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By Monique Scicluna

Brands are always looking for new ways to make an impact on social media. The challenge is to break through the noise and generate meaningful dialogue that elevates perceptions and delivers against campaign objectives.

With an always-on content strategy in place, hosting a Twitter chat may be just the tactic you need to spike conversation in between your usual cadence of tweets.

Here are six tips to help execute a successful Twitter chat:

1. Define your campaign objectives

As is the case for any social media initiative, it is important to lay out objectives before planning a Twitter chat. Are you trying to drive awareness? Are you looking to build engagement? Is the goal to drive traffic or a specific action? Having a clear understanding of objectives will help structure the chat to deliver results.

2. Define your area of focus

When determining a chat topic, know your audience and inform your strategy with insights on what they want to talk about rather than just what the brand wants to talk about.

Also ensure the topic is general enough so that everyone can chime in on the conversation. If you’re taking on a niche topic, ensure you have a very specific goal of reaching a narrow market segment.

Ideally, you want to keep it simple so you have enough to talk about throughout the whole chat while engaging your audience.

3. Pick a place, date and time

The timing of your Twitter chat is crucial. Consider topics that may be getting airtime on social, like sporting events or major political news. Although it is impossible to predict all that will surface on a given day, do your best to avoid days where hot topics may lead your initiative to get lost.

It is also important to know when your audience is online and when are they more likely to engage with you. In terms of location, we’ve found it works well when all the key players are in a room participating in the chat at the same time – a war room of sorts. At least one community manager, content expert, designer and two monitoring staff should be present. If need be, even a legal specialist and any content approvers should be on call to ensure you can publish compelling content on the fly. Make it a mini-party and project the chat onto a series of screens in the room to watch as the conversation unfolds. This definitely adds to the fun of getting together to pull off the chat and creates a reason for your team to get engaged with your social media efforts behind the scenes.

4. Pick a hashtag

There are a couple of approaches to consider when selecting a hashtag. Non-branded hashtags (ones that already exist in the Twitterverse) allow you to provide value to existing conversations. This is a great way to grow visibility in communities with a shared interest. Alternatively, you can choose a branded hashtag – which allows you to own the conversation a bit more and is easier to track when it comes to measuring success.

5. Amplify

In the days leading up to the chat, ensure you get the message out. A good strategy is to partner with influencers who will be active participants and help promote the chat to audiences you may not otherwise be able to reach. Partnering with notables such as media, industry and topic experts, or online influencers that have audience scale and credibility, helps add value to the conversation and amplify your Twitter chat, especially if you are not putting paid support behind a couple tweets.

If you do have advertising dollars available, you should promote tweets announcing the chat to ensure you reach your desired target audience.

6. Define Success

One way to measure the success of a Twitter chat is if it becomes a ‘trending’ topic. This is certainly exciting but is not always the best measure of success.

If a big news item is trending at the same time as your chat, it’s important to set expectations that the success of a Twitter chat is not always defined by the ‘trending’ stamp. Defining success goes back to reviewing your objectives and using your results to see if they were fulfilled. Lastly, if you’ve hosted multiple Twitter chats, comparing results is another great way to evaluate hits and misses.

Overall a Twitter chat is a fun and simple way to add scale to any social content strategy – just keep these six tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to a great conversation.