Is there a topic that you’re interested in that doesn’t already have its own chat on Twitter? Why not start one on what you’re passionate about?
Don’t think you have what it takes to have others join you toward a cause or enjoying a certain topic? Think again. PR Daily compiled a list of “8 building blocks for a successful Twitter chat” (listed below) that are easy to follow and put into action. Who knows, maybe your favorite interest will be the next trending topic on Twitter!
1. Fill a need. Just starting a chat to start a chat is fine, but it probably won’t be very successful. Some type of community exists around almost any common interest. Your job is to identify your passion and target others with the same passion. Organize a chat that can add value to the conversations you are having around that topic and that can bring like-minded people together to network.
2. Partner with a community leader. When I say community, I’m referring to the area of common interest that got you thinking about starting a chat. Two heads are better than one—and so are two networks. Find a partner that has as much passion about the topic as you and ask him or her to co-host the chat. It makes the time commitment more manageable and extends your reach.
3. Crowdsource. The best way to increase involvement and buy-in on something is to ask people’s opinions and make decisions (and changes) based on their feedback. The easiest way to do this is a call for questions on Twitter. Ask people what they want to talk about. If someone gives you an idea for a question, they’re probably going to show up at the chat to see the responses. Beyond questions, ask for help making decisions about the community, such as potential guest speaker ideas, topics to cover, and how members can engage outside Twitter. This type of approach makes it easy for participants to feel ownership in the community and shows them that the chat isn’t all about the moderators.
4. Make your chat part of someone’s routine. Have your chat at the same time, on the same hashtag, and find a format you like and stick with it. People discuss their routine events on Twitter and other social networks all the time. If they make your chat part of that discussion, their peers will see it as a recommendation. People want to do what their friends are doing, which means you’re building more exposure to for the chat community.
5. Invite guest moderators. Some of the most successful #pr20chat sessions in the past year and a half involved guest moderators. People want to hear and learn from those who have built a reputation in the industry. That’s why conferences are so successful, right? Well, bring that idea to your chat. It’s good PR for the guest moderator, and it gives your community a different perspective. I’ve seen a couple of recent Twitter chats open with two or three big-name guests in the first month or two, which has helped generate buzz and get them off the ground.
6. Provide community beyond Twitter. To see if our Twitter chat is resonating with our audience, I ask myself the following questions:
• Are we seeing consistent numbers of participants?
• Are people using the #pr20chat hashtag to alert the community to news or trends outside of when the chat takes place?
• Are people engaging with each other about the topics we discuss outside of Twitter and are we making it easy for them to do so?
The #u30pro chat does a great job of this. It uses its Facebook group and e-mail digest to offer consistent discussion topics and recap the week’s chat, including highlighting members. For #pr20chat, we have a Ning community—pr20chat.com—that more than 100 of our chat participants have joined. And we do a weekly video segment about relevant PR issues called #pr20chat TV, which Heather and I both post on our blogs to allow for discussion.
7. Invite people to the chat. This one may sound simple (and even silly), but how you invite people can often be key to whether they attend. We notice an increase in attendance when we send direct messages to regular participants, sharing the topic and asking if they can make the chat this week. People want to be included and feel wanted. Make sure they know you want them to be part of your discussion and community.
8. Pay attention to the details. This is good advice in everything you do, not just building your Twitter chat. Here’s what I mean in terms of Twitter chats:
• Promote your chat on the day it takes place
• Tweet the call for questions
• Tweet that you are discussing question ideas when building your list for that night
• Say hello to people when they join the chat and thank them for stopping by
• Tweet “you’re welcome” when people say thanks for hosting the chat
• Share a transcript and note the number of tweets and participants
• Call out chat community members’ accomplishments for all to recognize
• Look to engage with chat participants outside of the normal chat time
These eight building blocks should get you started. But there’s always something else you can do to keep your community engaged. Create a strategic plan and an editorial calendar for your chat. Treat it like a client project, and show your chat network you value them and the perspective they bring to the table.
And never treat your chat like it’s just a hashtag. Anyone can create a hashtag. Building community is much more difficult—and much more rewarding.