How to Build Influence and Credibility with Twitter Chats – @MadalynSklar

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Twitter chats offer a great way to gain exposure, build and audience and engage your followers, regardless of whether you’re participating or hosting. Don’t be intimidated, instead look at it as a creative way to either establish authority for your brand as a host, or network and connect with others as a participant,  all without having to do the dreaded cold outreach process.

Rich: Madalyn Sklar is a social media power influencer, blogger, podcaster and business coach, who is known for her Twitter expertise. Ranked #1 on social media in Houston, she blogs about social media and technology and was named by Huffington Post as one of the 50 Must Follow Women Entrepreneurs of 2017.

Madalyn teaches all things Twitter in her course, Twitter Smarter, and you can find her every Thursday hosting the popular #TwitterSmarter Twitter chat. It’s the place to connect, learn and share Twitter tips. She also interviews movers and shakers in the social media world for her Twitter Smarter podcast. Madalyn, welcome to the show. 

Madalyn: Hi Rich, thank you so much for having me.

Rich: This is great. I’m a huge fan of Twitter, I love the platform. How did you get pulled into the Twitterverse?

Madalyn: I started back in 2008 because it was the big buzz at SXSW Interactive that year. And I jumped in it and there weren’t a lot of people, just some of the techies, not the marketers yet. So it was kind of quiet. I saw it as a great platform to connect with people kind of like text messaging but on a social platform.

So I thought it was really cool and a month later I was at a very large music called ASCAP Expo and I wanted to try it out there – I didn’t tell too many people – I just thought I’d do this new “micro blogging” and I was live tweeting as people were on stage sharing tips and tricks and stuff. And I thought this could be a very powerful way to connect, I could really see this being a leading way to share information at conferences for those who are not there, and also as a way to connect with other fellow attendees. So I thought I was onto something with it way back then.

Rich: Excellent. I remember getting on in the early days, too, up here in Maine, There were only 20-30 of us who were tweeting at a time. I knew everybody, and it was just such a different atmosphere. Although it’s very cool now, I do have to say that sometimes I miss those early days when it was just a few of us hanging out online and chatting around the virtual water cooler.

Madalyn: I totally agree. The spammers came in and made it all just full of junk, and then the DM’s got to the point where it wasn’t fun. So the early days were pretty cool, but I really saw this as a platform to connect and share with people in a way that was different from other platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Rich: Absolutely. Now speaking of Facebook, Twitter obviously doesn’t have the reach of Facebook, and twitter as a business sometimes seems to get beat up in the press. I’m sure that must leave a lot of small business owners and marketers to wonder if Twitter is actually the right platform for them. What do you say to these people who might have cold feet when it comes to Twitter?

Madalyn: Well I think it’s good to diversify and be on a variety of social media platforms. I don’t mean be on all of them, it’s not for everybody. I am, but just find a few that really resonate with you. I think we all have to understand, Twitter is not Facebook and it’s not going to be Facebook. It’s ok that it’s not at the level of the number of users. There are still a lot of people on Twitter, I find it to be a platform where I can so easily connect with people.

When my podcast launched in 2015, every person that I wanted to bring in to interview, I sent them a tweet. Most of these people did not know me yet, and that tweet worked. Had I done that on Facebook, it wouldn’t have worked. If I had done it on LinkedIn, maybe. But Twitter is just one of those platforms where I always tell people that if someone is active on there and you want to connect with them, you have a very good chance of being able to reach them. That’s powerful.

Rich: Absolutely. Now one of the reasons I wanted to have you on is so we can specifically talk about Twitter chats, possibly the Achilles heel of my own Twitter experience. So let’s start with the most basic question, what exactly is a Twitter chat?

Madalyn: A Twitter chat is a way to bring people together on Twitter that revolves around a hashtag. So we’ll use my Twitter chat as the examples. So the hashtag is #TwitterSmarter, every Thursday at 1:00 PM eastern the whole group of us connect on there. So just imagine for one hour all the tweets have to have the hashtag #TwitterSmarter, and we’re all just looking at that. We’re not looking at anything else, we’re just hyper focused on that one hashtag and having the conversation revolve around it.

There are some tools out there that can help you, some people like to use Hootsuite or TweetDeck, I use one called TweetChat.com, and it just allows me to put in the hashtag and it will only show me the tweets that have that in it. So I can just focus on that and not pay attention to all the other noise going on at Twitter for that hour, so that we can have a real conversation.

And this has become a great way to connect with people. You can really Tedx your presence on Twitter just by coming on the Twitter chats and spending an hour connecting with people, sharing your thoughts and your tips. There’s just so many great things about it. So that’s why I really devoted so much time to it and I’ve also started teaching it as well. 

Rich: Now you mentioned your show, which is the #TwitterSmarter Twitter chat. Sounds very Meta, very inside baseball. But obviously there are twitter chats about all different sorts of subjects. I’ve seen one locally on beer, I’ve seen education ones. So it’s certainly not limited to just talks about Twittter, correct?

Madalyn: Absolutely. Mine is really the only one that is specifically chatting about Twitter and sharing tips and tricks and things that help people with their marketing. There are so many chats out there. Chats have been going on for many, many years. I started one in the music business that still goes on today every week, and it was started 5 ½ years ago.

Just about any topic you can imagine is out there, I always tell people to type in whatever the topic is and then “Twitter chat” behind it and you’ll most likely find a variety of chats that people started. Some people stop them. It’s a project if you’re going to take this on, it’s a volunteer kind of thing. You start a Twitter chat and some people do this just to bring people together – like I do – some people do it as part of their business as an extension to bring more people over and learn about their product or service.

But there is really something for everyone out there, no matter what it is whether you want to learn more about social media in general. I’ve also been hosting one called, Social ROI, so it’s really going more towards that ROI and monetization of social media which is really cool. But chats are popping up every day, so the best way to stay on top of it is to do some Google searching for them.

Rich: So there’s no master list of Twitter chats where I can go through and find out when the latest Spiderman Twitter chat is going to be?

Madalyn: Well there have been a few directories that were put together over the years but they’re not always up to date. Sometimes I feel like they’ve been abandoned because I’ll see something on there and I’ll go check it out and it turns out this chat stopped a year ago. So unfortunately there’s not one master list that’s THE list.

Now what I did last year is I decided to take it on and put together a list of the top social media and marketing Twitter chats. So I looked up all the different ones that have something to do with social media or something to do with marketing. So I put that together and put that on my website so that I could have them. And I’m always adding to them, I’m always asking people to let me know when there’s a new Twitter chat out there.

And to me that’s an easier way to go about it is to just do something that’s just one area, because trying to have a master list is just so incredibly difficult. You can Google and just put in “Twitter Chat” or “Twitter Chat Directories”, and you’ll find some listings. But again, it’s not always up to date so you’ll have to do a little extra research to check it out and see if it’s still available.

Rich: So once we do find one, what should we expect, how should we behave? And I was going to ask if there are any tools outside of Twitter that you might recommend, you mentioned Tweet Chat and TweetDeck as well. If I’m getting into my first Twitter chat and I don’t want to look like a complete noob, what should I do?

Madalyn: Such a great question, Rich. So the first thing you want to do is you want to let people know that you’re there. The thing about Twitter chats is that you could be a lurker – and I don’t mean lurker in a negative sense – and be there watching us for the hour, and unless you post something we won’t know you’re there. So even if you feel like this is too intimidating for you or you don’t have something to share and add to the conversation, at least introduce yourself, say hello, let us know you’re there.

But the big key here is to put the hashtag into your tweet. What a lot of newbies do is add it on that first tweet, but then they forget that they’ve got to out the hashtag in every time. It’s hard to remember that initially. So they’ll go the whole chat throwing in their 2 cents, and then they realize at the end no one was responding because they forgot to put the hashtag in.

So that’s why I recommend Tweetchat.com, because it dies it for you. It’s just a free website, you put in the hashtag and then all the tweets will appear. It has a little box that you can type in your tweet and it will automatically put the hashtag at the end. It makes it super simple and easy. So #1, just come in and participate. But # 2 is just as important, to listen. Be there and soak it all in and see what it’s all about, learn what goes on because every chat is different.

As the host of my chat, I’m very easy going, inviting, I encourage people to come say hello and I encourage people to participate. If we’re talking about Twitter tips and you’ve got something to share, I want you to feel comfortable sharing and be a part of the conversation. I also bring in a guest so we do have a Q&A.

When you come on a chat and you just kind of listen a bit, you’ll see how the flow is. And because everybody is different, you just want to get a feel for how the chat is, and you may find the chat you discovered is not for you. And you might find that another one is like your long lost tribe of your people that you’ve been waiting for your whole life to connect with. I have made the most amazing connections, there are so many people that I would have never met anywhere else other than a Twitter chat that I have become really good friends with, I’ve got business from this. It’s a great way to connect with people, I’ve gotten business from this.

Rich: So what is the format like? I’ve seen some that are Q&A, are there other formats?

Madalyn: There are. Q&A is very common and you’ll see, “Q 1, the question, and then the hashtag”. So the typical format is when you reply you do, “A1 – answer”, etc. That’s very common, 70% of the time that is what you’re going to see. Sometimes it’s just let’s have a topic and converse. My chat for musicians, that’s how I ran that. It’s a lot easier to run, it’s not a lot of work, there’s not a guest to schedule and I don’t have to come up with questions. So I would just every week pick a topic and for the hour we would have an amazing conversation.

So that’s another way to do it, there’s not one right way to do it. If someone wants to start a chat, they can do it however they want, they can do it for 30 minutes, they can do it once a month. There are so many different ways to do it, but in my years of running Twitter chats. If you really want to do this the best way is to make it weekly and make it very consistent, because then people know when to be there and they’ll show up.

Rich: Alright, so let’s say that we decide that we are ready. We’ve gone to a couple of these, we’ve found the format and the people that we like, but for whatever reason we decided that we’re going to create our own Twitter chat. What are some of the steps that we need to take before we actually host one?

Madalyn: Well as you said, definitely go on Twitter chats and go see what they’re all about, learn about them, find what’s missing that you could fill that void. There was nobody doing one on Twitter and I had been teaching Twitter for years, so it just seemed very natural for me to host a Twitter chat that’s all about Twitter marketing.

A colleague of mine, Kristy Gillentine, was always sharing Snapchat tips with me the last few years. I said you should host a Twitter chat on Snapchat because no one else is doing it. So see what’s out there and what’s missing, and maybe you can fill in that gap. But on the flipside, if there are five different chats all about Snapchat, you can probably still bring something to the table that’s different and unique.

So I don’t want people to think it’s only about filling a void. What you want to do is definitely do some research; find a hashtag that’s not being used. What I see too many times is people not spending time researching, they just pick a hashtag and start using it, and it could be that it’s used for other things.

When I was working for a company that I’m helping with the Social ROI chat, we spent a great deal of time researching different hashtags and finding the right one that really no one was using. Here’s the thing, you can’t own the hashtag. So if someone is using a hashtag for a Twitter chat you could certainly go and be a bully and try to do it, too. But what would be the point of that really?  So I just recommend you find something no one else is using so that you can stake claim to it and run with it, so that’s really important. And decide the format, do you want to be just a topic and have a conversation, do you want to have a Q&A, how much time can you invest into this, because if you want to do a Q&A and have guest, you want to factor in a few hours a week at least because it’s time consuming going out and finding people to be on a chat with you and ask the questions.

Now what I do with my #TwitterSmarter, I’ll go find a guest, but I actually have them work with me in developing the topic and questions, I want their input. Some people will just come up with all the questions, I’ve been on plenty of chats where they just said, “Here is the topic we’re going to give you and here are all the questions.” And that’s great, so I go and I prepare for that. But on the flipside with me being the host, I like my chat to just be more something where me and the guest work together to come up with something that’s great for the audience, and that’s worked well.   

So you’ve got to find what works best for you, what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. So you’ve got to figure out what works and the thing is you can start a chat and you can tweak it as you go. You can start off with a Q&A and decide you don’t have that time but you don’t want to stop it, so you just make it into a weekly conversation. So again, you make the rule book with this, you can do this however you want.

Rich: Makes sense. I think for myself I’d probably like the framework of having questions, whether or not I brought a guest on. It sounds not unlike a podcast with all the work and prep that goes in and having a conversation beforehand.

Madalyn: Right.

Rich: So one of our fears, I think, would be what if I throw a chat and nobody comes? So what are some tips to make sure that people show up on time? I know that you said having a consistent time and place once a week was really good, and that makes a lot of sense. But for our very first one when we’re just getting started, what are some of the tactics that you’ve used to build and audience and get them to show up on time?

Madalyn: Well this is such a great question Rich; I get asked this one a lot since I do teach this as a course as well. So going back to Kristy Gillentine with her #ChatSnap, when she launched it – and it was exactly a year ago – I wanted to help her promote it ahead of time, so I was promoting it and I noticed she wasn’t. And we were about a week out and I asked her why she wasn’t promoting it and she said she was too nervous that nobody was going to show up.

Rich: A self-fulfilling prophecy.            

Madalyn: I can totally understand that very first chat, what if there’s crickets and nobody shows up. This is the #1 thing that everybody fears with starting a chat. So I said to go contact all of your social media marketing colleagues and ask them to please come support you. You’ve done so much for them, ask them to come help you and please be there for the chat, even if it’s for 20-30 minutes, just be there to show support.

And it worked, she had so many of her colleagues there. But because I was promoting it and some of her other colleagues were promoting it, that very first chat she had probably 100 people there. It just blew her mind. I just told her that she just has to promote it and ask people to be there, and it works.

A more resent one I launched, the #SocialROI, I launched that beginning of January. I had about 5-6 weeks, I didn’t just come up with it and go for it. I actually spent a month and a half really plotting it, and that allowed me to really build up a big buzz, and that allowed me to have an awesome launch in January where we probably had about 100 people show up on that very first chat. It was more than I expected but it just goes back to asking people to come and join you and not being afraid to ask.

So many times people are afraid to ask for help or something they need, so I would definitely promote it, ask for people to be there, send it out to your mailing list, out it out on Twitter and Facebook regularly and just keep it out in front of people so that they’ll see it and it can work.

Rich: With that many people all trying to chat at the same time, it seems like a lot of the conversation might get lost. How do you keep that from happening?

Madalyn: That is the other side of this, Rich. My #TwitterSmarter has been running for a year and a half and we get hundreds of people. It can be very challenging to keep up with the conversation, so what you may end up doing is just picking and choosing some tweets as they zoom by that connect with you and take a moment to chat with that person and have a little bit of a conversation. It can be nearly impossible to tweet when it’s going at that level.

Now with my chat every week – since I’m running it – I’m asking the questions, I’m conversing with the guests, I’m trying to converse with other people. What typically will happen in a very fast-paced chat is after the chat is over I can then take my time and go back and answer questions and continue talking to people. And that’s ok to do. 

When the chat is for an hour, people pretty much just rush in at the beginning, they’re there to chat, as soon as the hour is up they leave, they’re outta there. But Twitter is a platform where you can still have a continuous conversation. So just because somebody left when the chat was over, it doesn’t mean I still can’t go and respond to their tweet and still chat with them later. So that is something to definitely keep in mind is that find those tweets that resonate with you, have those chats, and then you can always go back later and read through it a bit more slowly and talk to people after.  

Rich: Now does Tweet Chat have any feature that if one of the tweets is getting a lot of interaction it will draw your attention to it so you don’t miss a really important thing?

Madalyn: You know I haven’t seen that and I think that would be a great feature to have where something like maybe a tweet that’s getting a lot of re-tweets and likes would pop out and stand out more. I would love to see a feature with somebody putting that together because that could be very helpful during the chats.

Rich: Alright, you and me are going to work on that app.

Madalyn: Yeah, we might be onto something.

Rich: Alright, so let’s talk about the reverse of that, the lull in conversation. We’ve all had those awkward pauses in real life. Do you have some tactics to keep the conversation going when things do slow down? I know my “go to” is firing up one of my other accounts of Twitter in another browser and interact with myself.

Madalyn: Right. You know, when things slow down I’ll just come up with things to talk about or another question off the top of my head, just to keep things going. But Rich, I haven’t had that happen in so long. Not to sound like I have a big head or something, but my chats have been so big for so long that.

I’ve been on other chats where they’ll sometimes dip and get slow and stuff, and if I see that no one is stepping up and there’s silence, that I’ll be compelled to just ask a question or keep something going from a previous question just so that it’s not quiet. I’m really good at just doing some off the top of my head, and in that situation that’s what I would do.

Rich: It sounds like it’s just important to be a good hostess.

Madalyn: Yes, it really is. And it’s really good to go out and be active and involved on other chats that will help you be visible, especially with other hosts. Go out and meet other Twitter chats hosts, get to know them because they could be very valuable in helping to promote your chat and maybe you build up a good relationship where you do some cross-promotion, I’ll promote your chat if you promote mine. That is very powerful.

Rich: So speaking of being a good host or hostess, occasionally you’re going to get some bad guests. How do you deal with trolls and other malcontents who might come and just want to ruin your chat? There’s seemingly no way that you can ban somebody.

Madalyn: Right. And unfortunately it does happen, I’ve had trolls on. I just tend to ignore them and I’ve seen other people do the same. If somebody comes on and they’re just spewing out a lot of negativity during a great, positive conversation, most people will ignore them and not even engage.

What I like about tweetchat.com is that they have a “block” feature. So if somebody is on there and it’s a spammer or troll, I can hit the block button next to their name. It doesn’t block them from my Twitter, it’s just blocking them from that particular chat. It just removes them out of there so I don’t have to keep seeing it, and that’s helpful because I just want to ignore them and keep my chat going and keep the conversation positive. So that’s worked for me, just from my experience.

Rich: So one of the things that I’m all focused on is just generating leads for my business. So how do you take a Twitter Chat and turn it into a lead generation tool, or is that really not the purpose of it?

Madalyn: Well it really should not be the purpose. The purpose should be to show you’re an influencer and a person of value to provide information, that you’re connector. I think more than anything, people see me as a connector on there. I help bring people together every week for the hour, and I’ve seen from that people go off and do stuff together, I’ve seen people connect on the chat.

I had two ladies meet on the #TwitterSmarter chat last year and decided to start their own chat together called, #AdvoChat, for advocates in the workplace. They met there, took my course, and started a chat. That was really cool. So if you area host – just like on a podcast – people will see you as the influencer and so that is a great benefit of putting in the work to do this, it has great payoffs.

Rich: Alright. So once you have that all taken care of, your chat is over and you‘ve sent the last people home, how do you make the most of it? What are some of the things that you do to really leverage this and repurpose some of the content that might have been created in the chat?

Madalyn: What I like to do is put together a recap each week. So we take all the tweets that were the questions, the answers form the guests, and then we pick and choose the best answers from participants. And we wrap it all together as a recap and put it on my website and people love that. It’s extra work, I have a volunteer that helps me each week, but that makes it a lot easier for me.

And for the longest time, Rich, I never asked for help. I did all the chats myself and people were amazed that I did these chats on one computer by myself, but it’s how I roll. But last year I thought why don’t I just ask and see if anybody would like to volunteer and help, and the support has been amazing. I have a whole group of greeters, at the beginning of the chat they all just go out and greet every single person that comes in, and it’s amazing. So everybody feels warm and welcome. I used to do that with every person that came on the chat, but as the chat grew, it was something I couldn’t do by myself any longer.

But I always want people to feel welcome when they come on there. So having these greeters has been amazing. And having the recap afterwards so people can go back and read through it, and for those that missed it there’s something they can go and look at later. So it’s been a huge plus having a recap.

Rich: So this was great, I learned a lot about Twitter chat and I’m definitely going to check yours out. Remind me again of when your Twitter chat is, and then also tell us where else we can find you online.

Madalyn: Sure. So my #TwitterSmarter chat is every Thursday at 1:00 PM Eastern, it’s an hour-long once a week, it’s a wonderful chat and a great community of people, I would love for everybody to come on and check it out. And Rich, I would love to have you on as a guest sometime. I’m sure we could have you share some Twitter tips of some sort, so we’ll talk about that later, but I would love to have you be a part of it.

So you will always find me there, the #1 way is Twitter, especially on the Twitter chat, but also you can reach me on my website, madalynsklar.com.  And the benefit of having an unusual name is that you can find me on every social network by just putting my name at the end.

Rich: And that’s why I have to be “the Rich Brooks”, because my parents cursed me with a very common name. Madalyn this has been great, thank you so much for stopping by and we’ll have you again sometime.

Madalyn: Thank you Rich, appreciate it.

Show Notes:

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