How to Host a Successful Twitter Chat

Posted by on September 22, 2015

I recently helped host my first Twitter chat for GTEC, the neutral meeting ground for Canada’s public and private sector IT. Our theme was cyber security, and in light of recent high-profile cyberattacks, including the one on the Canadian Federal government by hacker group, Anonymous, I chose to pose the question: Is it possible to prepare for a cyberattack?

For a first timer, the chat turned out to be incredibly successful.  More than 100 Twitter users participated, GTEC’s Twitter followers grew by 1%, and over a million Twitter accounts were reached. I did a significant amount of research prior to the chat, but also lucked out in a number of ways. Here are my Twitter chat pro-tips so you don’t have to rely on luck for success.

What is a Twitter Chat?

A Twitter chat is a public conversation that happens around a unique hashtag on Twitter1, at a pre-determined time. The purpose is to help your brand gain awareness, position your company as a thought leader, and build your online community.

Manage Expectations and Set the Right Goals

In order to host a successful Twitter chat, it’s important to define your goals before you even pick the topic. Note: Twitter chats are a terrible place to try and pitch a product. The point of the chat is to have a conversation. If you make a sale because of your chat, great! But don’t go in expecting to tie the chat to revenue or you’ll likely end up disappointed.

Here were our goals: engage and build our online community, position the brand as a thought leader, generate awareness for our 2015 conference program, maybe get an event registration.

Topic and Moderator

Be sure to pick a topic that is timely, and even a bit controversial. You want to have varying opinions, and multiple answers to each question. That’s what makes a conversation!

Next, select an unbiased moderator who is well versed in the subject. Our team chose to use an editor from our sister publication, Dark Reading. Editors are a great choice since it’s their job to remain unbiased and they have great knowledge of their niche subjects.

This part is very important: Ask your moderator to prep ten questions in advance of the chat. Have your moderator run the questions by you so you’re ready to follow the conversation when you’re in the heat of the chat. It also doesn’t hurt to have answers to your own questions typed ahead of time. You never know when your chat might need a nudge.

Get the Word Out

It’s important to give yourself enough time to market the chat, but not so much time that potential participants forget when it’s taking place. When I hosted the chat, we managed to gather a good group of participants in less than a week. This lead time was not ideal. I’d suggest you begin marketing the event about two weeks prior to the chat.

GTECtwThere are a lot of marketing channels these days, but try to focus your efforts on blogs/publications, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and email – they seem to perform the best. (You probably know the channels that work best for you, stick to those.) In the days leading up to our chat, we included a small ad in an event promotion email, but where we really gained traction was our blog post and Twitter. We were lucky to have an editor from our sister publication participate as the moderator, and she wrote a blog that promoted the chat from DarkReading.com. The post was shared a collective 120 times across Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Google+.  I also had a graphic created that we shared across our social channels from our event accounts. Our social posts with the graphic performed the best.

Where we lucked out: One of our fellow UBM employees on the Black Hat team (an enormous infosec event) caught wind of the chat and promoted it to her followers over social media. Most of her followers work in the infosec industry, so that was a huge win for us. My recommendation is to seek out people you are connected with that have a large social presence and ask them to help you promote your chat.

Record, Measure, and Blog Your Chat Results

Be sure to record your Twitter chat conversation so you can measure your results. I used TweetReach to record our chat and was pleased with report we received. Once you’ve parsed through all of your data, be sure to write a wrap-up blog that highlights your chat’s reach, interesting tweets, and key takeaways. If pitching a product is important to you, the wrap-up blog is a good place for a small plug. At this point, your online community hopefully has a renewed respect for you as a thought leader, and is more willing to hearing about your products.

Time to Get Started

Hosting a Twitter chat can be intimidating because it’s a real-time, fast-paced conversation for all to see on the internet. A lot of hosting your first Twitter chat is trial and error, so don’t worry about being perfect the first time, just get out there and get started. For more information on Twitter Chats, check out my presentation: How to Host a Successful Twitter Chat in the Quick Links.