I recently hosted two Twitter chats for The SITS Girls as a Community Lead for their network. Their weekly chats take place on Saturday mornings at 10AM EDT and the other on Monday nights at 8PM for an hour each. I had never hosted a Twitter chat before and had no idea what to expect. To be perfectly honest, I had only participated in two Twitter chats prior and never thought I would ever host so I wasn’t taking notes.
I pictured it like a party, a really loud party where I was trying to do my best to give directions in an impromptu game of Twister with people I’d never talked to before.
I moseyed over to their Twitter profile and saw this and panicked.
Hosting a Twitter chat for 40.1K followers? Sure, not all of them would be online chatting at the same time, but I knew I needed a game plan. Here’s what I did as a newbie hosting a Twitter chat for the very first time.
Come up with a topic
Sure, this was their idea to come up with a topic, but it makes sense. You don’t want to go to a party and have nothing to talk about. Imagine? “Do you like the weather?” *crickets*. Knowing the audience helped me to formulate a few topics to run by the head honchess and see what could work. “Balancing Blogging + Motherhood/Work/Life” was chosen for Saturday morning’s Twitter chat and “What’s the One Blog Nut You’ve yet to Crack” was chosen for Monday evening’s Twitter chat. Both topics could be chewed on for an hour to be sure.
Create a timeline
I had an hour. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t scrambling for pertinent links, what to say and remembering to type in the chat hashtag #sitsblogging after every tweet. I was going to have tons to focus on and I knew I would forget that hashtag. I opened up a spreadsheet (surprise) and started with an Intro at the 10AM mark for Saturday. Something simple “Hi, thank you for joining us today! #sitsblogging” Then I set the timeline to ask questions every 10 mins. You knew it had to be color coded.
Use the right format
Twitter chats have a format, did you know that? The moderator (me in this case) has to start their questions with “Q” and the number of the question. This way, chatters can retweet the question and their followers know what they’re talking about. Not a necessary action on the part of the participants, but a good rule of thumb. The participants reply in kind, with starting with “A” and the number of the question they are responding to.
— Crystal Green (@Tidbitsofexperi) April 11, 2015
Research and include relevant links
I searched the SITS website for relevant posts that would help the participants with the questions I was asking. I also included links on my spreadsheet from another Community Lead who was kind enough to share the more common links requested. I added those for backup, just in case and included the title of the post, the URL and the chat hashtag.
Test and Promote
I tested whether prepping people 5 mins before boosted engagement, but hadn’t considered that the two chats would “feel” different. Saturday had a lot of conversations going between participants, whereas on Monday evening, there was more conversation directly with me. I loved both. I shared that I would be hosting on my personal Facebook page, within Facebook groups that I am a part of as well as on my personal Twitter timeline.
Download a Twitter feed management tool
I chose Tweetdeck but you can use Hootsuite or even Tweetchat. You don’t just want to use Twitter, although I had that open in another window pre-loaded with my questions. For me, that was easier. I could just chat away and not worry about what I was asking.
Engage, respond and engage some more
This is the fun part. All you have to to is follow the conversation and jump in when you have something of value, or super funny to say and be sure to end your responses with the Twitter chat hashtag <— say that three times fast, I dare you.
You’re doing it, aren’t you?
Let your personality shine through. If you want to say “that’s wassup” or quote The Count from Sesame Street, go right on ahead. I did. The whole point of hosting Twitter chats is to connect with other people and the only way to really connect, is to be your quirky, unique lovable, self.
Keep a pen a paper handy for follow up
This was something I wasn’t planning on, not because I didn’t think I would “make friends” but because I was so focused on getting my questions out and the flow of the chat that I didn’t think to keep track of the people I connected with. I stayed on the chat for a few more minutes, silently (as in not favoriting or responding) to scroll through the chat and write down the names of the people that I talked spreadsheets + color coding with #instantbuddies. As soon as I jumped off the chat, I logged into my account and followed them all (hint, some of them are in the Storified Twitter Chat below!) We continued to tweet over the weekend and I think I found a great group of new peeps to talk all things blog with!
Consider sending a visual “Thank You” on Twitter and tag those people (in the image, you get up to 10 and it doesn’t count toward your character limit!) you connected with.
— Cristina (@fillpraycloset) April 14, 2015
I did this for Monday’s chat <—I’m a test kind of gal, whereas for Saturday’s chat, I just sent a regular ol’text tweet and use the @ mention. I love the visual option, don’t you?
What about you? What are your Twitter Chat tips, because I’m no longer a newbie!
For fun, I’ve included a “quick-not-at-all-comprehensive-because-lots-of-tweets” timeline of my very first Twitter chat on Saturday in case you missed it!