Ten Ways To Spice Up Your Next Twitter Chat

A Twitter chat is a fantastic way for brands to build a solid relationship with their audience. It’s typically an hour-long discussion via Twitter about a topic that is relevant to both the chat host and participants– anything from what it’s like to go to university for the first time to a new album from a celebrity rap artist.

But it’s not enough to choose a topic and time and let loose on Twitter. A great chat takes planning, organization and – possibly the most important – follow-up.

I’ve been an active participant in a number of Twitter chats, and I’ve noticed that some things work… and some things flop. Here are ten ways to make sure your next Twitter chat is one that works!

A Current Events Chat

How do you get your chat to stand out among the hundred of other Twitter chats out there? Tie it to current events of course!

PBS NewsHour regularly holds weekly Twitter chats using the hashtag #NewsHourChats in which they discuss topical issues of the day. For instance, one of the recent chats was centered on Pope Francis’ answers to reporters’ questions about topics like gay priests and women in the church. Chat participants were encouraged to share their views on whether his remarks signalled a shift within the Catholic Church – a topic that saw plenty of heated debate and stimulating conversations on Twitter. This chat was effective because PBS is a brand that is associated with covering news-worthy, and often controversial, topics.

Here are three lessons learned from PBS NewsHour’s #NewsHourChats:

1. Tying your chat to current events in your industry will help make it more timely and relevant to your audience
2. Chats that are hosted regularly – once a week or once a month – will result in a more loyal, recurring audience
3. Being controversial in your topic could spark plenty of conversation, as long as this approach is in-line with your brand’s core values

A Spontaneous Celebrity Q&A

Most Twitter chats like those hosted by PBS involve a lot of planning, alerting the audience to the hashtag prior to the event, detailed analysis afterward… but not all.

In early July, Jay-Z (@S_C_) took to Twitter to answer some of his fans’ questions in a five+ hour-long chat. There was no PR blitz before the chat to pump up his audience. The rapper simply signed on to Twitter and began tweeting.

As Mashable reports, Jay-Z’s stunt caused #MCHG (the hashtag representing his new album Magna Carta Holy Grail) to become a worldwide trend, and his following increased by over 46,000 during the chat – 15 times more than he’d see on an average day.

Two key lessons learned from Jay-Z’s Twitter chat:

4. Sometimes hopping on Twitter on the spur of the moment builds a lot of organic excitement provided you host the event long-enough for people to spread the word and your audience can be flexible.
5. Of course, it helps to have a celebrity influencer on board (even as a guest host, if you’re not a celebrity yourself).

An Interactive Mashup

Engaging your audience ‘where they are’ with highly resonant content is rule #1 for organizations using social media – and NYU’s Student Affairs department takes this rule to heart.

This summer, NYU hosted the #NYUProTips Tweetcast on Nestivity’s new Twitter chat platform (Disclaimer: Nestivity is a client). The chat featured a panel of two recent grads and three current NYU students answering some of the more pressing questions from the incoming freshman class. NYU promoted the chat via the panelists and all related NYU department Twitter accounts, inviting people to send in their questions ahead of the event. The questions were captured in their Nestivity community, and helped build momentum prior to the chat.

On a Sunday evening, the five panelists took questions via Twitter, and answered them via a Google+ Hangout for the 50 minute chat. Participants got to see a conversation between NYU upper classmen and alum, and got to interact with the live video stream by sending in tweets. Plus, NYU is planning on using their Nestivity community as a central hub for students who use Twitter, and they’re planning future Tweetcasts.

Five key takeaways from the NYU Tweetcast:

6. Promote your chat ahead of time increases awareness and participation, while following up on your chat after helps you build long-term relationships
7. Use more than one social network at the same time and, where possible, on the same screen to reach more of your audience
8. Incorporate multimedia into your Twitter chat keeps participants organized and engaged
9. Videos of happy people tend to make everyone happy – the sentiment score (according to Topsy Pro) from the chat was very high, at 79
10. By focusing on sharing information socially, you can establish yourself as a connector within your community

Jenna Dobkin (@JennaSD) is a results-oriented influencer engagement and public relations professional with a passion for helping businesses grow sales, build brands and enhance community relationships, online and off. Visa International, McDonalds, and Starbucks are among her well-known clients. Nestivity and RaynForest are among her soon-to-be well known start-up clients.

(Chat image via Shutterstock.)