10 Twitter Chat Best Practices to Build Brand Awareness and Drive Sales

5858249526_2298a25375_b

The amount of time, effort and research that can go into building marketing strategies for your ecommerce business may seem intimidating. Before you get too bogged down in the details of which social platforms produce the highest conversions for your store or which product photo editing technique produces the most likes and shares, make sure you’re capitalizing on the marketing tactics that are low-hanging fruit. Not all brand awareness or conversion optimization efforts cost money, require obsessive amounts of creativity or take a ton of time.

Twitter is quickly becoming a more valuable social media platform for retailers, thanks to the introduction of the “Buy” button. Plus, the platform is a great, easy way to stay up-to-date on trending topics, offer advice, get feedback from customers and build an overall engaged online audience. And, all you need is your expert online store chops to do so.

Expertise Makes for Followable Tweets

Twitter is a curation platform, allowing users to follow people and brands they know and like in order to create a home feed that is relevant to them. For those looking to grow a large Twitter following, staying relevant and on-topic is key. Expertise in a particular area makes for a large following.

Tweeting regularly about topics on which you are most knowledgeable will gain you followers. You can use free platforms like Buffer, Hootsuite and TweetDeck to plan out tweets throughout the day, as well as use the Twitter mobile app to send real-time updates to your followers throughout the day.

Of course, you can’t tweet in a vacuum. You need to talk to others on Twitter in order to get them to talk to or follow you, and Twitter chats are perfectly suited to help you do this.

What is a Twitter Chat?

Twitter chats, also known as Tweet chats, are a great tool for any small business looking to connect with their target audience or with those that influence their target audience. Twitter chats are focused on a topic that is decided in advance and use a specific hashtag to help users follow along. Typically, the chats are hosted once a week. The hosting brand will ask a question (designated with Q1, Q2, etc.) and allow users to answer (with A1, A2, etc.).

Twitter chats are good at bringing together niche audiences: people who are already decidedly interested in the topic at hand, active on social media and looking to find new people to follow. In other words, without any time or effort on your part, a Twitter chat has segmented your audience, told you what is relevant to them, and is giving you a chance to influence them.

How to Find a Twitter Chat

Finding a Twitter chat is pretty easy. You can use one of the following sites to search for topics relevant to your audience and expertise. Plus, there is a weekly #StyleChat on Tuesdays that often makes Twitter’s most trending topics, perfect for online stores selling anything from apparel to accessories and more, as well as a #SmallBizChat that occurs every Wednesday evening, perfect for online stores of all sizes and categories.

You can use these resources to search for and participate in relevant Twitter chats to your business strategy:

  • Chat Salad is a great place to find chats currently happening or taking place soon
  • Tweet Reports has a listing of Twitter chats
  • Twubs has an easy-to-read and thorough listing of chats
  • And then there is this huge Google doc spreadsheet with hundreds of Twitter chats

How to Make a Twitter Chat Worth Your Time

Once you find a few Twitter chats of interest, here are 10 best practices to join the conversation and make sure you get the best engagement rate for your time spent.

  1. Prepare your answers in advance. If the Twitter chat has pre-decided upon questions, come up with your answers beforehand, making them as short and sweet as possible. This will help save you time and stress on having to come up with answers once the question is asked on Twitter. To see if the chat releases its questions beforehand, simply follow the host on Twitter and look for links to their website that will explain the form and function of the particular Twitter chat. Do a little homework beforehand to get your best answers out as quickly as possible for maximum engagement.
  2. Be the first to answer when possible. This usually leads to higher engagement.
  3. Actively monitor both the hashtag and your mentions. If you aren’t using any Twitter monitoring platforms like TweetDeck, Twubs or Tchat, open your Twitter account dashboard in two different web tabs on your desktop. Type in the hashtag in the search bar on one tab and click “All” to see all tweets. In the second tab, monitor your mentions. This will help you see which tweets are getting the most traction.
  4. Be polite, be quick, be short, but most of all, be helpful. Numbers and statistics share well on Twitter. Use quotes and photos, as well as very specific insider advice. If you know that your Kansas City store sells DVF-like wrap dresses for half the price, one that looks oddly similar to Kate Middleton’s from last week, don’t hold back on that information. And be sure to include a link.
  5. Be honest, be humble. This is where your customer service will shine.
  6. Respond to those who tweet back at you. Even if all you say is “Thank you” — people appreciate it.
  7. Avoid selling your product unless it is especially relevant or helpful. The goal here is to position your brand as a thought leader and expert, not to immediately convert users. That will happen as they come to trust your input, week over week.
  8. Engage with other chat participants. Like all chats, a Twitter chat is a give and take. Retweet, favorite and engage with other participants.
  9. Following a Twitter chat, keep up your regular Twitter presence. Tweet at least once a day, if not more regularly, about topics similar to what the Twitter chat covered.
  10. Look for Twitter chats outside the retail genre. Entrepreneur chats, local chats and tech chats also work great for a retail audience, and will expose you to reporters and brands often looking for local, socially active small businesses.

Overall, experiment and have fun with Twitter chats. Most occur during the lunch hour, enable you to pre-plan your content, and ultimately help to build your audience based on your own expertise – all without spending a dime.

Photo: Flickr, Andreas Eldh

  • #TweetChat

    Thank you for the great post and insights to grow the global Twitter chat communities Tracey!

  • Twitter chat has to be precise and to the point, unlike Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media, you have a character limit, you have to make it clear within 140 letters.