With over 3 million regular Twitter.com users and over 50 million tweets sent each day, the Twitterverse is the place to see and be seen. So why not leverage that power to bring attention to your online business by hosting a Twitter chat? Exchanging tweets with your audience is like holding a really interesting conversation in the middle of a crowded coffee shop; everyone around can't help but wonder what's going on.
 
Here's how to hold a Twitter chat that will draw attention:
 
1. Pick a time.
Twitter is busiest during weekdays, from late morning to late afternoon. If you post during these peak hours, you have a greater chance of garnering more eyeballs, but you also have more competition than you would if you were tweeting at, say, 3 AM on a Sunday. My advice is to forget about picking a peak Twitter time, and instead pick a time that is most convenient for your readers. You're going to have trouble getting much attention if only three people attend your chat, so aim for a critical mass of participants rather than trying to pick a “perfect” time.
 
2. Choose a topic.
Which is more appealing: “Come to my Twitter chat today at 4!” or “Come share ideas on how to leverage social media to grow your client base!” No brainer. Pick an interesting topic and people will go out of their way to get there. (It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Pick a topic that's at least tangentially related to your target market.)
 
3. Publicize it.
Plan your chat far enough in advance (a week or so) that you can start talking it up. You also want to give readers an opportunity to create a Twitter account and learn the basics before your chat, if they're not already die-hard tweeters.
 
4. Have a giveaway or prize.
Prizes and giveaways always draw attention. You can make it as simple as, “Stop in to our Twitter chat where I'll give out my number one secret to getting booked for your next photography gig,” or as complicated as a drawing for a year's worth of photo developing. (Note: Give the prize away at the end of your chat, rather than the beginning, to ensure that people stick around.)
 
5. Have a hashtag.
Hashtags, or the “#” symbol, are the way Twitter users can track topics and conversations. Create an appropriate hashtag so your chat participants can identify each other.
 
Tip: Keep it short enough that it won't take up an unreasonable portion of your allotted 140 characters, but long enough that it's unique. Share the hashtag with participants ahead of time so they can track the conversation.
 
6. Capture leads.
Have a way to add chat participants to your list. At a minimum, make sure to follow all participants on Twitter. You could ask attendees to sign up for a dedicated email list to be entered in a drawing, or to receive a special report you've created for the occasion.
 
Making your next Twitter chat the “in” place to be on Twitter.com is a lot easier than getting an invitation to the popular table in the high school cafeteria. In fact, all it takes is a little bit of planning and a lot of publicity.
 
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