Twitter Chats Deliver Numerous Benefits for Events

January 31, 2016

Simply defined, a Twitter chat is a set period of time (usually an hour) where a group of people discuss a topic through tweets that include an established chat hashtag. 

It can be a useful tool in raising the event’s brand awareness, building interest in the event, providing additional value to event participants, extending the event’s content beyond the actual event and creating a strong and loyal community.

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) holds a #CMWorld Twitter chat every week with more than 100 active participants.

“Our Twitter chats are a great way for our community to get together once a week,” said Cathy McPhillips, vice president of marketing at CMI. “I’m certain it’s effective, because the few weeks a year when we don’t hold chats, our community still comes looking for us on Tuesdays.  When many of us do see each other in person at CMWorld or other events, we seek each other out. “

CMI’s main goal is to provide an outlet for its community to learn from each other. Once a chat is complete, it uses the dialogue to determine new blog post ideas, create other pieces of content and plan speakers and sessions for Content Marketing World.

“We try to balance out topics so it’s not all heavy strategy weeks in a row, or all tools and technology. We try to ensure that our community members won’t go more than a week with a topic that wouldn’t apply to them,” noted McPhillips.

Another show organizer, Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) and its digital marketing partner, Frost Miller, recently implemented this strategy to engage its TRANSACT audience. The annual event connects the payments technology world.  A series of four chats leading up the April conference will build interest on topics at the forefront of attendees’ minds.

“For us, the Twitter chats have two main benefits,” said Del Baker Robertson, director, membership and marketing at ETA. “They connect people around interesting topics before the show and expand our reach to their followers every time they tweet with our hashtag.”

CMI and ETA identified the following best practices for Twitter chats:

·         Build a plan and stick to it, because consistency helps attendees build trust and a relationship with the chat organizer. Small tweaks can work such as adjusting the number of questions.

·         Find a time of day that works best for your audience. Consider whether your audience is international, or if they are at their desks all day, or evenings might work better.  Ensure that no other competitive chats are happening at that same time.  

“We set our chat for early afternoon eastern time so that our participants on the west coast can participate in the late morning,” explained Baker Robertson.

·         Invite special guest experts to add to the discussion and give participants the opportunity to ask questions and get their opinions.

·         Use other channels - Facebook, LinkedIn and email - to promote the chat.  And promote the chat early and often.

·         Be prepared. The week prior to each chat, CMI’s community manager emails its special guest with the questions prepared for each chat and a script of the chat (as well as pre- and post-tweets). This helps the guest prepare and even pre-write tweets.

“This may seem like it’s too scripted, but it doesn’t come off that way. It gives the guest time to engage with the participants without having to think of their own responses during that hour,” explained McPhillips.

·         Ask for feedback advice from participants.

“We’ve asked our chat participants if ten questions were too many; if they wanted to meet in person at our event; if they read our transcripts each week, or if they’d find something else more useful. While we ‘think’ we know them based on our weekly interactions, unless we ask, we won’t improve,” McPhillips said.

Like many things in social media, Twitter chats build on momentum, so commit to a certain amount of chats when testing this tactic with a specific target audience.

Use experiences from each chat to tweak the next until the right mix of time, topic and participants is met. Whether the goal is brand awareness or building a loyal community or anything in between, Twitter chats offer a lot of possibility for event planners to engage their audiences.

If you’d like to join a Twitter chat focused on trade show industry issues, check out #Expochat, held every Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET. 

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