The 5 W’s of Twitter Chats
Colleen Burns 120000C4RP firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  twitter_chats social twitter social_media katie_keating social_business
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Perhaps you’ve seen them pop in and out of your stream on Twitter, or maybe you’ve participated in one, but there’s no doubt Twitter chats have become a popular social media pastime.
In hopes of offering some helpful tips and best practices for those who may be considering starting a chat, I wanted to share what I’ve learned from my experience running a successful industry Twitter chat for over a year. I’ll call these “the 5 W’s” for Twitter chats:
A Twitter chat is a real-time discussion, usually at a recurring day and time, focused on a particular industry or interest. You follow and participate using a designated hashtag, such as #bizchat or #momschat. You must have a Twitter account to join in.
2. Why start a Twitter chat?
Twitter chats are a helpful way to connect with a like-minded audience. If you work in tech or are a mom, for example, there are tons of chats related to those topics where you can share ideas and meet new people. For businesses, it’s a great way to reach your customers who are already chatting about your industry on Twitter. Keep in mind: Twitter chats are not for everyone, every product, or every industry. At their core, Twitter chats are communities, and communities need nurturing and consistency. Think of starting a chat as an exception, not the rule.
3. When is a Twitter chat appropriate?
Think about the industry you work in, or the personal interests you have. Is that topic broad in scope? Is it tied to a specific company or product? If it’s the former, then you’ll likely find others who might be interested in coming together to chat about various aspects of your topic on a regular basis. However, if your chat idea is central to a specific company or product, you may have a harder time. An exception is something like #AppleChat (which I should point out is moderated by Apple users, NOT Apple itself), which is broad in scope and a common interest among loads of people.
4. Where do chats take place?
Twitter chats obviously take place via Twitter, but there are several tools available to make chatting less onerous. Bonus: each of the three tools below automatically adds the chat hashtag to your tweets, so you don’t have to remember to type it each time.
You can always use good ‘ol TweetDeck or Hootsuite too, just by opening up a column with the chat hashtag. Beware, though: you’ll have to type or copy in the hashtag manually for each tweet.
5. Who will join my chat?
When starting a Twitter chat, your audience should be pretty obvious. If it’s not, then a Twitter chat may not be the right approach. Make sure you understand to whom your chat topic will appeal and that the audience exists on Twitter.
Remember: If you start a chat or choose a chat topic that’s about you, your company, or your company’s product, it’s likely that the audience will be you or your company. Users of social media have become very accustomed to sniffing out self-serving or promotional content right away and it’s very hard to draw out participation at that point.
I’m sure there are many more tips and best practices out there, so please leave a comment if you have any other suggestions you’d add to my list! I hope this is helpful if you have been considering a chat or are already hosting one.