Twitter is a confusing platform, isn’t it? The sheer thought of using it sends shivers down many content marketers’ spines. How can you say what you want, paste a link, an image, and add 2-3 hashtags, all within 140 characters?
The truth, however, is the opposite. Twitter is probably the most empowering Social Media platform to have existed. Think Tahrir Square. Even if you don’t want to do something as sensational as lead a revolution, Twitter can connect you with like-minded people. It can help you grow your knowledge and network in leaps and bounds.
“You build meaningful connections on Twitter by being real and transparent. I meet so many people because I open the doorway.” – Madalyn Sklar
Twitter chats are one of the many fun activities on the platform. It’s where a group of interested tweeple (Twitter people) discuss a certain topic at a predetermined time using a specific hashtag. The host poses questions (Q1, Q2…) and participants answer accordingly (A1, A2…). They also interact among themselves. These chats typically last one hour and have six to seven questions.
How To Leverage Twitter Chats?
“Imagine a business networking event—but without a dress code and with a keyboard instead of a bar. The same social customs apply—courtesy and respect—and it’s a great way to meet new people with similar interests. There are Twitter chats in almost every industry imaginable.” – Nicole Miller
Most Twitter chats are mainly held by businesses and brands – #BufferChat, #SEMRushChat, #RubhuSocial and #cfchat come to mind. Some chats, like #blogchatter and #SEOTalk, are casual. Obviously, for a content marketer, this leads to the next logical question – “How can I leverage Twitter chats to build brand awareness and increase sales?” The answer is simple. You don’t.
“What the F…! You serious?”
Yes, I’m serious. People are smart. They can sniff a salesman from a mile away and instantly switch over to something else. They are looking for something that adds value, that they can relate to in everyday life. The most popular chats don’t focus on generating brand awareness or leads. Instead, they focus on creating a community. Over time, members of this community turn into enthusiasts, advocates or even evangelists. Brand awareness, sales, and revenue follow.
I have hosted #blogchatter for over a year and participated in amazing chats like #Bufferchat, #RubhuSocial, and #SEOTalk. Each of them has adhered to some basic rules to become popular. If you apply these rules, you can be assured of long-term success in the form of high-quality engagement (and probably even getting your hashtag to trend).
1. Engage first
Social media is a two-way street. It is a place which typifies the adage “Give, and you shall receive”. Give genuine attention before you ask for it… even before you start soliciting people to join your Twitter chat.
Begin with participating in plenty of chats. Get a hang of the flow, the speed, and the interaction between hosts and participants. Use Twubs or TweetReports to check schedules of Twitter chats relevant to your interests. And please, for Heaven’s sake, don’t promote yourself in them. Nothing spells ’s-p-a-m-m-e-r’ faster than someone who’s in people’s facing promoting himself when they don’t care.
2. Choose a unique hashtag and schedule
Your chat needs its own unique hashtag. With the number of chats out there, this can be tricky. You ideally want to pick something unique and simple to recollect – bonus points if you can link your brand to it.
It’s also essential to choose a time slot where people are active on Twitter, but popular chats are not on. Imagine Kim Kardashian and Isla Fisher showing up at a red carpet event. Isla Fisher is prettier (and undoubtedly more talented), but whom does the paparazzi flock to? Twitter chats work in the same way. So test a few time slots and stick with the one where you witness maximum responses.
3. Show up, no matter what
I was fortunate when I started hosting #blogchatter; its community was already growing. Sometimes the pace was so frantic that I felt like my senses were being bludgeoned with a bat. But if you start from scratch, you won’t be so lucky. Growth will be painfully slow. But you must show up, not matter what.
For initial traction, invite your friends. ‘@‘ mention previous participants about thirty minutes before the chat, informing them of the topic. Promote it on other platforms too. Mention the chat hashtag in your Twitter bio. It increases the visibility of your chat because people reading your bio will know of it.
4. Add value
Kamini Lakhani recounts a lovely story: Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was one of the first teachers of Nichiren Buddhism. His relentless work led to the formation of the Soka Gakkai International, which has millions of global followers today. But when he started out, most of his meetings had just one or two participants. Regardless, he was delighted to have them and treated them with respect.
Adding value to your chat’s participants and followers is paramount, regardless of their number, or the number of their followers. Engage with them. Acknowledge when they share something insightful, share valuable tips and insights, and tweet top-notch relevant content when the chat is not on (curation platforms like Reddit, StumbleUpon and FlipBoard are great tools to find shareworthy content).
Your participants answered the questions, they interacted with each other, the engagement levels blew the roof. Awesome! Now, what? How will you keep this momentum going?
One way is to summarize your chat. Make a Storify-ed version (read how to use it here) or create a summary post and publish it on your blog. Then email the link to participants with the ‘You have been quoted’ message or mention them on Twitter.
The effect of this step is twofold:
1) Your participants can access the discussion anytime.
2) It drives relevant traffic to your digital property. You only stand to gain from this step. Added bonus if people share your summary post.
Standing on top of a building and screaming how awesome you don’t work anymore. You need to get people to do that for you. According to Madalyn Sklar, Twitter chats are a great way to get you in front of a lot of people. Hosted well, these chats can tremendously benefit your brand. They not only get you good visibility but also build credibility and turn ho-hum participants into advocates. So take off your shoes, put on a pair of fresh socks, grab a cup of your favorite coffee, and get to work. And be patient. It took Akathma Devi almost four months to witness initial traction on RubhuSocial. Once you set a strong foundation, building the palace of your dreams around an oasis will become easier.