I participate in several twitter chats each week and even have had the honor of being a guest. Recently I participated in a chat that had a social media specialist from a major brand as a guest and they missed a great opportunity to engage with the participants. Instead they broadcast their message and alienated many of the participants. The following are some thoughts to help you be a guest that people find worth the hour they invest in the chat.
1. Work with the host on topic development. Before you agree to be a guest look at the audience and determine the pros and cons of participating. Does participation meet your social media objectives? If yes, then work with the host to develop a good title that will catch peoples interest. There are several tools available that will provide some basic analytics about the hashtag used for the chat. Your time is valuable, make sure it makes sense for you to participate.
2. Prepare answers in advance. The host should provide you a list of questions prior to the chat. Take time to prepare your answers in advance. Some things to keep in mind.
- Keep your answers to 126-130 characters including the hashtag. This will make it easier for guests to retweet.
- Having answers developed in advance allows you to quickly respond to the question so you can focus on questions from participants.
- No more than three responses to each question. People will be monitoring the chat using many tools and you need time for them to process your answer, respond and possibly ask a question before the host moves on to the next question.
- The host should number questions as Q1, Q2, etc. Use A1, A2, etc. for each answer so people know which question you are answering. I used A1a, A1b, etc. to make sure people could track all my responses since I provided more than one answer per question.
- Monitor the chat before you participate to get an idea for the pace of discussion.
3. Write a blog post. If you can’t cover all you want from the questions and answers don’t be afraid to write a blog post to provide participants some background on your topic. Provide a link to the host so they can publish it as they promote the chat. Also publish it yourself to attract your followers to participate.
4. Engage with the participants. Make sure you engage, that is the difference between a chat and a blog post done in 140 character increments. There are several tools that are available to help you with your chat. My preference is TweetChat.com which allows you to isolate the stream of the chat hashtag. It also allows you to type your response and not have to use the hashtag for each entry. This is very important if you aren’t used to participating in chats. Without the hashtag your audience will probably miss your response. I used two devices when I was a guest. My laptop had TweetChat open with a word document with my responses so I could “cut and paste.” I also used my iPad with a Twitter app that pushed notifications for each mention of my Twitter handle. This actually notified me of a mention before it appeared on TweetChat. NOTE: On occasion TweetChat runs slow or locks up during a chat. Have a backup plan, TweetDeck for example, that you can quickly switch to.
5. Follow up on every question. Want to impress your audience? Answer every question. There are two ways to do this.
- At the conclusion of the chat respond to every question you were not able to address during the chat.
- Have someone else from the brand available to help respond to questions during the chat. Ideally they will be in the room with you so you can communicate which questions you each will answer. If you chose to do this, introduce the other person and explain what they are doing at the beginning of the chat.