Twitter chats (or Tweet chats) are public conversations organized around a specific topic on Twitter. These moderated discussions take place at a predetermined time, with a predetermined hashtag. They’re a great way to build community around your brand.
With more than 336 million active users, Twitter is one of the world’s most popular social networks. Twitter users are also super engaged—46% of them use the platform every day.
How do you take advantage of this powerful network? Get people talking!
Keep reading to find out:
- How Twitter chats can help brands thrive
- A step-by-step breakdown of how to host your own successful Twitter chat
- The most important Twitter chat tips and best practices
Plus, as a thank you to our readers, we’ve included six free quote card templates that you can use to post questions and answers in your own Twitter chats.
Bonus: Get a set of 6 free, customizable Twitter card templates that will make your Twitter chats look professional, unique, and eye-catching.
7 reasons to host a Twitter chat
Done right, Tweet chats can be an important part of any Twitter marketing strategy. Here’s why:
1. Understand your audience
During the chat, you’ll learn more about what your target audience thinks. What are they curious about? What topics engage them most? What kind of language do they use?
Answering these questions will help you reach people more effectively. It can also give you some great ideas for your content marketing strategy!
2. Get customer feedback
Online contact forms aren’t exactly inviting. But Twitter chats feel intimate and conversational. For this reason, some customers prefer to ask questions via Tweets instead.
This is especially important for small businesses in their growth stages. Eighty-five percent of those on Twitter say the platform is important for customer service.
In a recent #Hootchat, we asked participants about the worst mistakes social media managers make at events. Along with some great answers, we also got a suggestion for a future giveaway.
Forget to bring a power bank to charge their devices! #HootChat
PS. Idea for next giveaway ????
— SERVPRO of Downey (@servprodowney) March 21, 2019
3. Build brand awareness
Tweet chats are open, public chats. They create opportunities for thousands of Twitter users to engage with your brand.
Think of Twitter chats as a form of free advertising (that people actually find valuable).
4. Establish your brand’s authority on a relevant topic
A successful Twitter chat can build your brand’s thought leadership strategy.
Starting a conversation about a topic signals that you’re in-the-know about that issue, such as Hootsuite and the topic of social media marketing. It also shows your community that you care about their perspectives.
5. Make connections with other leaders in your industry
Tweet chats bring professionals from around the world together. Because they’re public discussions, you never know who might chime in. This makes Tweet chats one of the most effective ways to connect with influencers in your industry.
For example, Gabriela Cardoza chimed in during our latest #Hootchat. It was great to hear her branding insights.
— Gabriela Cardoza (@CardozaGab) April 18, 2019
6. Gain followers
But Twitter chats aren’t just about the influencers. They also open conversations with potential customers. By connecting people through a common interest, you’ll build an engaged, relevant following on Twitter.
7. Learn something new!
Finally, Twitter chats are an opportunity to build your own knowledge. Participants can introduce you to tools and tricks you’ve never heard of.
Key elements of a Twitter chat
Twitter chats come in all shapes and sizes. But they share some common features:
A dedicated hashtag
A great Twitter chat starts with a great hashtag. The hashtag focuses the discussion and creates a digital “space” for people to connect.
The best hashtags are unique, relevant, and memorable. They’re also short! Try to take up as few of your participants’ precious characters as possible.
For example, Hootsuite’s Twitter chat hashtag, #Hootchat, is short and sweet. It also references our brand name, which makes it easier to remember.
A relevant topic
A Twitter chat topic can be very broad or super niche. Either way, it should be valuable and interesting to your target audience.
In one of our #HootChats, we looked at social content creation. We knew this topic would be helpful and relevant to many digital marketers in our community.
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) April 18, 2019
A set date and time
Think of your chat like a radio show that users can “tune in” to. Create a set schedule, like Thursdays at 2 pm, and stick to it. That way, fans will know when to come back for more.
You can even add your schedule to your bio. But only if your Tweet chat is a major part of your social strategy, like @smallbizchat:
Otherwise, just make sure to remind your followers of the time and date in advance.
An engaged moderator
Moderators ask questions, monitor the conversation, and keep things moving. They can be brands, individuals, industry guests, or a member of your own social team.
A structured Q&A format
Twitter chats can get confusing, especially with lots of participants. Organize questions by number (i.e., Q1, Q2, Q3, and so on). Encourage participants to respond with the same format—A1, A2, A3—to keep everyone on track:
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) November 28, 2018
A conversation isn’t a conversation without other people! That’s why promoting your Twitter chat is a must. We’ll go through some tips for getting the word out later in this post.
Now that you’ve got the basics covered, let’s look at how to host the perfect Twitter chat.
How to host a Twitter chat, step-by-step
1. Define your purpose
It’s a lot easier to reach your goals when you know what they are!
Get clear on your Twitter chat strategy before you do anything else. Set yourself “S.M.A.R.T.” goals that are:
Let’s say the aim of your Tweet chat is to gain more followers. Are you looking for 10 or 1,000? Should they live in your city or can they be international?
Your chat will look very different, depending on what you decide.
2. Check out your competitors
Take part in other Twitter chats to hone your hosting skills. It will allow you to understand the participant experience. Plus, it might help you brainstorm content and promotion ideas.
Explore existing chats in your industry, noting what worked well and what didn’t. As you go, keep an eye out for participants you may want to invite to your own event.
3. Get to know your audience
What communities do you want to engage with? What are they interested in?
Twitter users are diverse. Before you choose your topic, pinpoint exactly who you want to reach. Consider what value you can offer them while crafting your questions.
Twitter Analytics is a great way to learn more about who you’re speaking to.
4. Choose your schedule
Where is your audience based? Are they on Eastern or Pacific time? Think about whether they’ll be more likely to join during business hours or at night.
5. Let your followers know
There are lots of ways to promote your chat on Twitter.
Start tweeting about your chat up to seven days in advance. Share the topic, hashtag, time, and date. Send out invites to followers and influencers who you know will engage.
You can even pin a promotional Tweet to your profile, like Brand Chat does. This will give your Tweet chat an extra boost.
— Brand Chat (@brandchat) April 8, 2019
Promotion doesn’t end at Twitter. Some of your fans might follow you on several platforms. But not everyone will.
Announce your chat across all your channels to gather a crowd. Share it on your social platforms, blog, website, and email newsletter.
For example, we used Facebook to promote one of our recent #Hootchats. The video format gave us more real estate to work with than a Tweet would:
7. Plan ahead
Careful planning is at the heart of any successful social media campaign. This is especially true on Twitter. When chats take off, they can get hectic fast.
Make sure you’re ready to hit the ground running. Prepare your questions well in advance. Keep them general enough that both experts and beginners can answer them.
Aim for eight questions total, the industry standard. Schedule one every 5-to-10 minutes, so people have time to think and respond.
Schedule your first Tweet for the exact time you specified. You don’t want to leave people waiting!
8. Use a question template
Not sure what to ask during your chat? Consider creating a template that you can adapt every time you host one.
For example, here are some standard questions we ask at #Hootchat:
- What is [your topic]?
- Why is [your topic] important?
- How does [your topic] tie into your social media strategy?
- What’s a good example of [your topic]?
- How do you measure [your topic]?
- What tools do you use for [your topic]?
- What brands are doing [your topic] well?
- Can you recommend any hacks?
- What are some common mistakes?
- What’s your #1 tip for someone getting started?
9. Start with an icebreaker
It can be intimidating to dive into a public chat. Help people ease into the conversation with a fun, easy warm-up question:
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) September 20, 2018
10. Engage your participants
Approach social media engagement like a dinner party, not a shouting match.
A series of questions isn’t engaging on its own. As the host of this digital party, you need to keep the conversation going.
Read replies, ask follow-up questions, and reTweet the best comments. Like and comment. Make your guests feel welcome and important.
The #EngagORS Tweet chat does this really well. Check out how moderator Matt Jackson engages with participants.
Excellent question Tori, I think when making your passion into a business you have to love the day to day stuff. If you don't it becomes a chore. I use the mantra, 'fail fast & fail cheap'. You should know fairly early on if you can see yourself doing this forever. #EngagORS
— Matt Jackson Ⓜ️ (@Socially_M) April 11, 2019
11. Use direct reply
Direct reply to specific questions or comments to avoid confusion. Keeping everyone on track is essential—especially if there’s lots of participants.
12. Encourage hashtag use
You may need to remind participants to include the chat hashtag in their answers. This makes it easier for everyone to keep up with the conversation.
Just make sure you’re polite about it, like SciComm Journal Club:
Bonus: Get a set of 6 free, customizable Twitter card templates that will make your Twitter chats look professional, unique, and eye-catching.Download the templates now!
Please don't forget to use our hashtag so chat participants can see your tweet.
— SciComm Journal Club (@scicomm_jc) April 1, 2019
13. Use question cards and graphics
Ninety percent of the information we process is visual. It’s no surprise Tweets with graphics get more engagement than text-based ones.
Incorporate images into your posts whenever you can. Create Twitter cards to share your questions and promote your chat.
GIFs are another simple way to stand out in your followers’ feeds. Plus, they lighten things up!
Bonus: Get a set of 6 free, customizable Twitter card templates that will make your Twitter chats look professional, unique, and eye-catching.
14. Promote your guests
Are any influencers moderating or participating in your chat? Give them a shout out.
Promoting important guests is a great way to increase chat participation. Plus, by tagging influencers, you also make it easier for them to reTweet your posts. That’s free promotion!
15. Say thanks
When it’s time to go, wrap things up with a warm thank you. This shows participants you appreciate them. It also lets people know they can go back to their day.
Don’t be afraid to have some fun with your goodbye:
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) February 26, 2019
16. End with a stellar CTA
We remember endings better than almost any other content. Take advantage of yours!
Wrap things up with a strong call-to-action. If you have your next chat confirmed, use this opportunity to promote it. Otherwise, encourage participants to check out a relevant blog post, product, or service.
Whatever you choose, make sure it aligns with your Tweet chat topic. Use clear, compelling language to make the most of your CTA.
17. Repurpose your chat content
So, you got people talking. Now what?
Make the most of the content you generated with your Twitter chat. Create a blog post or a YouTube video featuring key takeaways and popular Tweets.
Nonprofit NewCities does this really well. In this example, they’ve repurposed their favorite Tweets into a Q&A-style post:
18. Follow up
Although the official Twitter chat may be over, the conversation doesn’t have to be.
Did any important influencers join your chat? Were any participants particularly engaged? Follow up with them on a personal level afterwards. You never know where the connection will take you.
19. Reflect, measure, and learn
Once you’ve mastered your first Tweet chat, it’s time to gear up for the next one.
Dig deep into your metrics to see how you did. Track hashtag mentions and impressions. Measure engagement. Use an analytics tool, like Hootsuite Insights, to keep tabs on your chat’s progress.
As you reflect, ask yourself what worked and what didn’t. Take notes, brainstorm solutions, and plan for the future.
How to host a Twitter chat using Hootsuite
Does hosting a Twitter chat sound like a lot of work? Luckily, Hootsuite can help. Here’s how it works:
1. Sign up
2. Set up a tab
Log into Hootsuite and add a new tab within your dashboard. You’re going to create a few chat-specific streams.
3. Create listening streams
Start with your main chat stream. This stream will showcase the entire conversation in one place.
Search for your unique Tweet chat hashtag. Add the syntax “-RT” to drop any retweets. This will help you cut down on the Tweet volume a little. Click “Save as Stream” so that you can refer to it at any time.
Do the same for mentions. That way, you’ll capture any chat Tweets that are missing the hashtag.
4. Set up separate Q&A streams
Next, add separate search streams for each of your questions and answers. This will make managing the conversation a lot easier.
Create streams using the following syntaxes:
#YourHashtag AND (Q1 OR Q2 OR Q3 OR Q4 OR Q5 OR Q6 OR Q7 OR Q8) -RT
This search stream filters for chat questions only. It will help you keep a pulse on how the conversation is going.
#YourHashtag AND (A1 OR A2 OR A3 OR A4 OR A5 OR A6 OR A7 OR A8) -RT
This stream filters for answers only. It will allow you to engage with participants in real time.
5. Track the conversation
With these key streams in place, you’re ready to start your chat.
Leave all your streams open as the conversation gets going. Monitor engagement, and keep things moving if they slow down. Ask follow up questions and give comments. Use Hootsuite’s tools to favourite and reply to participants’ Tweets.
Twitter chats can seem intimidating. But with a bit of work—and a lot of enthusiasm—you’ll have people chatting in no time.
How to use the Twitter card templates for your Twitter chat
Here’s how to customize these templates for your brand and then upload them to Twitter. You will need Adobe Photoshop to get started.
1. After you’ve downloaded the templates, you’ll notice that the fonts and image files are separate. Double click on the font file of your selected theme to upload the font to your computer. Click install font.
2. Double click the image file to open it in Photoshop.
3. Select the Twitter card template that you’d like to work with first.
4. To edit text: double click the text you would like to edit. You can change fonts and colors in the menu on the left-hand side.
5. To edit a color block: double click the color block you would like to edit. Change the size or use the menu on the left-hand side to change the color.
6. To edit a photo: double click the photo you would like to edit and click insert new image. Resize image as necessary.
7. To add your organization’s logo: double click the square in the bottom right corner of the template and replace with the appropriate icon file.
7. To save one single Twitter card template: Select the card you would like to save and go to Save>Export As>Artboard to Files. Make sure to save as a .jpg or .png.
8. To save both Twitter card templates: Save>Export As. Make sure to save as a .jpg or .png.
9. Upload the images to the appropriate tweets from your desktop or from Hootsuite.
Save time and easily run your Twitter chats alongside all your other social media activities using Hootsuite. Engage your current followers and attract new ones, while cementing your professional expertise. Try it free today.