10 Secrets Of The Top Twitter Chats

#SMChat sees hundreds of people take to Twitter each week to discuss social media marketing. #BlogChat participants produce over 6,000 tweets about the tools, tricks and tribulations of being a blogger. These are two of the biggest Twitter chats out there, and they’ve developed a “secret sauce” for hosting the perfect chat.

Luckily for us, the secret sauce doesn’t have to be such a secret. I’ve been a participant in dozens of Twitter chats – but I decided to take a closer look at how some of the best chats function. So what are the secrets of hosting a great Twitter chat?

1. Choose the right theme

Before you dive into creating a Twitter chat, you need to decide on a theme.

Typically, a brand should have a reason for hosting a Twitter chat. Will you be hosting a chat about social media tools? About fishing tips? About home décor? Choose a broad topic that is related to your industry, and if you’re planning on rerunning your chat each week, choose a sub-topic for your first week.

A word of warning when deciding on your chat topic: do a little digging in your industry first. Search Twitter, industry blogs and your professional social networks a bit to make sure that no one in your industry is already hosting a similar chat. There’s no need to step on anyone’s toes – there are plenty of topics to choose from that will appeal to your audience without rubbing someone the wrong way.

2. Choose the right hashtag

Every Twitter chat is organized using a hashtag. Typically, chat hashtags contain the word “chat” and a few characters describing the topic of the chat, like #BlogChat and #SMChat. The absolute most important thing you should do when choosing your hashtag is to research it first. All this means is to brainstorm your hashtag and then search for it on Twitter.com. If no one is actively using it, it’s yours!

Tip: keep your hashtag short and sweet. The shorter it is, the easier it is to memorize and the more characters your audience will have to work with when tweeting.

3. Advertise the chat before it goes live

There’s nothing worse than an empty Twitter chat. It’s hard to host a conversation when no one is participating! So well before you launch your first chat, advertise the heck out of it.

Find your audience (whether it’s directly on Twitter, via LinkedIn, your company blog or another medium), and tell them you’ll be hosting a chat. Write a blog post explaining how to participate. Tweet the date and time a week or two in advance, and once or twice a day in the two or three days just before the chat. Write a Facebook post about it. Take a super cool Vine of your chat setup at your office. Do whatever it takes to alert your audience to the fact that this chat is happening and they need to be there.

4. Choose the right timing

Most Twitter chats occur at a specific time and day each week or month. Choosing your chat’s timing is essential to get an engaged audience that will continue to attend.

You’ll want to use tools like Tweriod to discover when your audience is actually online. When you’ve pinpointed a few times that they appear to be most active, go back to your research and see if any other, popular, chats conflict with that time. You’ll notice that #BlogChat happens every Sunday at 8p.m. Central while #SMChat goes down at 1p.m. ET on Wednesdays. This is no accident: the audiences for these two chats intersect, so hosting them at the same time would be bad for business.