Five Tips for Holding a Twitter Chat that Doesn’t Suck

By: Guest | August 30, 2012 | 

 Today’s guest post is written by Melissa Woodson.

Twitter is an excellent venue for sharing news with fans and followers, promoting products and businesses, and supporting worthy causes.

To that end, Twitter chats are becoming increasingly popular as a way to build brand awareness and extend networks.

A Twitter chat is brought together by a common hashtag, open to anyone who wants to participate, and is typically scheduled at a specific time.

Because chats are your golden opportunity to share your expertise and knowledge, you want to host one that doesn’t fall flat and send participants fleeing from their computers.   

Five Tips for Holding a Twitter Chat that Doesn’t Suck

  1. Follow in others’ footsteps (or tweets). We often learn best by example, and Twitter is no exception. Before you attempt your chat, check out and participate in other chats. Google Docs hosts a spreadsheet where you can search for chats based on specific topics. Take notes while you participate, noting what does and doesn’t work. Focus on the moderators and how they keep the conversation focused. Observe a wide variety of chats; while you may be focusing on real estate sales, you can learn some valuable strategies from a blogging chat!
  2. Plan your big event. Social Media Examiner recommends you carefully choose a hashtag that is short, simple, easy to remember, and unique. Once you have decided on the hashtag, determine the day and time for your chat. Avoid hosting it at the same time as other chats with similar topics so your target audience can participate!
  3. Gather your audience. Unless you promote your chat, you’ll be talking to yourself. Promote your chat everywhere you can: Your blog/website, social media, news releases, email, and through word-of-mouth.
  4. Structure your chat. Decide how you are going to structure your chat. Will you let it flow organically? Or will you format it with specific questions every 10 minutes? Typically, the best chats have a finite timeframe—30 minutes to an hour—and are built around a series of questions. As the host, you’ll want to participate in the chat, but keep in mind the larger your chat, the harder it is to respond to each participant. You’ll also need to monitor the conversation to keep things flowing. If people are particularly interested in one question, you may want to give them a few more minutes to discuss it before moving on to your next question. Using a tool such as Tweet Chat will help you keep track of the conversation by filtering only tweets with your chat’s hashtag.
  5. Get, and respond to, feedback. When finished , you should analyze the chat for effectiveness. Storify allows you to archive any of your chats. Use the feedback from others for improvement. Make sure you connected and followed everyone who participated. Mack Collier recommends asking regular participants to help choose topics, serve as moderators, and give constructive criticism on how well the chat flowed.

When people make suggestions for improvements, make sure you follow through. Being a good listener (or reader) will make you a better leader!

Have you held a Twitter chat? What would you add? Are you thinking about holding one? What questions do you have?

Melissa Woodson is the community manager for @WashULaw, a premier program for foreign attorneys to earn their LLM online in U.S. law and just one of the llm degree programs offered by Washington University in St. Louis. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.


  • jennimacdonald

    Great tips Melissa. I hold a monthly Tweet Chat focusing on Social Media in the Franchising industry. I always try to structure the Questions and Answers so people can search the hashtag later and easily follow along to the discussions we had. Such as Q1. and A1. I learned this awesome technique from @shonali. 

    • hungryhealthyMJ

       @jennimacdonald @shonali is so wise! I agree that’s one of the best ways to manage chats.

  • pauliez


  • There’s also an opportunity for consumer brands to sponsor chats. pilotpenusa  did this recently with #blogchat

    • hungryhealthyMJ

       @jasonkonopinski  pilotpenusa This is a really interesting opportunity, I think. I’d love to learn more about what brands are doing with twitter chats. 

  • Too many forget #2 – and then are surprised when their planned hashtag is already in use by the community at large.

    • hungryhealthyMJ

       @AmyVernon Right–the devil is in the details! 

  • Jmodio

    I’ve hosted Twitter parties for clients. Now those are an adventure.

    • hungryhealthyMJ

       @Jmodio That sounds interesting . . . what exactly does that entail? 

      • Jmodio

         @hungryhealthyMJ Similar to a Twitter chat, it’s a moderated conversation generally hosted by a brand using a related hashtag. Questions aren’t about the product or brand, but usually around the lifestyle around the product. Prizes are handed out throughout the party to participants for various things.

        • hungryhealthyMJ

           @Jmodio Sounds awesome! Did you think it was successful? 

        • Jmodio

           @hungryhealthyMJ It’s really hard to determine the ROI. We measure impressions and reach for the client.

  • susanborst

    I suggested to my company that we use Twebevent as a way to help respondents see the questions both in advance of and during the chat. We could also post a video there for some background perspective. Great for branding, too. (thanks to the example set by @mqtodd and others for some high powered chats.) We did a Storify after the chat to represent the discussion and included as many different voices as possible. The community manager then posted announcements to those who were quoted in the Storify as a way to keep awareness high and encourage sharing. The Storify was posted on all the company’s social sites. We are still learning so all tips help. Thanks for a great post.

    • hungryhealthyMJ

       @susanborst  @mqtodd It sounds like you did great! I love the idea of using video in conjunction with the chat. Learning and sharing–my favorite things!

  • And of course don’t forgot to add value to the chat 🙂

  • SemBarista

    RT @Steveology Five Tips for Holding a Twitter Chat that Doesn’t Suck via @ginidietrich

  • bpreparedperiod

    @Luna_gal Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  • Does anyone have any opinions about how often to post as an organisation in these chats? We run Twitter games and my suspicion is that posting too much as an org can kill the chat. What you you think?

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