To borrow an old political saying, as Twitter goes, so goes the Twitter chat.
A few years ago, when Twitter was still growing daily users at a healthy rate, Twitter chats were as hot as Hansel. Every organization wanted to run one, and every Tweeter wanted to be in one. They were a sign of brand prestige, a declaration to the social sphere that your company was relevant, a thought leader, and could build and foster an active online community.
These days, the scope of Twitter chats has dwindled, both in the number of participants as well as the total number of chats available to participate in. However, that doesn't mean that Twitter chats are dying. It's quite the opposite. As with any growing industry, time has weeded out the unworthy. In the early days of Twitter, it was like the Wild West. Everyone and their mother had a Twitter chat. For a variety of reasons (poor planning/commitment by hosts, low participation by users, or changes in life/work/business situations), many of these fell into disrepair or vanished completely.
The end result is that Twitter chats have been consolidated, with the top tier that offer the most value sticking around. So don't despair, you haven't missed the Twitter chat train, you're just boarding directly into first class now.
What are Twitter Chats?
Nicole Miller of Buffer offers a very nice topical description of Twitter chats, writing, "A Twitter chat is where a group of Twitter users meet at a pre-determined time to discuss a certain topic, using a designated hashtag (#) for each tweet contributed. A host or moderator will pose questions (designated with Q1, Q2...)...
-- Buffer (@buffer) June 22, 2016
to prompt responses from participants (using A1, A2...) and encourage interaction among the group."
A1 Be specific & realistic. Then ACTUALLY map out the entire plan. It probably won't go that way, but you should see it laid out #bufferchat
-- Northcutt (@northcuttHQ) June 22, 2016
For participants, Twitter chats offer an opportunity to grow your personal network, position yourself as an industry influencer, and hopefully learn something new from your peers. They generally meet for an hour once a week, but a small amount meet for longer or get together once a month/bi-monthly.
Where to Find Twitter Chats
Twitter chats come in all shapes and sizes. There are chats with many hundreds of participants and chats with only dozens. There are chats for foodies, chats for motorcycle fans, chats for beer drinkers, and, unsurprisingly, quite a few chats for marketers and advertisers. In this post, we'll be looking at using Twitter chats more from a business/personal network learning and growth perspective, rather than Twitter chats purely for entertainment, which do exist and are awesome.
With that in mind, as you get your feet wet, focus on finding a couple of Twitter chats that best match your business niche or personal needs. One great way to find the best of the best is to identify the influencers and thought leaders from your field and see what chats they regularly take part in. Here's a nice, if not slightly outdated, list of nearly every Twitter chat that exists and some that no longer do.
And for the marketers and small business owners among you, we've taken it upon ourselves to create a public Google calendar, where we have pre-scheduled the top small business and inbound marketing Twitter chats with a summary of relevant info (chat topics, host, website). We hope this is a helpful resource as you become a regular Twitter chat participant.
Track these chats on your own calendar by clicking here.
|Hashtag||Discussion||Day & Time (CST)|
|#BlogChat||Different blogging topics.||Sun. 8-9pm|
|#ContentChat||Content creation for bloggers, inbound marketers, and content creators.||Mon. 6-7pm|
|#MMChat||Marketing and social media agency leaders.||Mon. 7-8pm|
|#AtomicChat||Content marketing.||Mon. 8-9pm|
|#SocialChat||Social media related topics.||Mon. 8-9pm|
|#CMWorld||Conversation centered around content creation.||Tue. 11a-12pm|
|#PPCChat||All things PPC.||Tue. 12-1pm|
|#BizHeroes||Small business.||Tue. 1-2pm|
|#GetRealChat||Advice about a variety of business related issues.||Tue. 1-2pm|
|#LinkedInChat||All things LinkedIn.||Tue. 7-8pm|
|#CustServ||Customer service best practices and advice.||Tue. 8-9pm|
|#BrandChat||Digital branding and promotion.||Wed. 10-11am|
|#SEMrushchat||SEO and search engine marketing.||Wed. 10-11am|
|#BufferChat||Everything from productivity to social media monitoring and lots of other topics in between.||Wed. 11am-12pm|
|#SMChat||Social media trends, tactics, and events.||Wed. 12-1pm|
|#WorkTrends||Human resources.||Wed. 12-1pm|
|#SproutChat||Social media and community related topics led by Sprout Social||Wed. 2-3pm|
|#smallbizchat||Issues pertaining to small businesses.||Wed. 7-8pm|
|#MyBlogU||Blogging tips and tactics.||Thu. 10-11am|
|#InnoChat||The impact of technology and innovation.||Thu. 11am-12pm|
|#SEOChat||The topics that impact the SEO industry.||Thu. 12-1pm|
|#TwitterSmarter||Topics geared toward entrepreneurs, business owners, social media and inbound marketers.||Thu. 12-1pm|
|#HootChat||All things social and content, led by Hootsuite.||Thu. 2-3pm|
|#MediaChat||Scial and online media, new apps, and anything digital.||Thu. 9-10pm|
|#PMChat||Project management, business analysis and leadership.||Fri. 11am-12pm|
|#CMGRHangout||Tips and advice for day-to-day work lives of community managers.||Fri. 1-2pm|
How to Join Twitter Chats
First piece of advice: don't jump right in. If you join your first Twitter chat unprepared, you risk doing serious damage to your and/or your business's reputation. So, how do you prepare?
Erika Heald, who recently took over as the moderator of #ContentChat, recommends you start by lurking. "Sit back and watch the chat dynamics, and get a feel for the flow of the chat. Is there lots of back-and-forth between the participants? Or is it more like a webinar?" She further adds, "You don't want to barge into a new chat, sharing a ton of GIFs and links to your content, only to find out it's not that kind of chat community and make a bad first impression."
By observing the chat live as it happens one week, you'll be able to get a feel for the pacing and the way it generally operates. If you know what you're getting into, you'll be better equipped to seamlessly join the chat and avoid being "that guy (or gal)."
Prepare Answers in Advance
Many Twitter chats have websites where they pre-publish the upcoming week's chat questions a few days in advance. If this is the case, we recommend writing out your answers before the chat starts. Not only will your responses be more succinct and well-thought-out, but it will also leave you time to interact with, read, and retweet other user's sentiments.
-- Buffer (@buffer) June 28, 2016
Take it from experience, it is not easy to think up snappy answers, find memes, and make them fit in a 140 character tweet, all while interacting with the other participants on the fly. Things will get very confusing, very fast.
Use Hootsuite or Another Tool for Organization
As we just described, there is a lot going on during Twitter chats. If your strategy is to simply login to your Twitter account and go at it, we wish you the best. You'll quickly find things getting unmanageable as you try to navigate back and forth between windows to keep up with the hashtag and your personal mentions. TweetChat, Tweetdeck, TWChat, and Hootsuite are some of the tools that can help you get organized. If using Hootsuite, we recommend creating separate streams for your @ mentions and the specific chat hashtag so that you can observe everything that's going on at once. For further insight, you can also make streams for the chat host and industry influencers to get a better feel for the kind of answers they're giving and retweeting.
Now that you've chosen a Twitter chat and are waiting for it to begin, start by introducing yourself. Let people know who you are, what you do, and why you're joining this particular chat. You can use either your personal or business account, but remember that by their very nature, personal accounts are more personal, which is key in building a real-life network.
-- Ronnie Charrier (@ronniecharrier) June 15, 2016
If you do choose to join a chat using a business account, you will stick out, so remember to stay away from excessive self-promotion and otherwise spammy behavior.
Now that you're ready to Twitter chat, jump right in and contribute. Add value to the discussion with your answers and observations, follow like-minded individuals, and remember to have a good time doing it. By that, we mean to share a lot of funny GIFs :) As the weeks go on and you consistently provide insight to the chat community, other participants will begin to take notice and you should see your influence in the chat grow right along with your personal network (as you can see in the spikes below, when we participate in #BufferChat, we see huge increases in our reach).
How to Start a Twitter Chat
Once you're a seasoned Twitter chat participant, you may want to make the jump into hosting your own Twitter chat. For businesses, this offers a chance to build your community and create real-life relationships with social media users best equipped to amplify your brand message. On a personal level, moderators of successful chats have seen their networks grow exponentially while attracting job offers, and establishing themselves as influencers within their niches.
One of the most successful Twitter chats out there, #FoodieChats, started with a single tweet. From #Foodiechats creator Steve Green, "I wanted to create community and conversation, so I sent out the following Tweet: "What's everyone having for dinner tonight? #Foodiechats." That single tweet led to a weekly Twitter chat with major corporate sponsors each week ranging from Krispy Kreme to Royal Caribbean, and eventually grew #FoodieChats into a business with a team of employees.
Unfortunately, for us mere mortals, it takes a bit more than an off the cuff tweet to get a successful chat going these days. So how do you get started?
Choose a Hashtag and a Time Slot
"The hashtag is what pulls the whole thing together," Ann Smarty writes in Social Media Examiner. She goes on to say your hashtag should be, "as short as possible, easy to remember, and easy to type."
Nicole Miller from Buffer makes a plea for relevance, adding, "Bonus point if it's easy to relate back to your business or perhaps even branded to you or your company. We originally hosted #toolschat several years ago, but when we decided to launch back into the Twitter chats, we felt a more branded hashtag might be best to tie it back to Buffer."
The issue of choosing a time slot is a bit more complicated. Ideally, you'll want to know whether the daytime or the evening is best to reach the largest percentage of potential participants, but you'll also need to consider time zone as well. Additionally, there are hundreds of active Twitter chats that fill and overlap in every possible time period. To select a time with the most impact, we recommend that you avoid overlap with chats from similar industries or generally popular chats.
Alexander Graham Bell famously said, "Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." Twitter is littered with the failed remnants of ill-conceived and poorly prepared chats. Erika Heald advises being patient and being consistent. "Put together a plan for a couple of months worth of chats before you launch your first chat, so your chat attendees know you're planning to be around for the long haul."
These days, people want life to come with an "easy button." But as Corey Northcutt writes, "There is no magic formula [for success] that doesn't still involve out-working the competition."
So what's that mean to you? It means when your first Twitter chat doesn't have hundreds of participants, don't get dismayed and give up. As Ben Affleck's character said in Boiler Room, "Act as if."
Act as if your Twitter chat has hundreds of followers. Prepare as if your Twitter chat has hundreds of followers. Whether there are three hundred participants or ten, put an equal amount of enthusiasm and passion into moderating your chat. If you create something meaningful and consistent, people will see that and gravitate your way.
Now that you're ready to chat, check our calendar of Twitter chats to see which is the best fit for you.
If we missed a significant industry Twitter chat, let us know and we'll add it to our calendar.
-- Northcutt (@northcuttHQ) May 4, 2016