Twitter chats are a great way to connect with your audience in a meaningful way. They give people a way to reach you and communicate with you. I personally run two weekly Twitter chats, #TheSMGirl and #MRCap. I love everything about them!
How to host a Twitter chat:
1. Decide on a hashtag
This is a very important part, because the hashtag you choose will stick with you the entire duration of your Twitter chat life (for that chat). Keep the hashtag short and sweet. Remember that people will be typing that hashtag over and over again during the chat and if it's long it can be misspelled or take up too many characters for them to give a full response. Also check that the hashtag isn't too popular or used often. If you choose something that is used often, then chat participants won't be able to find the conversation among all of the other tweets.
2. Decide on a time and date
When deciding on the time and date you want to consider a best time of day for your chat. To do this, look at chat schedules and make sure that you aren't at the same time as similar chats. You don't want to compete, you want to include other relevant chat hosts in your chats and if your chats are at the same time, that can't happen. You can use these resources listed in AdWeek to check.
The second thing you want to consider is that frequency of the chats. Are you hosting chats weekly, monthly, or randomly? I suggest picking a frequency and not doing this randomly and my next tip will explain why.
3. Register your Twitter chat!
This is really important for extra exposure! Use this AdWeek resource to find places to register your chat. if it's not registered, than people who are looking for a Twitter chat won't see yours and that is a huge missed opportunity.
4. Setting up the chat
To set up the chat, you want to choose your chat topic and write 5-7 relevant questions on that topic. For extra promotion, you can write a blog post surrounding the topic and the questions and send an invite to your email list. If not, keep the questions handy for the chat!
A lot of people use Twitter chat tools (Tweetchat, Nurph, or Twubs) to help with their chats, but I only use Twitter. Before my chat starts I will open three tabs for Twitter. The first tab will be my message screen to see who has @ messaged me, the second will have the search results for my Twitter chat hashtag (be sure to change the search results to "all") and the third will be open to my chat participants Twitter chat list. I label this list the name of the chat and all participants to it.
5. Hosting the chat
To start send an announcement tweet that the chat is about to begin. After the announcement chat, send your first question out to the audience, example:
Q1: How did you find your first Twitter chat? #TheSMGirl
Be sure to include the hashtag in all of your tweets during the chat! That is how people find your chat!
During your chat and as people answer your questions you should immediately add them to your chat Twitter list. If you see that they have already been added to your chat Twitter list, then you should welcome them back in your response. ALWAYS check to add them to the Twitter list before responding. It will help you in the long run.
After you have added them to the Twitter list, you can retweet, favorite or respond. As the responses start to slow down, send your next question. Don't rush! Give it at least 3-5 minutes before moving on to the next questions.
If people respond to you and don't use the hashtag, send them a friendly reminder. Example:
Thank you for joining my chat! Please use the hashtag #TheSMGirl in your tweets so everyone can read them!
***I copy that text before my chats start, because you will use it often and pasting it is a lot easier than typing it every time.
6. Ending your chat
At the end of your chat, let everyone know when the last question is given. At the very end, you should send a thank you tweet and let your participants know that they should subscribe to your chat Twitter list to find other chat participants. This will give you a feed that is shared among your chat participants and it's great for SEO. ;)
7. After the chat
If you want, you can use Storify or TweetReach and pull the entire chat conversation from Twitter after each chat. Then you are able to send a summary to your mailing list, use it as a blog post or just have it for your internal use.
8. Have Fun!
Don't overthink your first Twitter chat and don't get discouraged. Get out there and just do it. There is no better lesson than the one you will learn by actually completing a chat.