If you’re on twitter, there’s a good chance you’ve seen something like this before:

TL;DR — you’ve just stumbled upon a Twitter chat:

  • What a Twitter chat is: A way to increase brand awareness, engage with your community, and learn from them.
  • What a Twitter chat is not: Selling something.

Now let’s dive in.

A Twitter chat is an organized online discussion surrounding a specific topic and hashtag hosted by brands, agencies, business owners, and industry experts. Consider it like a live Q&A with a moderator, which typically lasts about an hour. This moderator will post questions (this is where you’ll see Q1, Q2, Q3, and so on) to prompt responses from participants (who include A1, A2, A3, and so on — similar to our example above).

Why participate?

The benefits are a plenty. Whether you are an average Twitter user or the CEO of a company, Twitter chats are great for networking, growing your knowledge, and establishing yourself as a leader in your industry.

Take it a step further and host your own chat (more on that below) to promote your social presence, reach a larger audience, and create more brand advocates in the process!

Twitter Chat Guidelines:

  • Find a relevant chat. Twitter chats run the gamut in terms of topics — from digital marketing to heart health and even dog training tips! To get started, you’ll need to find a chat that is appropriate for you or your business. Luckily, there’s an app website for that! TweetReports is the mecca of Twitter chats, including chat schedules, hashtags, primary chat topics, description of what’s discussed, and handles of moderators. #TWUBS also has a lengthy chat schedule to browse through. But some of my favorite in the digital space include:
  • Get organized. Pro tip: Tools like TweetChat and TweetDeck will be your friend! While yes, you can simply type the hashtag into Twitter search, select “Latest,” and follow along, the fast-paced nature of these chats can make this method a tad overwhelming. That’s where the aforementioned tools come into play. By logging in with your Twitter account, you can keep up with updates in real time.
  • Follow chat protocol. That means using the proper hashtag and answering a Q1 with an A1. Keep in mind, you only have 140 characters to get your point across, consider using a tool like Canva to create an eye-catching image to enhance your response!
  • Be selective. Remember, you don’t need to answer every question or even be active for the entire chat. Answer and engage when possible — naturally the more present you are, the more connections you may gain and the more impressions you have the ability to make. It’s also ok to take baby steps, participating in a few to start learning the ropes.
  • Don’t be salesy! Twitter chats are about connecting with the community and learning from other industry leaders. You’ll want to provide value to the discussion and share your expertise!

Why should you host your own Twitter chat?

The more chats you participate in, the more familiar you’ll get with their format, the community, and the impact they can have for your business. But, you don’t want to just dive right into hosting a chat.

First, plan your Twitter Chat strategy.

  • Figure out your purpose. Will this be a weekly chat on the latest home decor trends or a monthly chat on health observances? Once you have your chat theme, it’s time to decide on the details.
  • Choose a hashtag. Remember, this has to be included in all 140-character responses — that means it should be something short and also easy to remember. Using your brand name helps! Like #BufferChat hosted by Buffer or #AdweekChat run by, you guessed it, Adweek.
  • Schedule your chat. Keep in mind your audience’s needs — when are they available to join the conversation? What timezones are they in and does this conflict with any other regularly scheduled chats? How frequent will the chat be? Weekly? Monthly? Remember that your first few chats may be a game of trial and error. Hold your chats at different, yet reasonable times, and analyze your results (engagement, impressions, etc.). Use this data to hone in on your chat’s golden hour.
  • Set an agenda. You’ll want to have your chat topic and questions prepared well in advance of your scheduled chat. This includes your “welcome to the chat” Tweet, complete with an icebreaker or warm up question to get things started.
  • Invite guests. Attract new audiences by inviting other industry experts to co-host!
  • Promote your chat. Start scheduling promotional Tweets out to your audience (and have your co-hosts Tweet as well!). You may want to consider personally inviting some Twitter users you think may benefit from tuning in.
  • Recap your chat. Once you’ve executed your chat, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Then, start creating your recap! Round up some of the best responses and share them on your blog — or use Storify to save even more time.

Now, off you go! Use the above tips and tools to chat, form lasting relationships and succeed in the Twitterverse… And don’t forget to tell us how it went!