Twitter chats can be a useful way to connect with your audience and build relationships. For example you could use them to engage with people who couldn’t attend events or you wouldn't normally meet.
A Twitter chat happens in real-time and is usually centred on a unique hashtag. Ideally the chat should last no longer than an hour.
To ensure a successful Twitter chat:
- Arrange a suitable time for the chat. You may need to consider things like whether the chat will include participants from different time zones and when any co-hosts are available.
- If the chat is about discussing a particular issue, eg a new call, give participants a few days to digest any information beforehand.
- If the chat is after an event, try to hold it as close to the event as you can, while everything is still fresh.
- Try to avoid lunchtimes, afternoons that are followed by public holidays or other major national events.
- Schedule enough time to set up the chat and to respond afterwards to anyone via direct message or email.
- If there are other organisations involved in the chat you might want to co-host the chat with them or involve them in some way. Co-hosting can open up the chat to a wider audience.
- Do you have the correct equipment? You’ll need at least one internet-connected device, ideally a PC or laptop. Make sure you know the wifi password at the location you’ll be tweeting from.
- Check the hashtag you want to use is available and suitable – this can be very important as some seemingly innocuous hashtags can have quite dark ties.
- Make a list of filler tweets that can be used during a lull in the conversation. Make sure they are relevant. Have you been receiving questions via email prior to the chat? The answers to these can be used to fill gaps.
Promote the chat
- Send some promotional tweets at least two weeks in advance. These tweets should detail what the chat is about, when it is happening, who else will be involved, the hashtag to use and links to relevant resources. This much information will not all fit in one tweet. Spread the details over several tweets but link them by using the hashtag.
- Add details of the chat (and hashtag) to the event page on your website and to your email signature
- If you are co-hosting the chat, ask the other partner(s) to help promote it too.
During the chat
- Welcome the participants and remind them of the topics you are there to discuss.
- Although you should think carefully before answering any questions you also need to keep the conversation flowing. Answering a question should take a maximum of a couple of minutes. If you are unsure of an answer or need to source some more information, let the participants know you will come back to them and move on.
- If an answer is too long (more than 140 characters) you can spread the answer over a couple of tweets using 1/2, 2/3, etc at the end of the tweets. But try to do this sparingly so answers don’t get confused.
- If one user is hogging the conversation with questions only relevant to them you could suggest that you use direct messages to communicate. This will allow you to give tailored responses to that individual and free up time to respond to other participants.
- Keep the chat on-topic and don’t start any off-topic conversations. If a participant asks any off-topic questions that you are happy to respond to, do so but drop the hashtag.
After the chat
- Thank the participants and officially end the chat.
- If you are going to use Storify or create a document to summarise the discussion let participants know when and where it will be available. Please be aware that Storify only collates tweets within seven days of the chat so you will need to plan to do this as soon as possible.