Twitter chats, real time conversations that build communities. Bringing people together around a specific topic and/or interest where they can learn, share, interact with alisters and celebrities seems like the recipe for success as who would not want to take part in this? Seems simple as people love to talk about their passions and connect with others who share those passions but, as we know, successful twitter chats are not a build it and they will come. While every topic deserves to have a voice, the interest and and long term sustainability are not always supported and maintained. Creating the need, satisfying the need, attracting the participants is just one component of a successful chat.
How to Create a Successful Twitter Chat
Success in anything that we do whether be a business, a blog, a race and twitter chats are dictated by the goals that are set forth. The goals whether they be establishing goals for a blog, a healthier lifestyle or a new business, all have one thing in common; achieving them. How we achieve our goals through the plan we put into place is different for each goal but each requires hard work and a focus on the end. Many goals require us to define all facets of the goal and work backwards. A twitter chat is no different. The goal is more than the numbers of participants for any given week, it is sustaining the growth and providing reason to return. How are you going to garner enough interest week after week to have people dedicate the time to want to be participate? How are you going to keep their attention and continue to entice them to contribute?
1. Establish Need. How important is the overall topic to the twitter community? What is in it for them? Why should they dedicate an hour each week to stop what they are doing and give you their attention? Value. The value to them drives them to return. Establishing and fulfilling the void that exists involves more than just keeping a watchful eye on trends and searches through search.twitter.com. While there may be a spike in “hamburgers” or “burgers” it does not mean that there is a need for a chat each week.
2. Research Interest and Viability of Topic. How many of your followers are interested in this topic and want to come together in an open platform to show their support and share their thoughts, knowledge and interest in this topic? Why are you to be trusted to moderate the chat? Trust, we know, is not built overnight. Your followers have to not only be interested in the topic, they have to trust that you will provide them the value in participating and also will be committed to the chat and its growth each week. While they may like you well enough, they may not have the trust necessary for them to support your efforts.
3. Gauge Community Support. Building community support when it relates to certain topics is not very difficult. In natural disasters, we see people come together very quickly to support the cause. However, this is a one time commitment by the audience and they move on. Your community has to be on board and ready to show their support to you as the first few weeks of the chat find many testing the waters. Once there seems to be a lot of interest and a lot of noise around the chat, others flock to see what the chat is all about. In the beginning, your community is what gets the chat started and off the ground.
4. Create an easily Identifiable and Memorable Hashtag. Hashtags, while seem elementary, play a big role in the success of a chat. A hashtag that is too long takes up valuable real estate and is not as twitter friendly as we would think. People have a lot to say and share and a long hashtag takes away from what they want to contribute. Also, the hashtag has to identify what the chat is about and be easily remembered to be associated with the chat.
5. Create Editorial Calendar. Keep the weekly topic fresh and new will help to grow the chat community as we can only talk about the same thing every so often. Certain topics are what they are and if we are talking about blogging, there are only so many components of blogging that we can discuss. However, bringing in guest moderators, honing in on one area of the topic and inviting participants to suggest the weekly topics, keeps the community involved and committed.
6. Establish Guidelines. A chat while is discussing a topic is not a free for all/anything goes. Establish guidelines and before each chat post the link to the guidelines. This not only eliminates the need to repeat yourself and have to “call out” people who regularly push the envelope and go outside the guidelines (ie use the chat as their own sales platform by posting link after link) it shows that you are very committed to the chat and the success thereof.
7. Ask for Participation. Inviting your followers to be a part of the chat empowers them. They are being asked to be a part of the anticipated success. People, especially in great success, are so very proud to boast about how they were there from the beginning when hardly anyone else was paying attention. You need them to get the ball rolling and bring in their followers. Asking them to participate gives them a sense of importance and belonging. Their opinion and expertise matters.
8. Introduce Participants. Formally introducing chat participants to one another promotes participation by giving them someone to talk to. The biggest complaint we hear about chats is that people do not know where to jump in or who to talk to. Introducing people that you know that may or may not know one another solves this and also nudges them to introduce people they know to one another. Treat the chat and participants like an intimate group attending a dinner party.
9. Continue Conversation Beyond Chat. The conversation beyond the chat, especially with new participants, is crucial to keeping them interested and involved. If they are engaging in conversation with you and other chat members during the week, they are more apt to participate and also entice their follows to do the same. People want to be a part of something that is popular and successful as it fulfills their need to be a part of the cool kids club.
10. Keep Chat Community Informed. The chat participants are relying upon you to inform them of the chat topic, the guest moderators, the behind the scenes work that is being done to grow the chat and also to make it the most successful and best chat on Twitter. Go beyond these and keep the community informed by sharing industry/topic news as it happens, share participant news, etc to keep the interest in the chat alive. Showing up an hour each week is easy, showing up each day and being a source information on a regular basis is hard.
11. Listen to the Chat Community. The chat community has the biggest voices that need to be heard and respected. There is always the select few that jump in on the chat to cause a ruckus and stir things up. They just want the attention taken away from the chat and placed upon them. Generally they are harmless and nothing more than a nuisance however from time to time we see where the tone of a chat can change in a matter of seconds. The community will not be shy to share with you their thoughts about the chat. Listen to them and let them know they are being heard.
Defining a Successful Chat
A successful chat is defined by meeting the goals that were set forth. We as participants are not always aware of the goals so we define the success for them. We look at #blogchat and based upon the information shared and the number of tweets and participants, we deem it as successful. To Mack Collier, this may not align with the goals he had however, the love that the community has for the chat as well as the commitment to the chat and one another is, in my book, a success. #Blogchat, started in 2009, has provided a wealth of advice on various blogging topics and maintained the integrity of the blogging community and is every Sunday at 9ET/6PT.
Building a Successful Chat
How do we get started? How do we build a successful chat in 2011? Commitment, knowledge, trust and a dedication to your community. I recently spoke about Jessica Northey and her success with #CMChat and her focus of one. She has spent years in radio, blogs at 5 or so different industry specific sites and is so fully engrossed in the country music industry that her starting a chat was the next step in growing the interest as well as bringing the country music folks together on Twitter. There are some up and coming country music artists that are trying to get their names out there and their music heard. Some happen to be her clients and some with no doubt will be her future clients. Jessica Northey’s CMChat was only started 2 weeks ago and yet it is bringing in record numbers. The chat has folks from all walks of life participating as we see celebrities within the country music industry with @CowboyTroy, on air radio personalities with @TonyandChris, new artists like @CraigMoritz ,@MarySarahMusic as well as @CurtisGrimes, a participant on NBC’s hit show The Voice.
A girl who grew up on the race tracks has taken a love of hers and infiltrated herself into the world of country music and shares her love, passion and connections. This is a recipe for success as the country music community now has a place to come together to talk all that is country but learn from one another and have the ability to connect with the artists one on one. Heck, I am not even a country music fan but have participated in the chat as their is a place for everyone who supports the music industry as a whole. Day after day, tweet after tweet, Jessica stays true to her followers by continuously connecting them with one another and keeping them in the know with sharing the latest in country music, radio and social media through her numerous blogs. Jessica Northey’s #CMChat is every Monday at 9ET/6PT and focuses on not only the music but how to promote the music, what it takes to be a music star and insight behind the artists. We all love to be the on the inside of new releases and a part of the success of the up and comers. Jessica has provided that platform.
What are your favorite chats and why?
photo credit: Rosaura Ochoa