By Cathy McPhillips published February 28, 2016

Host Your Own Twitter Chat: Time-Saving Advice, Tools, and Templates

host-own-twitter-chat-cover

One of our favorite ways to interact with our community on Twitter is through our weekly #CMWorld Twitter chat. The chat started in 2013 with a 10-week experiment prior to Content Marketing World as a way to connect our speakers with potential and registered attendees. After that event, we received many requests from the #CMWorld Twitter community to continue the chats. Fast forward to today, and we have hosted almost 130 chats and have learned a lot along the way.

If you are considering starting a Twitter chat as part of your content marketing efforts or improving your existing chat, read on to get a detailed look inside our process as well as some lessons learned.

Identifying your why

Like anything you do, you need to consider why you want to invest the time in a Twitter chat and how it will support your other marketing efforts. Asked another way: How will your Twitter chat provide a better experience for your customers?

For us, Twitter chats have become an essential part of our content plan. As mentioned, the original goal of our chat was to introduce people to our Content Marketing World speakers. While that still remains a goal, the chat serves other purposes:

  • Learning more about our #CMWorld community, including what questions and ideas they have
  • Introducing our community to speakers and topics at Intelligent Content Conference and from CMI University
  • Exploring high-interest blog topics in more detail
  • Inviting non-CMI regulars who are experts in the industry to share their insight and who bring a new audience to the chat (and CMI’s offerings)
  • Having editorial fodder to repurpose for blog posts, SlideShares, and more

Planning guests, topics, and dates [Template]

Planning the Twitter chats is a team effort, with three of us at CMI each taking a role: Michele Linn (vice president of content); Monina Wagner (community manager), and me (vice president of marketing). The general tasks include:

  • Brainstorming ideas for speakers and topics
  • Reaching out to guests to confirm topic and date
  • Handling logistics for the guests and the chats
  • Drafting questions for the chats
  • Drafting and sharing all promotions
  • Writing introductions for the subsequent blog posts

PRO TIP: Plan your chats in batches to save time. We typically brainstorm topics and ideas every eight to 12 weeks and do a lot of outreach at once. Similarly, we also write the questions and the introductions to the blog posts in bulk. It’s been a significant time-saver.

We use a Google Sheet as our primary planning and brainstorming vehicle. You can download and customize our template. We detail:

cmi-twitter-chat-planning-template

Guests and topic ideas

We have a tab in which we brainstorm our guest and topic ideas. As mentioned, we have several goals for our chats, and every guest and topic serves those purposes. Sometimes we identify guests (e.g., CMWorld/ICC speakers and influencers in the industry) and other times we identify topics (e.g., what kinds of questions are we getting asked a lot?).

PRO TIP: As we have learned the hard way, not all topics are digestible in 140 characters. When planning topics, consider how the Twitter community will be able to interact.

Schedule

The next tab on our spreadsheet tracks our detailed schedule, not only detailed plans for upcoming chats but historical data about each chat so we can understand which topics and guests are the best fit for our audience.

Our spreadsheet tracks:

  • Date of the chat
  • Marketing notes (This includes anything we want to promote, such as early-bird event discounts or new enrollment period for CMI University. These details help us match the right speaker and topic to what we are focused on from a marketing perspective at any time.)
  • Title/topic of the chat
  • Guest
  • Guest email
  • Guest Twitter handle
  • Primary category (All of our content assets, including our chats, are organized by key topic areas; when we repurpose content, we can more easily see which content we have per category.)
  • Note to indicate if the calendar request has been sent to the guest

After the chat, the following fields are completed:

  • Link to the Hashtracking report (more on that later)
  • Number of tweets
  • Number of contributors
  • Reach
  • Impressions (timeline deliveries)
  • Growth in impressions, week over week

Ideas for questions

Once the topic and speaker are set, our next step is to develop questions. Michele and I take turns writing chat questions, and the other person proofs and edits.

PRO TIP: After writing questions for 100-plus chats, we have learned that it helps to get multiple perspectives so the questions – and answers – don’t sound the same. Try to share the load with someone who has different expertise than you. And, while I recommend crafting the questions to save your guests’ time, don’t rule out asking them for insights.

Archive list of questions

We have a separate tab where we store all of the previously asked questions. It’s a simple list to keep and a handy reference.

Promoting chats with speakers and community [Template]

About a week before each chat, Monina shares with the guest a document that outlines the details of the chat:

  • The questions – as well as the time each question will be asked
  • Promotional tweets informing our community of the chat time, topic, and guest
  • Monina’s contact information as our community manager who operates @CMIContent handle
  • Links to our Facebook invite or LinkedIn post giving our community a sneak peek at the questions

Our goal is to take the guesswork out of the hour while making the chat as fun and engaging as possible for the guest.

PRO TIP: You can download and customize the template we send to our guests.

cmi-twitter-chat-promotion-template

In addition to reaching out to the guest, we also share the details with our community via a Facebook event page, which is set up for each chat.

ian-cleary-twitter-chat-facebook-example

We have found that there are several benefits to this approach:

  • Our community members can see if a chat applies to their informational needs.
  • Participation and responses have been more robust because attendees can think about their answers in advance.
  • New chat participants find us through organic reach on Facebook.

Tracking and participating [Tools]

Each week, we use Hashtracking to record our Twitter chats. Not only does this report provide a transcript of the hour’s tweets but it also offers specific details, such as top contributors and most retweeted tweets, which help us make note of hot topics or potential questions to be used for future CMI blog posts or Twitter chats.

We also share the individual Hashtracking reports with our guests so they can see details on the response to their chats. Guests really appreciate this, as it provides them with:

  • Feedback and responses to questions on a topic they are passionate about
  • Potential post ideas for their own blog
  • New connections with like-minded community members
  • A chance to review the chat in case something was missed

With a list averaging 200-plus chat participants with whom the guests can easily engage from Hashtracking, our guests now have an instant and active community they can tap into for their own content plans.

cmworld-top-lists-screenshot

Click to enlarge

To keep the chat on schedule, tweets are prescheduled using TweetDeck or Buffer. It helps us stay on track in each hour session and gives our community manager the ability to welcome and engage with our audience without watching the clock.

During the chats, we use Nurph or TweetDeck, but we’re also fans of tchat.io and Hootsuite. Our chat participants also use other methods, but as long as we’re all following the CMWorld hashtag, we’re seeing the same information. Find a tool that you’re most comfortable with – that’s the most important part.

Our questions are asked in roughly six-minute increments, allowing ample time for our participants to respond and engage. With eight questions spaced at five to six minutes apart, a few minutes are available in the beginning for introductions, fun banter, and catching up — and 10 minutes at the end for a participant-guest Q&A.

PRO TIP: Our chat originally included 10 questions, but we changed the format to eight questions with a Q&A with the guest at the end. This format works well because our community members like to have the opportunity to ask their own questions that arise over the course of the hour.

Repurposing content: Transcript creation, blog posts, analytics

Once the chat is over, we use a virtual assistant to create a transcript from the tweets in the Hashtracking report. The transcripts are shared with the team in a Dropbox folder, and several things occur.

PRO TIP: To filter spam tweets from your Hashtracking report, refine your search within the transcript by limiting terms and Twitter handles using Boolean operators.

Transcripts used for examples, tools, and key ideas

Our director of content curation, Jodi Harris, reviews all transcripts and looks for two things:

  • Content marketing examples
  • Tools and technologies marketers use

She logs those findings in a spreadsheet she uses to curate into other content. You can read more about CMI’s reuse strategy (and get another handy template).

Of course, she also looks for key ideas we may want to cover in future content plans.

Transcript published as a blog post

Each transcript is published on our CMWorld blog and our Twitter chat page. Not only are these transcripts a great reference for those who want to review the session, but they also provide some search benefits for our Content Marketing World website. Also included on the Twitter chat blog posts are Storify links for each chat and the most popular tweet from that week.

Here is one transcript example from Andrea Fryrear’s #CMWorld Twitter chat on Agile content marketing.

andrea-fryrear-agile-twitter-chat-transcript

Blog posts on CMI

Our Twitter chats also provide a seemingly endless stream of editorial ideas, some of which we translate into posts on the CMI blog that can take multiple forms.

For instance, during a chat about small business content marketing, one participant expressed interest in the ways Google Trends could be used for content. Arnie Kuenn followed up with a blog post on using Google Trends to punch up content creation.

We also have had guests answer the questions from their chats in longer form. One such example is a post from Meghan Casey in which she answered questions from her chat on content strategy basics for marketers.

Then, we provide a wrap-up of our favorite tweets from the chats at the end of the year to give our community some extra love.

Results

Through Google Analytics, we know that our Twitter referral traffic is up 20% year-over-year. Additionally, we see a 54% increase in Twitter followers. While we can’t attribute all of the new followers to our Twitter chats, we know noon to 1 p.m. ET Tuesdays is our most popular hour on Twitter. While the total number of tweets, number of participants, and reach are important, what is even more interesting is that we can see what days and times on Twitter are getting the most referrals and conversions, which we can trace back to chat topics that day.

And, as an added bonus, the chats have made our in-person interactions much more enjoyable (especially for the introverts out there). It’s fun to identify and chat with people you first knew from Twitter.

We hope you will join us on a #CMWorld Twitter chat soon. We hold chats on Tuesdays at noon Eastern (U.S.) – follow the #cmworld hashtag and find us at @CMIContent.

Are you interested in being a special guest? Do you have a great topic idea or any questions? Submit ideas in the comments. Check out the speaker lineup or catch up on past chats on our Twitter chat page.

Find more tips for using Twitter Chat and other platforms to increase the impact of your content. Read our Content Marketer’s Guide to Social Media Survival: 50+ Tips.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Cathy McPhillips

Cathy is the Vice President of Marketing at the Content Marketing Institute, leading marketing efforts for CMI, Content Marketing World, Intelligent Content Conference, CMI University, CCO magazine, and other CMI properties. She works hard to get you to CMI events - online and off - and gets extra excited for opportunities to meet #CMWorld community members in person! Cathy is also a board member for The Orange Effect Foundation. You can follow her on Twitter @cmcphillips.

Other posts by Cathy McPhillips

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  • Cathy McPhillips

    You are so kind, Roger! I’m glad you found it useful. Joe has definitely taught our whole team about the power and necessity for transparency in content marketing and business today. And, you’re right, our chats have created some very serendipitous moments over the past three years! Thanks for joining in on so many of our chats.

  • http://www.karmacontent.co.uk/ Scott @ Karmacontent.co.uk

    Interesting article Cathy, lots to mull over in that one!

    • Cathy McPhillips

      Thanks for taking time to read it, Scott! I appreciate it!

  • Scott Lum

    Excellent post Cathy. I have worked with several marketing teams who get excited with the idea of creating Twitter chats to create buzz for their program. There are several things that that I warn them about before starting one up:

    1. Twitter chats are not a short term marketing tactic – it’s a long term commitment. It takes awhile to build a regular community. Make your chats recur on a regular basis. It takes lots of time and effort to build demand gen for the chats and it’s easier to send it to a recurring series than a one-off chat.

    2. This isn’t about marketing – forget your revenue goals for now. Twitter chats are about building and nurturing a community. You can always find ways to monetize using other content marketing efforts but the chat is about engagement.

    3. This isn’t about you – Create topics on the things customers & your community care about and don’t make it just about your product. I’ve only seen a couple of successful product-focused twitter chats but they already have a passionate and engaged customer base.

    4. Know your target audience – are your customers on Twitter? If they are, are they likely to engage & participate or are they primarily lurkers?

    5. Make the community the hero – it’s great to have a big named influencer to answer questions on the chats but formulate the questions so that the community can answer as well. If the questions are too specific for the guest it becomes a one sided Q&A chat. The community will keep coming back if they have an opportunity to shine and build their personal brand.

    6. Develop a good plan for repurposing the content. Chats should not be a one-and-done. Many content marketers ask how they can come up with ideas for blog posts and twitter chats are an excellent source for blog content with tons of opportunity for user generated content & built in advocacy for the blog. CMI does a great job of this.

    • Cathy McPhillips

      These are great! #5 is really important to us, as it’s not a sales pitch or a 1-sided conversation. Our community is SMART. We learn so much from them. The guest brings the topic/niche, but the community lends their experience and their own tactics, tools, and knowledge. It’s an awesome combination.

      Repurposing has been really important for us as well. We have so much information at our fingertips because of the chats. It’s very shortsighted to only do the chat and move on. Problem is, we all need quite a few more hours in our weeks to continue to do this with so many of our great chats.

      And you’re right – our chats aren’t about us. It’s about providing a resource, an outlet, a community and a comfort zone. I say comfort zone because for as much learning and sharing as goes on during the chat, a lot of silliness, gifs, and laughs go on too. It’s been something to watch grow in the past three years! And of course we always love seeing you join us on Tuesdays!

    • http://theneedle.me/ Iwanttoknowmore

      Scott, thanks for sharing this valuable advices with all of us. I’m planing to use Twitter chats in the future, and this is going to be very helpful for every begginer.

  • http://oneQube.com peter bordes

    Awesome post on the value of Twitter chats @@cathymcphillips:disqus. We would love to do an interview on #CMWorld chat for the http://Tweetchat.com community blog..

    • Cathy McPhillips

      That would be great, Peter! Feel free to email me – cathy[at]contentinstitute.com. I appreciate it!

  • http://Martin.Lindeskog.name Martin Lindeskog

    Great post! I am a fan of Twitter chats and have participated in several chats during the years. How could you combine Twitter chats with Periscope?

    Have you used Tagboard during your Twitter chats?

    • Cathy McPhillips

      Hi Martin! My apologies for the delay – we just returned from our Intelligent Content Conference. We haven’t combined Twitter chats and Periscope, but our community manager is a fan of both, so maybe she has some tricks up her sleeve! I’ll ask her about that! Also, we haven’t used Tagboard either! Thanks for the great ideas, as we continue to improve our chats each week!