Recently, an acquaintance was confiding in me that she just didn’t get Twitter. That it felt so much less personal than Instagram. “I mean, how do you actually find your tribe there??” she asked. My answer? Twitter chats.
While Twitter chats don’t have the sexy sheen of being the latest bright shiny object in the marketer’s toolbox, they can still be an excellent time investment. But don’t expect to just jump into a chat, drop a bunch of your links, and check Twitter chats off your to-do list. The real value comes in those relationships you build over time by participating in chats.
That’s why I’ve distilled my decade of Twitter chat participation, and three-and-a-half years of moderating #ContentChat into this post, with a few key learnings to help you make the most of your next Twitter chat.
The Benefits of Joining a Twitter Chat
“How am I supposed to make time for a Twitter chat when I have a full plate at work?!” Great question. Most marketers face this dilemma in trying to maintain an active—or really any— regular presence on chats.
The blunt answer: You have to make time for Twitter chats if you want to reap the benefits, which are often well worth the investment.
That is not to say you should drop your work commitments to join any and every Twitter chat, nor do you have to attend a chat every single week. Even a once or twice a month Twitter chat participation is enough to keep your image up with your chosen community.
Now, back to the benefits. Just a few ways that Twitter chats are valuable for brands and marketers’ professional development include:
- Build your network: A core benefit of Twitter chats is the opportunity to network with other like-minded professionals. But these chats are far more valuable than the typical “meet, greet, exchange business cards” cycle seen at traditional networking events. It’s common to see many deep-rooted relationships form in Twitter chats, with those interactions evolving into business opportunities outside the Twitterverse.
- Access to a global audience: Unlike in-person events or local meetups, Twitter chats can be joined from anywhere in the world. That means you’ll interact with other pros around the globe, bringing unique perspectives you probably would not find elsewhere.
- Establish or bolster thought leadership: Some Twitter chat topics may be outside your wheelhouse, meaning you’ll probably take the backseat on the convo and let others drive the conversation. On weeks where you’re well versed in the topic, though, it’s a chance to share tips and tricks, and further position yourself as an expert (and possible thought leader) in the space.
- Perform at your best: Twitter chats are designed to give you the tips, tricks, and recommendations you need to stay on top of your game. Chats are a great place to step out of your bubble to see how your peers are tackling problems and the tools they’re using to help.
Now that you’re sold on the benefits of Twitter chats for either your personal account or your company’s brand account, let’s explore how to find the right Twitter chat for you.
How to Find Relevant Twitter Chats
The full range of value you unlock will depend on which chat(s) you choose to join and how often you can dedicate to attending. This means you have to do your homework to find the right Twitter chats to join.
Here are the main ways to find the right Twitter chats for you:
- Search #TwitterChat: Many hosts promote their chats with #TwitterChat, so searching that hashtag will help you identify a lot of chats. The downside is that this can be time-intensive to sift through them all, which is why more targeted efforts may be preferred.
- Ask your network for Twitter chat recommendations: When people like a Twitter chat, they usually aren’t quiet about it. Post on your networks asking what chats your network recommends, and be specific about the topics you’re looking for. This can get you more tailored and pre-vetted recommendations, versus stepping into a chat without any background.
- Google “Twitter chats for [your interest/industry/needs here]”: When in doubt, Google is always there to help you find your Twitter chats, usually through someone’s roundup blog post where they share their favorites.
Twitter Chats for Content Marketers
The #ContentChat community highly recommends these Twitter chats:
#CMWorld, Tuesdays at 9 a.m. PT
Hosted by the Content Marketing Institute, #CMWorld joins some of the top marketers across industries to discuss all things content marketing. Past chat topics have included the intersection of content marketing and branded content, achieving small business goals with content, and the role of privacy in marketing. I’ve participated in this chat since its inception and have learned a ton and made some great friends here over the years.
#ContentChat, Mondays at noon PT
I took over #ContentChat more than three years ago, and this community of content creators and content marketers join to share our challenges and best practices for solving them. You can see past chat recaps here, which include discussions of how to put your ideal customer at the center of your content marketing planning process and how to get the most out of attending an industry conference. I’m obviously biased on this, but I think #ContentChat has one of the most welcoming communities, making it a great place to start!
#Digital360Chat, Fridays at 9 a.m. PT
This chat is hosted by another friend of #ContentChat, Bernie Fussenegger (@B2the7), and covers topics around digital, social, marketing, and the customer. Past chats have covered the importance of relationship marketing, how to use email marketing to build customer loyalty, and how to engage with customers through native apps.
#FreelanceChat, Thursdays at 9 a.m. PT
Led by my friend and frequent #ContentChat participant Michelle Garrett (@PRisUs), #FreelanceChat is focused on helping freelancers better manage their businesses and navigate the unique hurdles of freelancing, plus all the great general marketing and content topics you need to perform at your best.
#SEMRushChat, Wednesdays at 8 a.m. PT
Another brand-sponsored chat, #SEMRushChat is hosted by SEMrush, a leader in SEO best practices. The chat focuses on all things SEO in content marketing, including how to write explosive content and how podcasts can be used to boost business results.
#TacoChat, Tuesdays at 11 p.m. PT
What started as a simple GIF choice in a #ContentChat reply sparked a lively discussion of the marketing community’s love for tacos, and found new life in #TacoChat, created and hosted by The Karcher Group. While you can expect some taco talk and puns, the chat also discusses important marketing topics like how to manage email marketing campaigns, ways to approach influencer marketing, and how to build an online community.
Take The Twitter Chat Plunge
You’ve put together a shortlist of chats, and put them into your calendar—now what? Make a point to join in a few of the chats and see how it goes. Much like company culture, Twitter chats have their own unique culture and you’ll want to spend a few weeks getting a feel for a chat before deciding if you want to invest more time in it.
If you get a feeling that a particular chat—despite how popular it is with your peers—may not be a fit for you, that’s OK! Trust your gut and keep searching. You can always come back to the chat later to give it another shot.
By doing this, you should be able to identify 1-2 chats you’d like to start joining on a regular basis.
A Dozen Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Fantastic Twitter Chat Participant
OK, you’ve identified your top chats and are ready to try them out. Certain communities will have their own quirks and styles you’ll need to adjust to—like whether responding via GIF is acceptable—but there are a few core do’s and don’ts to follow. Here’s how to put your best foot forward on any chat you join.
- Do introduce yourself when you join: While many hosts will have an icebreaker question for participants, it’s good practice to start a chat by introducing yourself with a brief description of what you do.
- Do regularly drop in to the chat, even if you can’t stay the full time: Any efforts to stay active on a chat are appreciated, even if it’s just a quick “Hi everyone, sorry I can’t join today but I can’t wait to check out the recap!” By keeping a semi-regular presence on the chat, it can preserve your position as a recognized member and keep you somewhat in the know on the group happenings.
- Do format your answers accordingly: Use the chat hashtag for all of your answers, along with some marker of “A1” or “A2” so other participants know what question you’re addressing. You can also quote Tweet the question for additional context for your followers. I often see chat newbies reply to others’ answers without using the hashtag, which limits its visibility to the other chat participants.
- Do use standalone examples: Whenever possible, point to real examples of challenges you’ve faced and the lessons you learned. Provide enough context so that other participants can understand your example without needing to be versed in the company or industry involved. And even if they love you, it’s unlikely they remember that blog post you wrote last Decade on the topic—be ready with your TL&DR.
- Do interact with other participants: Some of the best insights from Twitter chats come when the participants interact with one another, versus just sending their response to the current question and standing by for the next. Build on the tweets from the other guests, ask them follow-up questions if their responses pique your interest, or answer questions they may have asked the community in their answers.
- Do suggest topics or guest speakers to the chat moderator: If you have a topic you’d love for your community to explore, or if you know of an expert who could provide a lot of value for the audience, let your moderator know. Chat guest and topic ideas are always welcome. That said, you will want to message them outside of the normal chat window to start the conversation since they’ll be a little busy during the chat.
- Don’t link back to something on your site in every question: There are few faster ways to tarnish your reputation (and maybe even get you banned from a Twitter chat) than being overly self-promotional in a chat. There are certainly times to share your work, but it must fit under the context “here is a lesson I learned” or “I am directly answering the question to share a certain type of content,” not “this article I wrote five years ago answers your question, go read it during this hour-long Twitter chat.”
- Don’t rephrase someone else’s answer as your own: It’s common for similar answers to bubble up during a chat, but it’s the positioning that matters. If you see another participant Tweet an answer similar to what you’re drafting, simply respond to their Tweet to express your agreement, or mention “similar to other folks in the chat” to start your answer.
- Don’t cite statistics without linking to the source: Marketers are constantly working with data, and it’s great to share relevant industry stats during chats. That said, sources for stats should be cited, or if you’re unsure of an exact figure, say so (or say nothing at all). It’s perfectly OK to come back to a chat later to link to relevant data sources.
- Don’t use the chat hashtag for a long side conversation mid-chat: Sub conversations are natural to come up during a chat—and I’ve certainly started a few in my time! But it’s important to stay focused on the question set so that the whole community can benefit from the allotted time. If you find yourself in a conversation that has taken on a life of its own during the chat, it’s good Twitiquette to remove the hashtag so that the feed isn’t diluted for the other participants.
- Don’t attack other users: This should go without saying, but, alas, many people do not know how to be responsible and considerate e-citizens. Disagreements will probably arise on a Twitter chat, especially if it’s set up to encourage dialogue (which it should be). But it’s never OK to harass or demean other chat participants. If you have a hard time with this, Twitter chats probably aren’t for you.
- Don’t feel like you need to answer every question: It’s best to only answer questions where you can provide some legitimate value for the other participants. If you do not have experience with a question’s topic, it’s OK to sit it out and simply read the responses to learn more. Then, if you’d like, you can aggregate the responses you’ve seen and do a recap-like answer, positioning as “Per the other respondents, it looks like.. [layer answers with @ mentions of users who gave them].”
Again, each individual Twitter chat community will have its own, often unwritten, code of conduct to follow, so look to the chat moderator and established regulars for models of what is/is not acceptable. If this list is missing one of your top do’s and don’ts of Twitter chats, share them in the comments below.
Take on A Bigger Role: Pitch Yourself as A Twitter Chat Guest
Once you join chats regularly, build relationships with the community, and get a grasp on the potential dizzying pace of the chats, you’ll really start to see the benefits of Twitter chats take form. From here, you may wonder how you can take your Twitter chat activity to the next level.
The easiest way to upgrade your presence is by being a guest expert on one of your favorite chats, or a chat whose audience could benefit from your expertise. Now, “the easiest way” is far from actually being easy, but it is the most logical next step in your Twitter chat progression.
To pitch yourself as a guest for a chat, simply reach out to that chat host outside the typical chat timeframe. Some chats will have guest intake forms (like this one for #ContentChat), too, which are an alternate way to get in front of the host.
Elements of the Perfect Twitter Chat Pitch
When pitching yourself as a guest for a Twitter chat, follow these best practices to keep the pitch compelling:
- Keep your topic narrow: You need to pitch a topic that can be explored to a satisfactory level in six to eight questions over the course of an hour. That means, “how to do marketing,” is too broad, but “how to do marketing automation for SMBs” or “identifying community influencers for your brand” are fantastic topics to pitch.
- Be ready for on-the-fly questions: Whatever you pitch, you need to be well-versed enough in the topic to answer people’s questions during the chat. It’s OK to say “I’ll get back to you” on a few deeper-dive questions, but you need to be comfortable and confident enough to talk freely on the topic in the moment.
- Have at least three audience takeaways: Guests need to be able to provide legitimate value for the audience, instead of joining just to self promote. When you make your pitch, call out at least three specific takeaways you intend the audience to get from your chat. Then make sure to follow through with them during the actual chat.
- Don’t flake: As a Twitter chat host, it’s incredibly annoying to spend the time coming up with questions and promoting someone’s guest slot on the chat only to have them flake at the last minute. If you think you may flake on the chat, or you are not in control of your time at work, do not pitch yourself as a guest. It’s that easy.
If you are chosen to be a guest on the chat, promote the chat on your channels, and take your time in drafting or reviewing the chat questions. Work alongside the chat host to ensure you have a question set that will be great for that community.
Should You Start Your Own Twitter Chat?
Once you’ve mastered being a Twitter chat participant and have tried out guest hosting a few times, you may feel compelled to start your own Twitter chat. Or, your boss may want your company to start a Twitter chat to build your brand’s online community.
There are a few questions you should ask yourself before starting a new Twitter chat:
- Do I have the time to host a regular Twitter chat?
- What is the marketing goal of this Twitter chat?
- Who is the audience this Twitter chat will serve?
- Are there other Twitter chats that cater to this audience?
- What topics will this Twitter chat explore that will enable us to generate topic ideas for an entire year?
Common Twitter Chat Challenges
If you’re able to answer all of the above and have confidence in your approach, next consider these hurdles you will face in starting your own Twitter chat:
- Time intensiveness: You will need to dedicate time for planning a regular stream of chats, including drafting compelling question sets for each, and the appropriate promotion. If you want to succeed, this will include time to solicit feedback from your audience, review any guest speaker submissions, and possibly even draft recaps of each of your chats.
- Audience development: Building an audience for your chat will be difficult, especially since many users already have their favorite chats that they attend. This is why you need to address an unmet need in the Twitter chat space to draw folks to your community or have a well-established brand and Twitter following.
- Scheduling woes: Most timeslots for Twitter chats already have a multitude of other chats you’ll be competing with. Putting your new chat up against an established chat makes it tough for you to find your audience.
- Navigating a crowded space: Because there are so many other Twitter chats, you’ll need to hit promotion hard. The problem is that as Twitter continues to change how your feed is structured, it becomes harder for users to see your posts unless they are actually searching for the hashtag. Gone are the days where a chronological feed made it very clear when a chat was happening.
When a Twitter Party May Be the Answer
For most people, starting a Twitter chat probably is not the most effective marketing move given these considerations. This is not to discourage the creation of new chat communities. Rather, it’s just an acknowledgment that Twitter chats take a significant investment, and risk, that many individuals and companies cannot afford. There is always the chance that no one will show up to your chat, so hosts have to be determined in finding the right topics and promoting the chat to draw a crowd.
You may find these other options to be more advantageous for your company instead of the significant investment of starting a Twitter chat:
- Sponsor an existing chat: Even though Hootsuite has its own Twitter chat (#HootChat) the brand sponsors #TwitterSmarter by having one of their team members join each week, and a specific “Ask @Hootsuite” question is included in the #TwitterSmarter question set (check out this one as an example).
- Host a Twitter party: The key to Twitter chats is the regular cadence. But if you want to drum up activity on social media on an ad-hoc basis, consider hosting Twitter parties. They’re a great opportunity to engage influencers and fans on some new offering or topic, and they spare you the ongoing commitment of a Twitter Chat. You can learn more about whether your brand should throw a Twitter party here.
If you or your team are determined to launch a Twitter chat, though, start back with the initial thought-starter questions as the framework to get your plan on a page.
Find Your New Twitter Family
Once you start to settle into your Twitter chat groove and cement yourself as an active member in your chosen communities, you’ll start to see just how small the world truly is.
Joining a Twitter chat is more than a commitment to participating on Twitter. It truly opens you up to a whole new world of professional opportunities, connections, and people who are likely going to take a much larger role in your life than you could ever expect. You’ll start to see the same folks across chats, at your favorite events, or even as the byline on that marketing article you just read.
I’ve met future clients, colleagues, and even a few IRL BFFs thanks to being part of the same Twitter chat communities.
You won’t regret taking the jump into Twitter chats. And I hope, with all the recommendations and tips above, you’ll be primed for success.
If you want a friendly place to start, join #ContentChat weekly on Mondays at noon Pacific/ 3 p.m. Eastern. Let us know if it’s your first time and we’ll take even greater care of you, I promise.