Wouldn’t it be nice to attend a networking event where the people attending were talking about a topic that just happened to be your specialty? What if you were able to quickly research those who were participating and learn more about them right there during the event? Even better, what if you could step out, and back in, and easily pick up right where you left off (without anyone knowing)? What if the dress attire was anything from pajamas to a tuxedo?
Sound like a dream networking event?
It is. It’s called a Twitter Chat and it’s quite possibly your small businesses most powerful networking, secret weapon.
What is a Twitter chat?
A Twitter chat is a live, online networking event scheduled for a specific time and focuses on a high priority topic for the audience. They are applicable for any industry and generally last about an hour. Twitter chats are themed and all of the conversations are centered around an event hashtag (#).
Just as with traditional networking events, there is an event host and guests. The host develops a list of questions that will be shared through out the chat. The questions are labeled as Q1) for question one, Q2) for question two, and so on. When participants want to answer a question, they label their answer, so that it corresponds with the appropriate question: A1) when answering question one, A2) when answering question two, and so on. Every question and answer includes the chat hashtag.
How to use a Twitter Chat for Small Business
- Professional Development – If you want to develop a skill to support your small business, such as social media marketing, networking, email marketing, or virtually any other topic, there’s a chat for it. Attend chats to meet experts in the topic you are researching. Connect with these experts on their websites, follow their blogs, and review their website resources and tools.
- Build An Online Network – Target Twitter chats that cater to your target audience and connect with participants. Within a few chats, you can build a strong network of your ideal audience.
- Create Awareness About Your Business – The Internet is massive, as is Twitter. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Chats are a strategic place to create awareness about your business and reach users you otherwise may never have connected with. (Best Practice Tip: No selling. Just as with traditional networking, use the chat to meet people and begin a professional relationship.)
- Meet Prospective Vendors and Business Partners – Looking to expand your business? Or, do you need to hire a vendor or freelancer? A Twitter chat is the perfect platform for screening your prospects before scheduling a meeting. Get to know their personalities and test whether they truly are experts in their field.
- A Strategic Inbound Marketing Tool – As the host of a Twitter chat, you control the content that is discussed in the form of chat questions. A chat can be used to narrowly focus on an industry topic and users can be invited to access more valuable resources at your landing page or website.
- An Online Client Services Forum – Invite clients to get together online for monthly sessions. Provide added value to your clients by scheduling chats about important topics or training.
- Build Relationships with your Buyers – When you created your buyer persona, you uncovered their likes, dislikes and interests. You also learned where they turn to for information. Search for chats where your buyers hangout. These might have nothing to do with your specific business, but they are a great way to meet and engage with your ideal buyers.
How to find Twitter Chats
To learn more about Twitter chats and to find chats that will help meet your professional development goals, review the following directory sites. Bookmark these sites as new chats are introduced quite often.
Since chats typically last up to an hour, it’s not feasible to attend all the chats that might work for you. So, while you are on the search for your ideal chats, once you find a chat that looks like it will fit your needs, search the chat hashtag on twitter to review past chats and confirm the content will work for you.
Sources for Finding and Registering Twitter Chats:
TweetReports – Provides a listing of twitter chats and offers services for chat managers such as transcribing.
Twubs – Provides a Twitter chat schedule, search via hashtag or category. Register your own chats.
Google Spreadsheet – This spreadsheet is hosted on Google Docs. Search for chats and add your own.
Gnosisarts – The wiki of chat directories, provides a listing of chats by hashtag or industry.
TweetChats – Search for chats by hashtag or topic.
Tips for Hosting a Winning Twitter Chat
Remember, chats generally take up an hour of your audience’s time. It’s extremely important to make this hour as beneficial as possible. One of my very favorite chats is #InfluencerChat. And if you’re new to chats, this is the perfect chat to learn how to create engagement and visual content for your chat.
- Day/Time: When scheduling your chat, and especially recurring chats, choose a day and time of the week that will work with the majority of your audience. Make sure there are no competing chats during that time.
- Questions: Source questions from your audience. Find out what is most important for them. Use a keyword tool to find new topics your audience will love.
- Expert Contributors: Because you know the questions in advance, reach out to experts and invite them to the chat. Give your audience as much high value content as possible.
- Promotions: Some chat hosts announce the questions in advance so that contributors can formulate well thought out answers. All chats should share the topic in advance.
- Arrive Early: The host should arrive early to build momentum and engage the audience pre-event.
- Hashtag: Always include the event hashtag in questions and answers.
- Respond: Respond one-on-one to participants and retweet answers.
- Follow Up: Follow up with participants and thank them for attending. This may take some time, but it will help ensure your participants come back.
- Connect: Follow and connect with any participants your business is not already connected to. Create a chat ‘list’ on Twitter to stay in touch with participants.
- Chat Account: Create a chat account on twitter, such as @InfluencerChat, that matches the hashtag and shares about the chat, its future schedule, and upcoming topics.
- Transcription or Summary: On a dedicated webpage, create a transcription or summary of the chat with links to any resources that were discussed. (Think ‘Inbound Marketing’ and driving people to your website.)
Tools for Monitoring a Chat
Participating in a chat on Twitter can be challenging. Here are a couple of sites we’ve used that help keep everything organized.
Hootsuite – Use your Hootsuite account to create a stream for your chat. Hootsuite makes following a chat easy without all the distractions.
TweetDeck – Tweet deck is the platform from the experts themselves, Twitter. Use it to monitor and manage chats, as well as your other twitter tactics.
It’s Your Turn
What ideas can you add for hosting meaningful Twitter chats? Meet me in the comments.