You know you’ve been thinking about it. That chat.
You have been a guest, panelist and guest host for other chats. And you feel very comfortable attending a one hour chat. You have absolutely no problem carrying on meaningful conversations and providing value to your social networking audience. So, you think… it’s time.
Besides, everyone else is doing it.
Famous last words…
Okay, so you want to host a chat. You’re pretty sure you are ready and you’ve got nothing to lose…
Or do you?
If you want to host a chat that generates a large number of impressions across a wide variety of accounts and potentially trends on Twitter, you have to design a well thought-out plan. While some people can be spontaneous and hope that things just fall into place and click along, in my experience that is a much more stressful way to run anything in life, especially a chat!
Remember, anything that you post on social media is part of your permanent digital record. This means that you can have a chat that has limited attendance and as long as the information is useful and you are happy for people to find it when they search your name or #hashtag for years to come, all is well!
In order to create a chat that you are proud of and that will serve your audience well, you will need to design a well organized calendar or spreadsheet of action items that addresses the following questions:
What day and time will you have the greatest reach? How long will your audience stay without getting bored?
Should the conversation be structured or loose?
Would you have segments that include free chat, Q&As, moderated panel discussions, etc or just straight conversation?
Would you have guests? How would you find those guests?
What system would need to be implemented in order to choose chat guests, schedule a quick pre-interview call, gather guest bio, design chat outline, send 2 confirmation/reminder emails with details and social updates for your guest to invite their network before the chat, follow up after the chat etc? Will you be performing these tasks or will your team?
Preparation is key.
Do your research to find out what other chats are popular with your audience. Notice what days of the week and times your audience is most responsive. Pay attention to who attends the chats of your competitors. What benefits will your audience get from attending your chat? How will you promote the chat? Will you ask friends to help you promote? If so, what will you do for them in exchange? It is important to think about how things will look and feel if the chat goes well and it is also important to think about worst case scenario…
How will you respond if people spam your stream during your chat?
How will you respond if people get snarky or harass your guests?
If people come into the chat and are not staying on topic, will you redirect them back to the topic at hand or will you allow the discussion to move organically to something else?
What kind of host do you want to be in order for you and your audience to have the most enjoyable, memorable, awesome experience?
Once you start your chat, the goal is to get the same people to come back week after week or day after day and for new people to join the fun.
To make things a bit easier for those of you whole still are feeling a bit unsure… here is a sample system for you to start your first tweet chat:
- Use your social media editorial calendar as a guide for your chat discussions, make a list of desirable guests who share your core audience but do not directly compete with you.
- Once you have a list of 10-20 potential guests, start reaching out to them on social media by RTing and sharing their posts. Always remember that everything in business is about relationships. Cherish them and honor each one of them. More importantly, in this stage of the game make sure that you don’t ask anything of anyone until you have somehow paid it forward (expecting nothing in return) many times over.
- Attend at least 3 chats the week before you plan to launch your chat. DO NOT invite anyone to your chat at any chats that you attend, this is considered rude. Simply watch the flow of the 3 chats you attend and notice how people behave in chats. Make a Twitter list of the people who attend each of these chats and name the list by the chat they attended. This is useful for connecting in a DM later, “Hi @JodiOkun I had so much fun attending #collegecash last week that I wanted to invite you to my brand new chat #Iamanewbie this week”
- Send a DM to potential guests who you would like to have on your chat. Start by complimenting their work and telling them why you would be honored to have them on your chat. Explain that you share a similar audience. Give the guest an option of emailing you if they are interested in participating by providing your email address.
- If someone is not interested in being a guest on your chat, move on to the next. People are busy, so don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t respond to your message. Some people don’t check DMs and others are just really bad at follow up. After the original attempt to connect, give them one courteous follow up and then move on to the next prospect.
- Once you connect with an interested guest, follow up immediately with an email that explains your chat topic, the date and time and the format. If you will be doing a Q&A style chat, send questions at least 3 days beforehand so the guest can prepare. Remind them to add your #hashtag to their tweets. Set guidelines (specify if and when you will let them promote their products or services) and always follow up with an expression of gratitude.
- Have fun, greet your chat guests and remember to invite your guests back to join the fun the following week!
Tip: Write out a list of tweets that welcome guests to the chat, link to blog posts or videos you or your guests have produced that build on the chat content, closing tweets that link to your guests’ blog, thank guests and participants for their support and invite them to the chat with (insert next week’s chat guest name) on (insert topic). Don’t forget to add your hashtag to all of your tweets from the chat and follow up with a service like Hashtracking to see what your results were!