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The Details: Preparing for Your First Tweetchat

Tweetchats:  How They Help Grow Your BusinessThis is part two of Twitter series:  Everything You Wanted to Know About TweetChats But Were Afraid to Ask.

The first post focused on the pros and cons of sponsoring a Tweetchat and outlined the possible reasons you may want to consider adding this to your marketing mix.

If you’re planning your first Tweetchat, it’s going to take preparation and planning.  There are very few ‘how to’ guides out there for sponsoring an ongoing chat and the best way to learn is to participate in some well-known and well-attended chats and see what you like and dislike.

Here are a few key components that you’ll want to think about upfront:

1.) Select a Hashtag: The “how to select a Twitter hashtag” search comes up with a lot of tips on how to select one for breaking news stories or to follow existing events, but nothing really useful for a new category.   Here are a few things to think about when choosing a hashtag specifically for a Tweetchat:

  • Search and Spell: When I did a Bing search on “crowdwork” I found out the phrase is used by comedians to describe how they interact with the crowd. We decided this possible misconception was acceptable. After all, isn’t interacting with the power of the crowd as a comedian a form of crowdsourcing in person (vs. on the internet?).

Simply, make sure you know the other definitions of your term. Then you can decide whether they are deal breakers.

  • Beware Acronyms: We recently sponsored a conference that had chosen the hashtag #SandS for ‘Small and Special’. The hashtag worked fine for monitoring, but since it also spells ‘Sands’ (Twitter doesn’t account for caps), any posts about beaches, the Sands Hotel in Vegas or other sandy related items would also appear which cluttered up the stream. Make sure to test your hashtag for possible spellings that aren’t immediately obvious.
  • Transparency is Key: Will your hashtag be a play on your company or product name? If not, make sure to indicate in the profile that your company is the sponsor or the originator of the Tweetchat. Eventually, people will realize you have a vested interest and may feel duped if they didn’t know that upfront. Remember – you’re trying to build awareness, reputation and trust.
  • Keep it short: This one is pretty obvious since you only have 140 characters of which your hashtag is included.

2. Decide on Frequency: Is your event One Time or Recurring? Obviously, if your event is one-time only, getting the Twitter alias/page is not necessary. We knew ahead of time we wanted to try hosting these events weekly or bi-weekly so we wanted to grab a #hashtag with a corresponding Twitter ID. That way, we could post details on the page for the recurring event as well as a recap.

  • Be Ready for Commitment: As with all things social media, if you aren’t prepared to be consistent and invest the time, don’t commit to it up front. If you’re experimenting, start out with a one-time Tweetchat. Or summarize a traditional online event with a summary on Twitter. Don’t promote your Tweetchat as a ‘twice a week’ event and then bag on it in week two.

3. Executing your Event: There are a few angles to the event execution. If you’re well prepared, you can navigate even the most mind-numbing Twitter delay (remember: Twitter was not meant for this).

  • Prime the pump. Eventually, the best Tweetchats consist of a savvy moderator, a great topic and a very engaged audience who answer the questions with best practices and experiences of their own. WARNING: This does not happen during your first (or even fifth) Tweetchat. Be prepared with your own army of experts, panelists and topics.
  • Limit your questions. Prepare a Q&A of no more than 10 questions in advance. Ask participants to think about how they would answer in 140 characters. Sometimes it’s hard to answer questions on-the-spot within those limits.
  • Twitter-friendly speakers. Choose speakers and panelists who are familiar with Twitter. Preface every question with “Q1, Q2″ and have your speakers do the same with their answers. This will allow people to follow along, even during delays.
  • Think about next week. If possible, have your topics and panelists selected a week in advance. This way, you can promote next week’s chat at the end of the chat you’re in.
  • Role play. Ask a colleague to follow the chat on a different machine via a couple of Twitter applications. They can instruct you on longer-than-normal delays.
  • Encourage audience participation. Sometimes audience members aren’t comfortable jumping into a chat in front of everyone. Encourage your audience to send in questions to a moderator via @reply or even a DM. Offer both options since DMs can only be received from those you follow.

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About the Author: Maria Colacurcio is the co-founder of Smartsheet, the only collaboration tool with a built-in workforce. Prior to starting Smartsheet, Maria worked in B2B marketing for 10+ years at companies including Onyx Software, NetReality and Microsoft. Join our weekly Tweetchat on crowdsourcing by following http://twitter.com/crowdwork or #crowdwork Thursdays at 9am PDT.

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The Details: Preparing for Your First Tweetchat

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