Twitter chats are a very effective way to connect with your existing followers and create new ones. There actually are no set rules for tweet chats, but here are some guidelines to help you get yours off the ground.

Pick a date
Set your date and time when you expect a lot of your followers to be online. If you are having guest from another time zone, be sensitive to their needs as well. Set a finite time in which you’ll be directing the discussion. This is generally an hour and if it continues on afterwards fine.

Create a Hashtag
The Hashtag should be as short as possible so it doesn’t steal characters from the conversation yet still describes the event. Users on Twitter will be able to click on the hashtag to see all of the posts using that tag. This is great for reference and archiving later. Once you and your followers start using this hashtag other people will be curious and start to follow the conversation. The goal is to get them to join in!

Check to make sure you are not co-opting another user’s hashtag. You can find Hashtag currently in use on What the hashtag?

Watch and learn
Watch somebody else’s’ Tweetchats before you run your own to get an idea how this works. There are a number of chats every day, and it’s a good idea to follow some of the best to get ideas. #BlogChat #Journchat #SMChat are all good examples of well run chats.

Market
Marketing your Tweet Chat is essential to it’s success. After all if nobody else adds to the conversation it’s gonna be pretty boring! Tell people in advance you are going to do a chat and what will be discussed. If you are doing this as an interview, make sure the guest understands their responsibility to help you spread the word. Tweet out several days in advance the topic, guest and Hashtag. Just before and at the moment the chat begins ask people to invite their friends to join you. During the chat make sure you welcome new participants and invite others to join in.

Web site posts
If you’ve got a web page or blog, post telling people about your chat, the topic and the guest. Give them a short overview of how it’s going to work, when it will be and whatever protocol they should follow. Ask them to post their questions in advance so you can ask them in the chat.

Facebook
Believe it or not Facebookers don’t really support Twitter chats as much as you might think. Still, if your friends are also tweeters, be sure to let them know about your chat. Hold a contest with your Facebook fans to post questions to be used in the chat and then post a transcript of the entire chat on your blog page for the users who are not on Twitter. (great SEO too by the way). Link to the Hashtag on Twitter so people can go there directly and share or respond to their favorites.

Monitor
Use Tweet Chat Kurrently.com TwitterFall to monitor the discussion. A tweet chat can quickly overwhelm you if you don’t stay focused. Tweet Chat shows you just the hash tagged posts so they don’t get mixed in with your regular stream. It even brings you onto a page (a room) where you only see the tweets from the chat. It also acts as a control panel where you can feature or block individuals you don’t want to listen to.

Hosting
It’s an excellent idea to have a host or moderator for your Tweet chat. Generally this is the person who makes sure everyone is staying on topic, provides questions for the chat if necessary, and encourages people to contribute by re-tweeting particularly good posts, replying or re-directing as necessary. If you choose to interview a particular person your moderator can help them stay focused too. They also are responsible for thanking all participants during and after the chat and often do a wrap up at the end of the chat. “Thanks everyone for making this a successful chat. Come back next week!” etc.

Guests
If you are interviewing someone work out some questions in advance to ask them. Be aware of what the otherĀ  users in the chat are talking about and ask questions that support what they are asking. Let the conversations guide you rather than trying to control it yourself and don’t worry if it’s so busy you don’t get to all your questions. It’s a good thing if your users ask them for you. There will be a lot of side conversations in the twitter stream as the chat goes on. If there is too much chatter simply respond to the person who is the distraction and ask them a question, or suggest they ask a question of your guest to bring them back on track. Introduce your guest and post their name a few times during the chat to remind people why they are there. Have appropriate links to the person’s profile, necessary websites, books or articles to share with your followers.

Timing
Most chats start fairly slowly at first. We recommend a 1 hour chat time, but expect the first 15 minutes to be fairly slow as people join in. Once you’ve held a few regular chats people will begin to look forward to them and you may find they even start early, so be aware! Also kniow that the chat will go on long after you’re gone, the thread of the conversation can be picked up days or even weeks later. It’s up to you whether you want to set up some listening tools to respond.

 

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