Hey! Thanks for stopping by to listen to my now twelfth episode on The Write Podcast. (Psst: I have a new intro! I’d love if you let me know in the comments if you like it better than the other one!) Need the iTunes link? Here it is.
Have you ever wondered about how to create or launch your very own Twitter chat?
Now is the time to do it, if you’re considering–they’re hot stuff. There are even chat hosts that are getting sponsors for their chats. (Businesses pay the chat owners to mention them.) Full disclosure: that hasn’t happened for us yet, simply because I haven’t had the time to set it up.
#ContentWritingChat is a chat I started back in January of 2016. It was part of a New Year’s resolution.
And in 6 months, it made the trending sidebar of Twitter!
What’s even more amazing is the community that literally sprouted from a mere grassroots beginning through #ContentWritingChat. We schedule guest hosts every single week, experts in all areas of content marketing, and what we hear from participants is truly glorious: many people leave learning something new. I’ve seen both solid regulars and brand new people come in every week, making for a variety of people and a super fun, energetic environment.
Rachel, our social media manager at Express Writers, runs the Twitter chat as smooth as butter every single week, creating all our imagery and content ahead of time and scheduling out in Buffer. She joined us when I’d just created the chat, about three weeks out from its inception. And her consistent, smooth management means it runs without a hitch every single week. She’s a marvel!
In today’s episode, she joins me to discuss all about how she runs and manages the chat; what tools she uses, the basics of what she does to interact during the live hour, schedule guests, and even create the chat recap we post every Friday. You won’t want to miss this one.
In Episode 12 of The Write Podcast, I talk about #ContentWritingChat with our Social Media Manager Rachel Moffett
- The backstory of how I created #ContentWritingChat from scratch
- A rundown of how Rachel manages our Twitter chat every week
- How we find and Rachel sets up great guest hosts & the importance of a guest host
- The tools we use to manage and create content for our Twitter chat
- How Rachel creates a recap of the chat every Friday, like this one (hint: it’s not an automated tweet stream)
- Why and how you DON’T need 5,000 followers to start a great Twitter chat
- ….& more!
If you like what you hear, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes here. It will help the show and it’s ranking in iTunes immensely. I appreciate it! Enjoy the show!
Transcript: Episode 12, How We Created a Twitter Chat from Scratch & Grew it To #11 in Trending on Twitter In 6 Months
Julia: Hello and welcome to episode 12 in The Write Podcast! This is your host Julia McCoy, and for this episode, our social media specialist at Express Writers, Rachel, is joining us today. She and I will be discussing how we created a Twitter chat from scratch and how Rachel continues to manage it for us every week.
I launched the chat in January this year and in just six months we’ve seen it hit number 11 in the trending sidebar of Twitter. Better yet, we’ve seen a community sprout up out of nowhere around this chat that is just wonderful, friendly, helpful and we see a lot of people leaving saying they’ve learned something new every week.
Rachel, welcome to the show, I’m really excited to have you on with me today.
Rachel: Thanks for having me, I’m excited to be here.
Julia: Yes we finally get to show a voice to your name. I know you’ve been with us for a while. [LAUGH]
Rachel: Yeah I know. [LAUGH]
Julia: So to begin I will just go into how I started the Twitter chat itself.
So our Twitter chat is around the hashtag #ContentWritingChat. I started it this January, it was actually the first week of January in 2016, and the backstory is pretty simple. I was in Twitter chats myself for about a whole year, my company and I (the company is @ExpWriters on Twitter it’s just @ExpWriters). And what I was doing was I was bringing in my company Twitter handle and myself, and I was alternating and then joining Twitter chats just getting familiar with them, getting to meet a bunch of new people.
I did that for about a solid year. And then after I was doing that for a good while, I realized there was no chat that really drew in a lot about what I do, what we do in our field as writers and in our company. And I realized that I had a good chance of creating one. So I came up with the hashtag #ContentWritingChat in about literally five minutes. [LAUGH]
It was a really simple idea and in January I just made it one of my New Year resolutions to get it started and it was that simple. I just announced to all of our followers on Twitter that it would be starting every Tuesday at 10 AM CST. And we launched it the first week of January, and it’s just taken off since.
So Rachel is actually the one who manages it for us every week. So Rachel, just walk us through a little bit about how you manage the chat.
Rachel: Yeah so prepping for the chat actually includes quite a few different stages. So first we always have a guest host very week, and one of the first things we have to do is to get the guest scheduled.
So the great thing about having a guest host is somebody can come on and share their expertise with our audience. And once we lock in a guest, we come up with a topic and the questions for the chat and topics are always chosen based on the guest areas of interest and what they might be considered an expert in.
And for the questions, I basically draft a bunch of questions, send them over to Julia, she gives me her final list back and then I send them over to the guest host to approve them in advance. We like to make sure that our guest host has the opportunity to look at the questions ahead of time and maybe prepare their answers or give their feedback.
And really once everything is ready to go, I create all the graphics in Canva for each of the chat questions and I schedule them out in Buffer prior to the chat which is all pretty simple. I just find it a lot easier to manage the chat when the questions are already scheduled, you can just focus on engaging with the chat participants, liking their tweets, retweeting things.
Because that’s really what’s key in interacting with your audience, so having all those questions scheduled ready to go so you don’t have to worry about it during the chat is a huge help.
Julia: And what you said about engaging with the audience, that’s really the biggest key of the chat.
For example whenever I started the chat, I had no idea about how many people we’d see. I just kind of launched it and we started out with the intention to interact with as many people as we can who join the chat. And since we are replying to people, Rachel’s actually doing that now from our Express Writers Twitter account, we reply to people, we retweet, we like, we keep the conversation going, and like you said that’s just a huge part of what makes the chat so successful.
Rachel: Right that’s how you build a community around the chat, and why people coming back every single week.
Julia: Exactly. And tying into that, the marketing for our chat, I’ve had some questions come my way about that. How do you actually market the chat? And Rachael and I have a pretty simple, I’d say fairly simple system.
Of course she does all the work. [LAUGH] So run us through how you do that. I know it entails reminding people on Twitter from our account.
Rachel: Right, it’s actually not that crazy, it’s not like we’re doing this whole marketing plan or anything.
Rachel: The simplest thing is really just sending out reminder tweets prior to the chat.
And I noticed there are a lot of other chats to do that as well, and there are some chats that don’t do that. And I just find that when we send out those reminder tweets, it’s just really helpful to make sure everybody knows hey it’s Tuesday, #ContentWritingChat’s today, and I think I send these out about five hours prior to the chat which saying that out loud now it actually seems like a lot.
But I send them out early in the morning and it gives people the opportunity to say, yes I want to join today’s chat and they can maybe block off time in their schedule or set a reminder on their phone or whatever, so they know to join. Right at the time the chat starts and I’ve also gotten to the habit of including our chat graphic with those tweets, because I tag people specifically.
People that we would love to see in the chat, people that are regulars, people that are maybe new and need a reminder, and by including the chat graphic that we have it shows our guest host and topic for that day. So then people can easily see what we’re gonna be talking about, who we’re talking to, and they can determine whether or not today’s chat is gonna be something that they’re interested in talking about.
It’s super simple, nothing really involved. It’ doesn’t take a whole lot of work. I’ve got a set list of people I tweet every week. We add to it, take people off the list if maybe they’re not responding. And that’s really been key just reminding people and having people show up every single week.
Julia: And with those reoccurring reminders, we see so many faces that return to the chat, and it seems like some of them are there five minutes ahead of time. They look [LAUGH] forward so much to the chat, they are there.
Rachel: Right, people join before the chat starts. There are still people tweeting after the chat ends.
Rachel: It’s kinda funny but it’s great because it shows you really have built an amazing community around this Twitter chat.
Julia: That’s awesome. The engagement part is so huge, and the fact that I did have a presence before I launched it. I didn’t just launch it cold turkey.
But one thing to throw in as well, I’ve seen a lot of experts say that you have to have something like 5,000 followers before you even start a Twitter chat.
And we actually only had 2,000 followers when I started the chat and we’ve doubled that. I know we have over 4,000 now. And we doubled that literally just from doing the chat.
Rachel: Right, I have to say, I don’t think anybody should follow that advice necessarily because like you said, you didn’t have 5,000 followers before you started the chat and it’s done well.
And I’ve actually managed two other Twitter chats for different brands in the past, neither of which had a huge following but the chats did really well. They consistently brought in people every week and it helps build their following. So for anybody who is listening and wants to start a Twitter chat of their own, don’t think you need to have a ton of followers, in order to do it.
I mean the amount of followers you have you can invite them, invite people on your email list or whatever and people just might show up. And once you continue to chat every week more people are gonna find out about it.
Julia: Exactly, we see so many new faces come in every week and I’ve seen people say I heard about it because my friend on Twitter told me.
And what you mentioned abut sending an email that’s a good point. We actually did that whenever I started the chat I sent an email campaign out, it was a week before the chat started, and then we sent another email campaign out a day before the chat started. And interestingly enough I noticed that the people that were reminded on Twitter actually joined, and then the people in my email list, it was probably like 1% or less actually joined the Twitter chat.
So I’ve quite email marketing at all about the chat, and we just rely on what you do with reminding people.
Rachel: Right, I guess with the email list it kinda depends.
Rachel: If your email subscribers would be interested in something like that if they’re really on Twitter then it does serve as a good reminder to them especially if you’ve a got a lot of subscribers if you could invite.
So it really depends but yeah, doing the reminders every week really does help.
Julia: Is their any other way we can market a Twitter chat besides the reminders? Is their anything we’re doing, like for example, are we following up after the chat? Just run us through anything you are doing there.
Rachel: Well the great thing is that after the chat’s over, I’m always participating in other chats which I do think helps other people to discover our chat if they go look at our profile. And the reality is some many people who are in our chat are actually in a lot of the other chats that I participate in.
So it’s really great because in it helps to build a connection with those people, even outside of our Twitter chat. And it’s really a reminder for them to come back to ours every week.
Julia: Exactly that’s how I began the awareness for the chat before I started, it was just through being in other chats.
And then I mentioned at the end of a couple chats I was in some of the biggest ones I just mentioned, oh hey I’m starting a chat next Tuesday if you’d like to join. And I think that’s how we got a lot of the reoccurring people at first.
Rachel: Because so many people who are in other Twitter chats are looking for other chats to join, so they are the perfect people to mention it to an to encourage them to join yours as well.
Julia: And since you are the one helping us pick guests now, run us through how you pick a guest and how do you approach them.
Rachel: Well picking a guest is something that when we started you kind of came to me with a list of people that I know you wanted to have and I reached out to them. And some people that I get in touch with are people who really stand out to me in other chats, because a great guest is someone who they have a level of expertise in a certain area.
And whether we’re seeing them sharing amazing content on their blog or on social media, or like I said I’ve seen them in other Twitter chats and they’re doing really amazing. And some of the people that we’ve been able to connect with through those chats are very knowledgeable and engaged with the other audiences.
So they’re great people to have and really I just reach out to them. If there’s somebody I think would be a great guest host I reach out to them either through Twitter or through email if I have their email address. And let them know about the chat, what kind of things we talked about, why I think it would be great to have them on.
And fortunately everybody has pretty much said yes that we’ve reached out to which is awesome.
Julia: Yes that is awesome. And I’ve noticed there are some chats on Twitter that don’t have a guest host and as a rule we’ve seen much more engagement happen whenever we do bring in a guest host.
The first chat I started the first week of January, it was actually me just me as the guest host. And then it was me again the next three because we were still planning our people to come in as guest hosts. But we’ve seen especially certain guest hosts that had for example a bigger blog following, it seems like they’ve brought us a lot of traffic to our chat.
Rachel: And I think having guest hosts is really helpful. Obviously you don’t need to, but the great thing about having a guest is that you get exposure to a whole new audience. You get to be in front of their audience because they may promote the chat to their followers and when the chat takes place and they are tweeting and posting, their followers are gonna see that and they’re going to be more likely to join in.
So it’s really a great way to get new people to find out about the chat each week.
Julia: That’s true. So run us through some things you do during that hour. I know it’s really busy and it seems really hard to keep up so you have a lot on your plate during the hour. But what do you do to interact with people?
Rachel: Right, well like I said I schedule all the questions in advance so during that hour, I can just focus on interacting with people.
And I think kind of two of the key things that I feel are important to do is when people come into the chat, they introduce themselves, greet them, say hi to them, let them know that you see that they’re there, and make sure you thank everybody at the end as well. It’s simple but it makes people feel appreciated and throughout the chat, obviously it is impossible to respond to everybody.
The chat gets pretty busy. I swear if you look away from the chat screen for like five seconds, you will come back to like at least 10 new tweets, you can’t look away.
Rachel: I can’t respond to everybody but I definitely try to respond to people and let them know if they’ve shared a great answer or answer any questions they may have or get them to elaborate on something or like their tweets or retweet the really amazing tweets that people would love to see.
And I think that’s important because like I said you can’t respond to everybody, so you wanna do something to show that you are engaging with them, that you are seeing what they are posting.
Julia: Exactly, and as a rule of thumb, most chats do this and this seems like a good practice just liking everyone’s tweet who is using that hashtag.
Rachel: Right yeah, it’s a lot [LAUGH] especially when you have a lot of tweets coming in at that hour so.
Julia: It’s a lot.
Rachel: But I basically just, sit there and TweetDeck because TweetDeck is what I use to manage the chat. I’m just hitting like, like, like, like and trying to click everything and retweet the really good ones.
And it gets a little crazy but it’s not too tough to manage.
Julia: Do you have time to drink coffee? [LAUGH]
Rachel: I don’t often look away from TweetDeck during the chat. I’m pretty sure I stay laser-focused on my laptop screen and sometimes I feel like I may need a nap when it’s over just because staring at your laptop for so long, it actually does get a little tiring after a bit.
Julia: I join it every week but I don’t manage it now. You do, so it’s hard for me to keep up so I can only imagine whenever you like every tweet what that gets like.
Because our last Twitter chat on last Tuesday was actually the most popular one to date and it’s six months after we started it. And it was so cool, it hit number 11 and it made the trending sidebar of Twitter.
Rachel: Yeah that’s awesome. We had quite a few new people join and that’s how it’s been week after week. There’s always at least a couple of new faces which is amazing to see and especially all the regulars who come every week.
It’s so cool to see everybody coming back time after time.
Julia: Yes, it’s very neat to see the type of community not only the questions being asked and what’s being shared in the knowledge, but also I think our community is so warm, friendly and helpful. It’s not your typical marketing community. It’s very open, warm and friendly and I love that we’ve been able to build that.
Rachel: Right and I have to say two of the main things for me with a good Twitter chat is that one, you learn something from it and at the end of the chat you feel like you’re taking something away. And two, just having a really great community around it.
Social media is meant to be social and I think a lot of people forget that and may spend so much time scheduling all of these posts with links to their blog and their products and their services that they forget to take the time to just talk to people. And Twitter chats really are the simplest and best way to do that, because there are so many people that you can interact with within the span of an hour.
Julia: It’s really neat how Twitter has become a platform where that happens. And it’s so social, like you said. [LAUGH]
So one thing you do for us that is really great is creating a weekly recap of the Twitter chat which goes on our blog post. I proofread it but you put it all together.
So run us through how you do that.
Rachel: So basically the weekly recap is essentially just a bunch of tweets from the chat. I really just go through all of the tweets that people posted during that hour, and choose some of the top tweets and I try to really get a mix. I wanna make sure that I include everybody at least once just because I wanna make sure everybody gets included in there.
And then of course you wanna share some of the most valuable answers. Because I know a lot of people do chat recaps where they have this Storify stream of every single tweet.
Rachel: And that’s a lot to look at. So I really try to go through and curate some of the top tweets and the tweets that are gonna add value to people who are reading these recaps, and who missed the chat and want to still learn from the recap.
So I try to make sure I get a variety of tweets in there and a lot of some of the best posts. And then the great thing is that we can mention people on Twitter when we’ve quoted them in the recap, and it’s funny because I always love to see what people write back saying that they appreciate it that they were quoted in there.
And then they share it with their audience which sends traffic to the site but it also brings more awareness of the Twitter chat. And one of the other things with the recap is that it’s not just a stream of tweets, I try to add some commentary to each tweet which somebody, I can’t remember who it was, but somebody a while back said that he actually really appreciated that we added that commentary on there.
And that it wasn’t just a bunch of tweets embedded into a blog post.
Julia: I think it makes it so much more personal and it just has so much more than just that automated looking stream of tweets.
Julia: So you went through some of the tools you use and you mentioned TweetDeck and then Canva for the images.
Are those the two main tools that you use for the chat?
Rachel: Yeah those are the two main tools I use. TweetDeck is definitely my favorite for managing the chat, just because with TweetDeck you can create columns for specific things. So I have a column specifically for the hashtag which shows me all the tweets, for the hashtag during the chat.
And then I have columns for the mentions and the notifications that we get so I can keep track of everything. I seriously never miss anything with those columns set up. Because I mean Twitter chats get a little crazy and when you have a ton of people joining week after week, it’s not something you wanna try to manage on Twitter’s actual website, that’s gonna be stressful.
And as you mentioned, we use Canva for the question graphics and also for our chat graphic in general where we promote the topic and the guest host and really the only other tool that I use for the Twitter chat is Buffer, just because I use Buffer to schedule out all the questions in advance.
So whatever scheduling tool is your preference go for that but we use Buffer for all of our social media posts which makes it super easy.
Well I think that covers the essentials of how we run our Twitter chat. And just maintaining this every single week is probably the biggest key to seeing it become successful, because it’s taken six months for us to get in the sidebar of Twitter which is actually faster than I thought.
Rachel: Right let’s face it, that’s seems to me pretty quick.
Rachel: I was surprised when you shared that in the chat on Tuesday, I couldn’t believe it, but that’s amazing.
Julia: Yes that was like the ultimate reward of what we do. [LAUGH]
Julia: Well thank you so much for coming on and sharing what you do in our weekly Twitter chat and thank you for being so awesome at our social media, really appreciate it.
Rachel: Well thank you for having me it was a lot of fun. And hopefully people listening will now join the Twitter chat.
Julia: Yes which remind us when that happens and what day.
Rachel: So the Twitter chat is #ContentWritingChat. It takes place every Tuesday at 10 AM CST.