This story first appeared on PR Daily in September, 2015. There are so many ways to engage with your audience digitally, but our best advice is to meet them where they are. When you’re itching to discuss a topic, and want some crowd participation with people from all over the world, turn to Twitter. Whether you call it a Twitter chat, tweet-up or Twitter party, the key is that you engage your audience in an organized, consistent manner to have the most effective conversation and create a lasting impact. How would you start said digital party?
Pick a topic.
After you’ve determined that you’re going to host a Twitter chat, think about a topic that would appeal to your followers and future followers. If you’re running a networking group, perhaps you want to discuss the best ways to build lasting connections at a conference. If you represent an education nonprofit, maybe you want to dialogue about the grant writing process. Choose a broad, but focused topic and headline that will catch your intended audience’s attention. Here’s a great spreadsheet of twitter chats that may give you some ideas.
Invite influential users.
If this is your first time throwing a digital party, it’s best to engage a few well-known tweeters who are experts on your topic. Find and invite some users with big followings who will bring their audience along to your chat and add a respected voice to your topic. Remember that non-profit organization that was discussing grant writing? Its brand managers would likely invite a few grant writers to participate in the chat or maybe one or two key people who review grants.
Imagine the amount of knowledge available during an effective chat with a number of tweeters who can access real-time, expert advice with the click of a few keys. Here’s a great example from CNN: Last year, it hosted a Twitter chat with a handful of experts just to discuss the future of Bitcoin.
So you have your topic and your special guests. Now you need a hashtag so your audience can follow along and respond. The hashtag is important so your audience can find the conversation and use it to chime in when they have something of value to add. We’re not sure if you’ve noticed, but there’s quite a bit of activity on Twitter; let’s call it noise. Using a consistent and easy hashtag means people will notice there’s an organized discussion happening that’s also easy to track.
Speaking of tracking, yesterday, we suggested using Hashtracking to track and measure your impact with your hashtag. What would we suggest for that non-profit organization? Why not use the hashtag #grantchat? It’s simple enough and describes what the chat is about. The organization can further maximize its chat by organizing tweet-ups at the same time once a week or even once a month.
Go with the flow, but have a plan.
Twitter chats are fun, but ensure that you:
- Promote it. Create a graphic to share via email, social and your website to promote your upcoming chat. Include the date, time (we suggest an hour max) and guests so your audience knows when to hop on Twitter.
- Keep the conversation going. If you’re moderating the chat, it’s easy to get confused and inundated with tweets. Have drafted questions beforehand and keep your eye on the clock.
- Give guests equal time. If you have more than one Twitter guest, make sure you give them equal opportunity to shine. Retweeting and only engaging one of your experts is not a good idea, especially if you want the others to participate again.
- Don’t ignore your followers. Successful Twitter chats mean your audience is participating, retweeting, favoriting and inviting others to your chat. Make sure you reciprocate and engage them in the conversation too.
- Document it. Hashtracking is a great tool, and there are other ways like Storify to organize and document your chat for those who couldn’t make it. Take a look at ColorComm’s Storify page and see how its managers document their #ColorCommChat.
To chat or not to chat?
Twitter chats can work if you do the work. You can gain new relationships, great connections and more knowledge from a well organized tweet-up. Before you start your own, participate in a few to get the hang of it and see if it’s something that would bring value to your industry, network or your own brand.
Have you used Twitter chats or seen your audience grow after a Twitter party? Let us know in the comments below. Mercy Chikowore is a PR manager at Belle Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on the Think Belle blog.