag on all replies, including those you make directly to a specific chat participant to ensure that the host and other participants and can see them.
5. It’s OK to elaborate
You may only have 140 characters per tweet, but you are not limited to one tweet in answer to a particular question. I suggest you use A1, A1b, A1c, and so on, for a multi-part answer.
6. Use images when appropriate
If there’s an illustration or a chart that supports and enhances your answer, include it.
Use the accompanying tweet to provide additional context for the image, and to encourage those using chat apps—and who are not seeing your image automatically—to click on it to view.
7. Provide links to relevant content
Even with a series of tweets, some things are difficult to fully explain in a Twitter chat.
As long as the host allows it, give a concise answer in your tweets, and provide a link for those looking to delve into the topic further.
8. Don’t be blatantly self-promotional
Yes, the participants know you have a vested interest in being a guest for the chat.
If you talk too much about your company, however, or you link to demo request forms or other blatantly sales-focused/promotional content, your audience is likely to tune out or, worse, dismiss you as a spammer.
9. Be conversational
Although you prepared comments to share, keep an eye on the chat stream. Comment on participants’ answers, and answer questions that arise.
If it’s something you aren’t prepared to answer at that moment, tell the participant you’ll get back to them, and follow up with your answer after the chat.
10. Be present
Treat your Twitter chat hour as you would a video conference; do not multitask—and definitely don’t pre-schedule posting your replies. Your chat participants will not take kindly to that sort of automation.
11. Invite your cheering section
It can feel intimidating to enter a new Twitter chat community alone. Luckily, you don’t have to.
Invite members of your network to join the conversation. You’ll feel more comfortable seeing familiar avatars, and you’ll have built-in support for starting the conversation on the right foot.
Though some Twitter chat pros are experts at winging it, most of us can benefit from following the above preparation tips. What would you add to this list?