Chat hours on Twitter typically occur weekly, though some are more frequent and offer businesses an opportunity to connect with other businesses or contribute to a conversation around a specific topic. Chat hours based around a specific topic are great as they are an opportunity to prove your expertise and credibility in a particular area.
Twitter chat hours are a great opportunity to increase awareness of your business, your products and services, to create a referral network of contacts who can refer business to you and to drive traffic to your website. To be successful though, there are some things worth considering.
Also see: The List of 500+ Twitter Chats
Some chats are location-specific, others are around a particular subject, connecting users with a similar interest.
Tweets are connected around a hashtag, “#HampshireHour, #DorsetHour, #WiltsHour, #WeddingHour” or similar (see this HUGE list of Twitter Chats) and are usually facilitated by a Twitter account of the same name, “@HampshireHour”. You’ll find the chat facilitator in the search results for the hashtag.
Typically the Twitter account facilitating the chat will include the schedule in its bio for simplicity. I’d recommend that you set a recurring appointment in your calendar to remind you to attend every time or as often as you can.
The simplest way to understand these chat hours and to have a strategy to achieve results is to consider them networking events. The same etiquette, approach and strategies apply.
It’s a contribution economy. Avoid the temptation to wade-in, pitching your latest product or service. Until you’re a respected member of the community, that’s mostly just going to annoy other users and they’ll ignore you.
Firstly, pay attention. If it’s your first time out, just watch. Search for the hashtag and keep refreshing your feed. Watch the conversations, make a note of who is contributing and engaging in conversation and who is just pitching – you’ll quickly get a feel for who the main players are and those who just don’t get it. You’ll spot some accounts with some synergy to yours or who you think might be a customer target.
Secondly, ask what you can do for the group. Once you’re confident that this is a relevant group for you (many won’t be) and that there’s enough activity to justify you spending time there every week, say hello. Introduce yourself, say that it’s your first time. Most groups are friendly enough and users will welcome you and start a conversation.
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Your primary objective for this activity is not sales. It’s not traffic. It’s building trust-based relationships. This is precisely why over-pitching doesn’t work. Users won’t trust you, won’t engage and won’t retweet users who appear selfish.
Retweet and/or favourite relevant tweets, reply to those asking questions if you have something valuable to contribute. This is networking remember, so asking everyone how their week has been or if they’ve eaten all their Easter eggs or bought all their Christmas presents, is perfectly fine.
Pretty quickly you’ll find yourself in a conversation thread with two or more other users. Try your best to monitor your notifications and the new tweets on the hashtag – if you’re on desktop, two tabs works best, if you’re mobile, it’s a little more tricky to switch between the two streams. As you get more involved you might find using a different app for the two streams works for you (I’ve used Hootsuite and the native Twitter app in this way before).
Follow those users who follow you. If they don’t follow you, but you’ve had a conversation, follow them. You’ll find that most follow back. You might also like to add those users to a specific list (more on how to use Twitter lists here). Having those users in a list will help you maintain conversations outside of the hour.
I’d recommend at least two weeks of only contributing retweets and conversation before pitching in your own products and services and even then, take care that the ratio of tweets for each purpose is balanced in favour of contribution.
Joining in a conversation for #HampshireHour if you’re in Yorkshire won’t be particularly successful. Your time is better invested with users closer to home in your local hashtag. Neighbouring counties might be effective but be careful. Asking if it’s OK with the group first will help you build relationships there.
Scheduling automated tweets during the hour is unlikely to be effective unless you’re a regular member of the community and just can’t make it one week. A mix of scheduled tweets and live conversation is perfectly fine, of course, just take care on the balance of pitch and engagement.
Take it up a notch. Invite other Twitter users to the hour in the chat. Assuming they’re relevant to the chat, you’re adding a huge amount of value with this strategy for both the people you’re inviting and those already on the chat.
If regular users are missing from the chat mention them and ask where they are. You’re probably wondering anyway, so mention that you are. It helps build the relationships and demonstrates that you’re actively part of the community.
Take it offline. If this is a local hour, organise a “Tweet-up”. It needn’t be formal or even a regular event. Just pick a venue that’s convenient for the majority of users (a pub or cafe is fine), set up an Eventbrite event and get sharing. Whilst it’s not exclusive to #HampshireHour, we organise #CurryBusiness every month – both are fantastic opportunities to strengthen the relationships you have online. It doesn’t matter if five people or 60 people show up, there are only so many people you can talk to at a networking meeting.
Your success is likely to be increased mentions and mention reach as well as traffic to your website. This traffic contributes to the conversion funnel that creates leads and sales on your website.
This is a branding activity. It’s easy to fall in to the trap of counting followers as your success on Twitter but that’s correlative, not causative. I’d recommend that you use a tool like Social Media Tracker to calculate mentions and mention reach to assess your progress week after week and also use Google Analytics to measure traffic referred from Twitter to your website.
If you’re doing a lot of Twitter chats, tag links you share in those chats with a unique campaign so that they’re segmented in your Google Analytics data. You’ll then be able to measure traffic, contribution to enquiries/sales and direct contribution to enquiries and sales.
If it’s important to you, you might also keep records of referrals you gain from the users in the chat, though this can often be impossible – users quite often recommend you without you knowing as your reputation grows.
Most importantly, have fun, be nice, contribute. Results will come without it feeling like work at all.
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A very useful article, thank you for sharing. Twitter hours are still fairly new to me, and I am trying to integrate and become a part of the communities around me. I will certainly take your advice and study my strategy while I continue to learn and develop.
I’m glad you found it useful Catherine. Twitter hours can be tremendous fun and connect you with some amazing people, but some are abused by spammers just dropping links in without actually engaging (a little like leaving your pop up stand at a networking event, but not actually attending).
Find your local hour, watch for a couple of weeks and see if it is a spam-fest or there is some engagement and worth you spending your time there. Try #SatChatUK on a Saturday morning – it’s a pretty good one. You might find there’s one for authors and novelists too – worth checking.
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