16 Mar 2014

The 360º View of Successful Twitter Chats

By Sue Duris at Social Media Today

There are a lot of Twitter chats out there and they are more popular than ever. Some are better than others. While it is great to engage with others, it is important to be good Twitter citizens which means using proper social media etiquette, respecting one another and ensuring everyone has a good time. There are three groups involved in Twitter chats - the moderator, the guest and the participants. Each group has a role to fill to ensuring a successful Twitter chat.

What follows are some best practices for moderators, guests and participants to practice when engaging in Twitter chats.

For Moderators

1. Promote your chat before, during and after your chat. Include the date, time, duration and hashtag of your chat as well as topics and guests. Promoting your chat is an ongoing process so enlist the help of others to promote it.

2. Prepare for the chat.  Will the chat be a single topic or have multiple topics? Will there be a Q&A or a free flow? Will there be a guest? Decide on the format of the chat in advance.

Create a chat script in advance to keep the chat on schedule. Divvy up the minutes in the hour and assign tasks. For example, let's say your chat runs from 12pm-1pm so at the 12:03 mark you may want to welcome everyone and the guest, at the 12:05 mark you may want to ask question 1, at the 12:10 mark, ask question 2, and so forth. Before you begin your chat, this script will be your guide and help you run a smooth chat. When deciding on the types of questions to ask, consider your audience. Ask yourself what type of questions would encourage your participants to engage in the conversation. Make sure you ask thought-provoking questions. If you have a guest, make sure you provide them with questions in advance so they have time to prepare for the chat.

3. You are the facilitator of the chat, so you need to ensure that the chat is well run and stays on topic.  Moderators are the hosts of the chat, too, and that means they listen first, engage second. Moderators should listen first (this skill deserves repeating), re-tweet guest and participant comments as much as possible, ask follow-up questions to drive conversations further and opine last. Yes, your opinions are last. What will make your chat stand out in the eyes of your participants is creating an environment where they can engage, re-tweet, just listen or a combination of all these things. Remember, you are creating a brand with your chat and as such, focus on making your participants’ chat experience as wonderful as possible.

Welcome people into the chat. Consider welcoming each member individually as they enter the chat. (Some of the larger chats have multiple moderators because one person just can’t welcome 100 people individually!)

Introduce your guest, if you have one. Guests are great for three reasons:  a guest (1) helps you build credibility for your chat, (2) helps you to drive content and direction of your chat, and (3) helps to increase the number of participants of your chat.

Announce the topic at the start of the chat to remind everyone what the chat is about.

Account for latecomers to the chat by reminding people about the topic and guest throughout the chat.

Introduce questions and allow for sufficient response time. Moderators should also re-tweet guest comments and interesting participant comments during the chat. Announce the end of the chat, thank your guest and participants, and advise participants of the next chat.

4. Don’t forget to post transcripts of the chat to those who could not participate and participants who want to review the chat. Storify is a great tool for this.

5. Remember to continue to promote your chat. It will take time for your chat to build up participants. If you promote well, hold chats on a consistent basis, and have interesting dialog in your chats, your chat will build momentum and may even go viral.

6. Consider taking the chat beyond Twitter. One idea is to create an online community for continuing the conversation between chats. For example, #NostalgiaChat has a weekly chat and the moderators encourage participation in a Facebook group in between chats.

For Guests

1. Consider attending the chat prior to when you are the guest so you understand the tone and flow of the chat.

2. Help the moderator promote the chat.

3. Be on time to the chat.

4. Be prepared. Ask the moderator for questions in advance of the chat so you can prepare your answers. And make sure you prepare. Don't wing it.

5. Answer questions and engage with participants as much as possible. Guests don't have all the answers so if a participant makes an interesting point, give that participant a shout-out either via a re-tweet or mentioning that they made a great point. Leave the ego at the door. You might be considered a guru, but still engage in a conversational style. You are there to educate and offer insight.

6. Encourage participants to reach out to you after the chat with any additional questions.

For Participants

1. Help the moderator promote the chat. That may involve either posting or re-tweeting the details of the Twitter chat. If you want to take a more active role, reach out to the moderator to see how you can help them.

2. Be prepared prior to the chat by signing into a chatting tool like TweetChat, Twubs, Tweetdeck or tchat.io. Offer to help other participants who want to join chat or need help with their chatting tool.

3. Follow the four-pronged approach of online chatting – Listen – Engage – Respect your fellow chatters – Help by suggesting resources and tools. Listen to what is being discussed. Engage either through re-tweeting, commenting or asking questions. Respect the opinions of the guest and your fellow participants. If you agree with them, let them know. If you disagree with them, be nice about it and indicate why you disagree and offer your take. Help and support the moderator, guest and your fellow participants by offering appropriate ideas, resources, tools, etc. during the chat. Also, be careful to not hijack the guest. The guest is there for a reason, to educate and offer insight. When a question is asked, yield to the guest to respond first. Then, you can engage with the questions.

4. Help the moderator during the chat by welcoming participants, re-tweeting moderator, guest and participant comments, and thanking the guest.

5. Have fun and help make it fun.

6. Check out the transcript and promote the next chat.

The number one rule in Twitter chats is to have fun. Go forth and have a blast!

Via Social Media Today: 

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