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7 Steps to Building a Successful Twitter Chat

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Content marketing can take many shapes and sizes. But no matter the delivery format or channel, the underlying principle is always the same: offering high-quality content that provides value to both your audience and your company.
Twitter chats are an often-overlooked content marketing tactic that hits on this core ideal. A successful Twitter chat can help you engage influencers in your space, build authentic, one-on-one connections with your audience, and drive traffic and lead generation.
A few months ago, NewsCred partnered with two of our clients – Twitter and GuideSpark, an employee communication software company – for a Twitter chat. GuideSpark wanted a fresh, authentic way to connect with the HR community, learn more about its needs, and drive lead generation. Leaning on our trusted client Twitter for best practices, we decided to build a Twitter chat for GuideSpark to help meet its goals.
With Twitter’s advice, GuideSpark ran a successful chat – and here, we’re sharing the secrets for how you can, too. All you’ll need are an official company handle, a chat host, a discussion topic, and some light strategy work before, during, and after the Twitter chat. Let’s get started:

Step 1: Establish your goal and success metrics.

Why does a Twitter chat make sense for your brand? And what are you hoping to achieve with it? These are important questions to answer before you start planning your chat, as they will impact every part of it.
Is the purpose of the chat to build brand awareness? If so, how will you reach and engage the largest possible audience? If you’re hoping to drive traffic to specific pieces of content, how will you promote them during the chat? And if your goal is to generate leads, what will you ask audiences to sign up for to capture their email addresses?
Once you’ve established your goals, think about the KPIs you’ll use to measure success. If you’re looking for brand awareness, you may want to track impressions and reach. If lead gen is your goal, determine how many leads you expect to capture as a result of the chat.

Step 2: Scope out the market.

Are your competitors hosting Twitter chats every Tuesday afternoon? It’s not wise to try to compete with another chat – in fact, you probably want some of those participating subject matter experts (SMEs) to engage in your conversation, too. Do your research and pick a time that isn’t already taken. We recommend:

  • Timing your chat for the middle of the week (Wednesday or Thursday), in the morning or early afternoon.
  • Knowing your audience’s availability or choosing a lunchtime hour, when professionals will be more available to engage on social media.

Schedule your chat for a few weeks out, avoiding holidays and long weekends, to give you ample prep time.

Step 3: Assemble your host and audience.

Next step: Tap your leader. For GuideSpark’s Twitter chat, we chose Ben Eubanks, an established HR pro with a wide influencer network, to host. Eubanks reached out to his Twitter audience and asked his influencer peers to engage in the chat.
In addition, compile a list of other influential people in your space who you can invite to the chat. By bringing multiple experts and their communities into the conversation, you add more voices, insights, and engagement.

Step 4: Confirm your topic and choose your dedicated hashtag(s).

Now that the date and host are set, it’s time to confirm your topic. Use an SEO tool (like NewsCred’s Idea Lab) to check topic seasonality. For example: If GuideSpark wanted to discuss healthcare and benefits, the best time to schedule that chat would be during November’s open enrollment season.
Then, choose your hashtag. We recommend creating two:

  • A combination of your company’s name and something related to a conversation (“#[COMPANY NAME]chat” is always a good starting point) or your industry.
  • One specific to the topic you’re tackling. 

Use your first hashtag to tie together all future Twitter chats, and the second for this specific discussion. For GuideSpark, we chose #SparkConvo (pun intended) and #PerformanceManagement, our topic.

Step 5: Prepare and promote.

For your first Twitter chat, plan for it to run for 45-minutes to one hour. Write six to eight questions to pose to your audience, ensuring that they’re open-ended enough to facilitate conversation. Time how long you’ll spend on each question and answer. Once you’ve nailed down the questions, send them to your host and special guests ahead of time so they can think about their answers.
Two weeks before the Twitter chat, publish a company blog post with the details. Promote it frequently on Twitter and LinkedIn the week before.
This is also a good time to engage your built-in community: Your employees and co-workers. Send an internal memo a few days prior to the chat to inform your company of the conversation, hashtags, and questions. Encourage them to join the conversation and invite their industry peers.
Some additional pre-work:

  • Curate a selection of GIFs, images, and links, which perform well in Twitter chats.
  • Create social tiles with pertinent stats to highlight and share during the conversation.
  • Consider how you’ll engage participants. Will you “like” tweets from your official company handle? Will the host tweet and respond from his/her personal handle?
  • Remember your ultimate goal and KPIs, and strategize any other tactics you’ll employ to reach it.

Consider ending your chat by linking to gated content on your site, which will generate leads via email captures and allow you to stay in touch with participants.

Step 6: Chat!

On the day of the chat, remember to have fun: This is an opportunity to converse authentically with your community! Follow your timeline for each question, and pause in between each so people can respond. We recommend numerically labeling each question and answer so that people can respond to your questions in an orderly fashion, even when you’ve moved onto the next.

Engage your participants positively, and rely on your host to do most of the heavy lifting. For our chat, Eubanks used TweetDeck to monitor all of the tweets he was receiving via our hashtags, schedule out questions, and engage each responder.
If the chat begins slowly, don’t worry; there’s often low engagement for the first 15 to 20 minutes. The last 20 minutes will generally be the busiest.
As your chat winds down, give your audience a way to sign up to stay in touch with you. This could be by promoting a newsletter or a gated piece of content, like a whitepaper or infographic. A successful Twitter chat will result in both connecting with your audience and achieving other goals you established, whether building brand awareness, content hub traffic, or lead generation.

Step 7: Assess the aftermath.

Capitalize on the high of your chat with a recap on your company blog (here’s GuideSpark’s). Summarize your conversation and talk about the ideas surfaced, and be sure to embed some Tweets from the chat. Of course, include a call to action that drives to the same newsletter or gated piece of content. Editorializing your story will make your chat, and its learnings, evergreen content.
To assess chat effectiveness, pull your hashtags analytics. Use Twitter Analytics, or independent platforms like TweetReach, to gauge estimated reach, exposure, impressions, top contributors, and more. Then, evaluate your success on the other goals you set.
Twitter chats aren’t hard to execute, and they can be a powerful tactic to help you reach your content marketing goals. All you need is an interesting topic, some preparation, and a dedicated team to drive your story and the ensuing conversation.
Interested in learning more about NewsCred’s Content Studio and the work we do with the world’s leading brands? Reach out to us here.
JoHanna Rothseid is a Content Strategist at NewsCred.

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