Game of Chats

When you play the game of chats, you win or you die.

Okay, “die” is a little dramatic, but hosting or participating in a live chat can spell victory for a brand. Increased engagement, a spike in impressions, and a boost in followers are just a few of the factors we see in a successful live chat.

But are chats right for everyone? Short answer – Absolutely!! However, choosing the right type of live chats to host or participate in can be daunting. Social media doesn’t come with a manual. That’s where we come in.

Facebook Chat

Traditionally, brands tend to have more followers on Facebook than on other platforms. But you shouldn’t automatically assume that more followers mean more participants. Facebook is a closed platform, so it’s difficult to see what brands have to say if you are not following them. Zuckerberg and the gang have made improvements recently, adding trending hashtags to the top corner of your newsfeed, but if you’re looking to gain new brand advocates through Facebook, be ready to shell out tons of cash for advertisements.

If you decide Facebook is the way to go, advertise your chat ahead of time – whether you choose promoted posts or a typical status updates is up to you (and your budget). Let your audience know what the chat’s theme is, who is hosting the chat, and when it’s all going down. If your brand is small and you worry about responses, you can ask for questions ahead of time and your host can answer those during the live portion. If it is time for the chat, and you’re still worried about the number of responses, have your host start answering some of their most frequently asked questions.

As for the logistics of a Facebook chat, it’s pretty simple. Post a status and let the comments start rolling in. You can directly reply to a comment, and your reply will appear beneath the original comment, which is a major perk for an organization freak like me!

Hosting a Twitter Chat

Hosting Twitter chats is typically reserved for large brands, but don’t let that discourage you. If you think your Twitter audience is engaged and interested in your area subject matter – go for it!

A few things to take care of ahead of time: create a hashtag around the chat and tweet, tweet, tweet ahead of time! Give your audience the who, what, where, when several times a day in the 2-3 days leading up to the chat. Stripping that info down to 140 characters may be tough, so consider creating a graphic or a blog post that you can link to with that information. Don’t be afraid to insert hashtags that involve your industry to capture a wider audience. That’s the benefit of Twitter over Facebook: your message can easily be found with a simple search, particularly if you include a widely used hashtag. Then, all you have to do is come up with 6-10 questions for your chat. Use #Q1, #Q2, #Q3 to label your question, then users can use #A1, #A2, #A3 to respond. This keeps things organized to an extent, but don’t forget to use your branded hashtag too!

Participating in a Twitter Chat

Sometimes, it’s just easier to jump on someone else’s bandwagon! Hundreds of Twitter chats are happening every day all over the world. A simple Google search can outline these for you, and there is one for just about any industry. Even static businesses like insurance agents have weekly chats.

Truthfully, participating in someone else’s Twitter chats is a great place to start. You can jump in on one every week or every day until you get the hang of it! Just by retweeting, favoriting, and replying to participants, you’ve found an awesome new way to network.

And not all chats are all business. Find a chat like #DadChat (which discusses important topics for current and future parents), and you might find pre-customers who are interested in your product – even if your product is boring ol’ insurance. New dads are probably starting to think about an increased life insurance policy with a baby in tow, right? Meeting potential customers where they are is far easier than begging them to come to you.

Live Tweeting

Technically all of the chats mentioned are “live chats,” but “live tweeting” an event has a different feel. Maybe it’s a television premiere like Project Runway that your fashion brand has commentary on. Or if you’re a small business, maybe it’s a local festival or event that your audience is interested in. Either way – jump on it! If your potential customers are watching, then you should be commenting.

The “How To” is simple, just comment on what you see. Post picture if you’re on site. If there’s a hashtag associated with the event, start engaging with other participants. There is a delicate balance between “live tweeting” and “stream of consciousness tweeting.” A good rule of thumb before you hit that send button is to say to yourself, “Is this a new perspective?” and “Would I retweet this?” If the answer to both is “no,” then you may want to rethink your commentary.

Twitter Takeover

A Twitter takeover may involve a bit more logistics, depending on who is “taking over.” Whether it’s a celebrity or a local politician, chef, or industry leader, when you enlist another brand to speak on behalf of your own, make sure there is a moderator present to approve statements made and provide specific brand insights. Takeovers are a great way to reach a new audience. Fans are already interested in what the “celeb” has to say, so when they become an advocate for your brand – even for just a few hours – the audience listens. Plus, having human commentary on your brand or event always makes your Twitter presence more relatable.

Like every other type of chat, create or jump on a hashtag! A “celeb” taking over to host a Q&A is a great way for your brand to up engagements from their current fans. (Just look at Reddit’s AMA – both Reddit and the celebrity participating help build the other’s brand awareness.)

Winter is coming.

Five Kings. One Throne. Before going all in on a type of chat, weigh the pros and cons of each, but, most importantly, know your brand and go with your gut! If your gut tells you that your audience isn’t going to be actively engaged on Twitter – go with Facebook! Maybe it will work and maybe it won’t, but never overlook the opportunity to try something new. Social media is all about trial and error, so don’t ignore the “trial” part.

Now go forth and chat with confidence!