Twitter chats have been around for quite a few years on the platform. Once hashtags were created, the virtual public chatroom alternative was born. Now, with 330 million monthly active users from a variety of demographics, the opportunity to reach new people with a Twitter chat is more exciting than ever.

Whether this is your first encounter with Twitter chats or looking to up your game for the next one you host, we’ve got you covered.

What are Twitter chats

Twitter chats are scheduled, recurring conversations usually hosted by the same accounts. They can be monthly or weekly but a key component is that they always happen at the same time. Each chat is designated by its own hashtag and often features a single broad topic. Then, when the chat day comes around, a specific sub-topic is chosen.

For example, AdWeek’s weekly #AdweekChat is a great way to delve into discussion from top thought leaders in advertising, all collected around different themes and topics for each week’s chat.

Twitter chats range from half an hour to an hour long. Questions are usually prepped ahead of time and can be anywhere from 5 questions to 15, depending on how detailed they are. When formatting the questions, the host will begin each Tweet with “Q1” or whichever number question they’re on and participants will answer with the corresponding number, like “A1.” Hashtags are used in every question and answer Tweet so all participants can keep an eye on the conversation.

Just like a live, in-person discussion, chats begin with introductions and end with some conclusive note. People like to interact with each other, make new Twitter friends and continue into conversation tangents. Active participants even like to warn their followers ahead of time for the incoming barrage of Tweets.

Twitter chats have a way of connecting people with like interests from around the world. But are they for you?

How Twitter chats can benefit you

Now that you know what Twitter chats are, it’s time to understand how they could be beneficial to you as both a professional and as a company. Whether you participate in one or host one, there are benefits to be found. Twitter chats are great at brand awareness. The fact that you have to use the hashtag to participate and keep track of the conversation means that everyone else is doing the same. Your name and avatar will show up for everyone else’s search.

Tip: If you’re hesitant at hosting one as a brand, start by participating in a few or guest sponsoring an existing chat.

If you participate in the more popular chats, they’re great at increasing your followers. Even if the follower increase is small, they are ones who are already aware of you, have interacted with you or are active in your field on Twitter. That’s the valuable kind of follower you want.

And finally, Twitter chats are excellent at establishing brand authority. If you choose a topic that is relevant in your industry, your consistent participation in these chats establishes you as an authority in your industry.

Because of the casual nature of these discussions, brands are encouraged to join but only if they participate as any other person would. This kind of participation makes you more personable to others especially since it’s frowned upon to push your products and services. Twitter chats are all about learning and sharing information, not promotion.

How to participate in a Twitter chat

If you’re just starting out in Twitter chats, you’ll want to research and list topics that are most relevant to your company and field of interest. It’s best to participate in the ones where you can freely share relevant information. For example, a chocolate manufacturer could participate in an ethics chat but probably not a cruise chat (unless that’s their target market, of course).

How to find the most relevant Twitter chats

There are quite a few lists out there for chats and a few different ways to find the best chats for you.

  • Tweet Reports has a search function and can help you narrow down your preferred chats by industry.
  • Search through popular hashtags and see if related chats pop up.
  • Find your favorite industry influencers and look at which chats they participate in.

Set yourself up for success

You wouldn’t walk into a room full of people and immediately start talking loudly. It’s the same for Twitter chats. Be a responsible and friendly chat participant. Don’t insert yourself into a conversation just to talk. For the first chat, it’s always best to be prepared.

  • Set a calendar reminder so you can get ready for the chat
  • Research the chat ahead of time. Sometimes, the host will post questions and that day’s topic before the chat begins
  • Log in to your favorite Twitter app. Twitter’s own search can track a hashtag or you can use more robust tools like TweetDeck and Sprout Social to track the conversation
  • Have your introduction prepared. Chats often begin with a round of intros
  • Let your followers know that you’ll be participating so they aren’t surprised by the number of new Tweets from you

Inside the conversation

Once you’re actively participating in the chat, you’ll want to maintain the conversation levels. Don’t miss a question just because a side conversation got interesting. This is also not the time to be stingy with your engagement. Just like in real life, people respond well to interaction. So be generous with your Likes, Retweets, Quote Tweets, Follows and Replies.

You do not need to answer every question with a new Tweet or Quote Tweet but it’s still respectful to answer each one. Replies to the original question also work on their own if you don’t think your followers will need to see the context of the original question. Whichever you choose, just be sure to include the chat’s featured hashtag.

Finishing up the chat

At the end of the chat, the host usually likes to wrap up with a conclusion and thank you to participants. Conversations can still keep going just like how an in-person discussion can organically continue but they tend to go off into side channels. As a participant, it’s also nice to thank the host.

Once the chat is finished, you still have some work to do. Don’t let all this engagement go to waste. Use a private Twitter list to add the participants so you can check in on them later. Follow the most engaging and relevant accounts. And finally, if you’re using Sprout, the Notes feature is useful for private account notes. The next day, you can pull analytics to see if your follower count and engagement rates increased.

Hosting your own Twitter chat

Now that you’re a pro at participating in one, it’s time to host! There are a few decisions you’ll need to make before you begin:

  • General chat idea: make it relevant to your company and interests
  • Topic list: Each chat hour’s featured topic. Try and schedule these a few chats out in advance so you can plan them better.
  • Hashtag: Make it short and relevant.
  • Recurring schedule: Research your industry’s chats so they aren’t overlapping. Then, settle on a time with high engagement for your brand and followers.

Prepare your Twitter chat

To host a Twitter chat, you want to be more prepared than you were as a participant. Just like you would for a campaign, plan out a promotion schedule. Remind your followers ahead of time and repeat these reminders in case they missed the first one. Add your chats to your bio so they can browse the questions and answers on their own.
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Once you get on a roll with the chats, your followers will come to expect them and you can begin to start posting topics ahead of time.

For every topic you choose, brainstorm your list of questions and prepare your own answers to them. To make them stand out more, use graphics, videos and gifs as part of the question.

If you’re welcoming guest hosts, you’ll want to decide ahead of time if they’ll be performing a takeover on your account or just sharing the stream. Either way, both accounts need to be on the same page on the questions and media used.

Executing the chat

Once you have everything ready to go, it’s time to execute the Twitter chat. Set it all up as if you were participating but with a few more caveats: be prepared for active participation and make sure you stay on schedule. To help with this, try hosting with two people managing the account. One can make sure questions run on time and Quote Tweet responses while another tracks interaction.

To make it even easier on yourself, schedule the Tweets ahead of time so you can spend more time interacting with the participants. The cadence will usually go like this: introductions, rules, questions and conclusions.

The trickiest part of hosting Twitter chats is keeping an eye on the conversation and and being reactive while still keeping it moving. You also want to monitor the tone of the conversation and make sure everyone is contributing in a positive and helpful way.

Tip: Just starting to host one? Offer a giveaway to entice more participants.

Wrap it up

After the chat concludes, it’s not over for the host. Make those Twitter lists of the participants, actively follow and engage with them outside the chat and take a look at those analytics. It takes a little time for Twitter chats to build up traction and trust with participants but with the right topics, you’ll find them to be sources of high engagement for your brand.

Finally, reuse what participants shared in the Twitter chats as additional content in your blog and videos. Don’t let all that knowledge go to waste.

Conclusion

With the right tools and topics in hand, participating in Twitter chats as a business can be highly beneficial. You’ll find new engaging followers, spread brand awareness and establish authority in your field. It’s another tactic of hashtag marketing that can launch your business into Twitter success.

What are your favorite Twitter chats to participate in? Share with us on @SproutSocial!