Twitter chats are not new but they can be a powerful way of gaining engagement and traction in the social sphere.
A Twitter chat is simply a pre-planned chat between various Twitter users using a common hash tag. There is a lot of publicity and engagement that a Twitter chat can gain for your company, cause or campaign if you execute it correctly.
We interviewed Rannie Turingan and Mark Evans to gain better insights. Turingan is a social media specialist at Social Boom who holds monthly Twitter chats for Ford Canada. Evans is a start-up marketing specialist who runs Twitter chats for Dell Canada.
We asked these seasoned hosts to share the ingredients that make a successful Twitter chat.
1. Plan beforehand:
Most business meetings are planned in advance. The same applies to Twitter chats. Get yourself prepared for it and ensure that you have the content and topic of discussion ready. The last thing you want is to get caught unprepared.
Evans says, “One of the keys to planning a Twitter chat is deciding on the topic to be discussed. It needs to be focused to give attendees a good sense of what ground will be covered. At the same time, it has to be accessible to attract a solid audience. Twitter chats work best when you have lots of people participating and listening.”
What are the other things that need to be prepared in advance?
— DellSmbCA (@DellSmbCA) May 30, 2012
Turingan says, “There are lots of things to consider when preparing for the chat, but the most important is deciding on a theme. Each chat that we have for Ford Canada is themed differently and based on the theme, you can then move forward to choose what questions you would like to ask your community.
“We use the same hash tag each month #FordChatCA. We then build out nine or 10 engaging questions to ask the community. We try and keep the questions open ended and not too product focused to allow for greater engagement of those participating in the chat. Aside from the chat, we also like to have additional tweets on hand which are more brand related, which link back to blog posts, YouTube videos, and other pieces of collateral which might be related to each question.”
2. Timing and frequency:
Depending on the nature of the chat, you need to decide the duration of the chat. Most chats go on for an hour while some go on longer and some are shorter. You need to assess how the people are reacting and based on the engagement you can decide for yourself. The frequency of such chats is another factor that needs to be considered.
Both Turingan and Evans agree on the frequency to be once a month and the duration to be 30 to 60 minutes in length.
3. Role of a chat host, community managers and users:
The chat host is the one who plays the main role in the chat. He is like an anchor of a chat show. Like we discussed in the first point, preparation is key and the host must be ready with answers and tweets before hand. The community managers help amplify and add in their inputs via mentions and retweets which builds momentum. The users usually throw in comments and questions which may be answered by the host.
Turingan shares his experience: “With Ford Canada, we have a great team of community managers. So the main host @FordCanada sends out the questions for the chat, while each community manager, with a Ford branded twitter account, engages the community and answers any additional questions people might have.”
4. Balance between moderation and engagement:
Often times you will come across people who join the chat and take it in an unwanted direction. In short, all they wish to do is spam and not add any real value to the chat.
We asked Turingan about the risk of trolls coming into the discussion to flame the brand. “With all large brands there are always trolls that want to share their two cents. Our community managers are quite aware of who these people are in our community and generally we do not engage with them. ”
You can also go a step further and block someone who is trolling.
Evans says, “There will always be trolls. In general, I tend to ignore them because giving them any attention only serves to egg them on. Most people will also dismiss trolls. I think a troll can be blocked.”
5. Measuring success:
People like Evans and Turingan have tasted success with Twitter chats. It does not just stop at engagement; brands can also find leads on Twitter.
Turingan says “There tends to be a lot of positive engagement with the brand, we have always been a trending topic and we usually have a high number of tweets with the hash tag including a high number of PSI’s (Potential Social Impressions). In our Twitter chat this past week we were also able to find leads on possible truck owner stories.”
Reach and awareness are two other metrics that can be used to measure the success of a Twitter chat.
“I think Dell has seen increased reach and awareness, as well as worked to establish itself as a brand that provided valuable information and insight to existing and potential customers. One of the key reach metrics is reach in terms of how many followers are within the participants’ network” says Mark.
To sum it up, you need to plan in advance, fix the duration and frequency of the chats for optimum engagement. Ensure that the Twitter chat host understands his/her role, ignore the bots and trolls and measure engagement to gauge success.
Have you tried a Twitter chat yet? Share with us your success stories and experiences.