By Heather Stegner
You’ve heard that social media is a way to position yourself as a thought leader or grow your business. But where do you start and how do you do it? One option: hosting or participating in a subject-specific discussion using a Twitter Q&A.
The American Wood Council (AWC) has been using Twitter Q&As to bring experts and partners together to discuss topics such as the building code development process, deck safety, resiliency and mass timber. In about 30 minutes, the duration of a typical AWC Q&A, our “chats” reach approximately 25,000 individual accounts.
What is a Twitter Q&A?
There are several ways to organize a “chat” on Twitter. The method AWC has used is to gather a panel of experts to discuss a given topic.
For example, during National Forest Products Week last October, we hosted a Twitter Q&A using the #WoodBuildsOurWorld hashtag. Using a unique hashtag in posts, which is a word or phrase preceded by the pound sign, ensures that the group of messages are all seen together by viewers. Hashtags are used on many types of social media as a system of organization, gathering messages on a particular topic in one place. The AWC Twitter account, or “handle,” posed questions to the identified experts using the hashtag, who then posted their responses.
Hosting a Twitter Q&A
Interested in organizing your own Twitter Q&A? Here are a few tips:
- Create a hashtag. What is a catchy phrase that encompasses your topic and will garner interest? Plug it in to Twitter as a hashtag (meaning add a pound sign and delete spaces between the words) to research if it’s been used before, and if so, how. Don’t neglect this step. You don’t want to start using a hashtag and find out there is an alternate meaning with which you wouldn’t want your Twitter account associated. Examples of hashtags AWC has used for Q&As include #AWCResilienceChat, #SafeDeckChat, and #WoodBuildsOurWorld.
- Draft questions in advance. Once you have the topic you want to discuss, draft your questions. We have found that 10-15 questions, along with participant responses, are enough to span approximately 30 minutes. If you find you are running out of time during the Twitter Q&A, you can always skip questions.
- Invite the experts. Determine which of your partners who are qualified to discuss the topic are active on Twitter. Of those, choose three-to-five to participate in the Q&A as the expert panel.
- Be prepared to offer support. Your chosen panelists may not be familiar with a Twitter chat or Twitter Q&A. Be prepared to have (several) conversations beforehand to help the panelists understand the format, become comfortable and feel prepared.
- Promote the Q&A. Use various social media channels to promote the Q&A. Identify the panelists who will be participating and give the time, date and hashtag to participate in or follow the discussion. Ask your expert panel to help promote the Q&A by posting to their social media that they will be participating.
Recommendations for Participants
Similarly, here are some recommendations if you’ve been asked to participate as an expert during a Q&A:
- Use the hashtag. Make sure you include the hashtag in every response you post to ensure it’s captured as part of the “conversation.” “Attendees” who are following the hashtag won’t see your responses if it isn’t included in your tweet.
- Use gifs and images. Social posts that include images generally get better engagement (likes or retweets) than those that are straight text. Add photos or animated gifs to your responses to liven up your posts.
- Don’t feel like you need to answer every question. Some questions may be outside of your wheelhouse. It’s ok to sit out some questions.
- Engage with other experts. If you see a response from another expert panelist that you agree with, like or retweet it. Engaging with the other responses encourages panelists to do the same with your posts, which helps your answers also reach their Twitter followers.
Hosting or even participating in these types of social media events will help position you as a credible source in your topic area, as well as help you find relevant followers. Good luck and have fun getting involved in Twitter Q&As!
Heather Stegner is vice president, communications, American Wood Council. She can be reached at HStegner@awc.org.