#Digital30 – Ten tips for running a Twitter Q&A

Triana Jarman

The #Digital30 series is Sift Media's fortnightly, 30 minute session aimed at upping our digital skills & literacy in the ever complex world of publishing.  We'll share the practical advice, tips, tricks and takeaways that you can apply day-to-day, in your job. 

1. Choose a topic
What do you want to discuss, and why? Do you want to pick a current key issue, or focus the chat around a piece of content either you’ve written or that your community has engaged with? Bear in mind that broader topics will encourage more engagement!
2. Consider your timing
What is the best time for your readership; lunch time, evening? We’ve found that mid afternoon works best for our audience, but yours could be different. Also think about time differences and reflect this in your marketing of the event (eg. ‘Join us at 5pm BST / 12pm EST’)
3. Think of a unique hashtag
As well as using general hashtags to reflect the theme of the Q&A (eg. #marketing #socialmedia) also create a hashtag specific to your chat so everyone can follow responses more easily (eg. #GetEngaged #MYCchat) – it also means you can build a micro brand around the hashtag and ensuing content, nice!
4. Come up with your questions
You should be aiming for the discussion to last around an hour, so 5-6 questions is enough to keep things moving but also leave time for people to respond to the question and each other. It also leaves you time to do general admin (retweeting answers, checking your livestream) in between posting questions.
5. Confirm participants
You want to have at least 5 (ideally 10) pre-agreed participants to keep the chat lively; with a good mix of people who will have different perspectives on the issue. Hopefully more will join in as the chat progresses – remind your followers that you want to hear their opinions too!
6. Create a livestream
You can embed this on your site for readers to follow the chat without having to go on Twitter. It’s also a useful tool for looking back at the responses afterwards. I use Cover it Live, but Storify is also good.
7. Promote across site & social channels
Share the Q&A details across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – everywhere your audience is! Use images (details in next step) to make the posts more eye-catching and memorable. Tell them the topic, date & time, and also mention the hashtag you’ll be using.
8. Create branded images for marketing & questions
People respond to pretty things. I’d recommend using Pablo by Buffer as it’s quick & automatically saves images in the correct sizes for Twitter. 
9. Reiterate the rules
Just before you start the Q&A, explain to all participants that all responses should include the event hashtag and a reference to which question they’re answering (A1, A2..)
10. Create content
You should use the Twitter chat outputs in a wider marketing & editorial campaign which further engages those who took part and gets the content to a wider audience. We’ve experimented with slide decks, infographics and blog posts. Quoting responses from the Q&A will make your audience feel important & valued, and also show appreciation to any influential people who took part in the Q&A.
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