Hosting a Q&A session onTwitteris an effective way to engage with your online community and grow your following. However, as with any social media activity, Q&A sessions have the potential to go horribly wrong.
By Cassy van Eeden
Pulling off a successful Twitter Q&A takes careful preparation and requires that you have a solid strategic plan in place in case anything goes wrong. Twitter is, after all, unpredictable at best.
What is a Twitter Q&A?Like any question and answer session, a Twitter Q&A is a less formal way to network, share ideas and express thought leadership.
Jacqui Mackway-Wilson, digital marketing consultant and Twitter Q&A host, explains that a TwitterQ&A takes place in two formats. Either one or more hosts asks a question and this is answered by one or more guests, or “it can be hosted by a business or individual with questions post to their target audience who are invited to join in and answer the questions from their own point of view”.
“A Twitter question and answer session, or e-chat, is like a press conference, panel or roundtable discussion wherein people present get to post questions to hosts or panellists in a real-time setting,” says Jake Larsen, marketing director at The Social Studio.
“In the Twitter case, however, the process takes place online and anybody, from anywhere, can ask the questions,” adds Larsen.
How do I set one up?Just like there’s nothing random about a Q&A session with a panel of experts at a convention, there’s nothing random about a Twitter Q&A. They don’t just pop up. A successful Q&A session takes careful planning.
“[You need] a good Internet connection and either a laptop, desktop or mobile device from which to work,” says Mackway-Wilson. This may seem elementary, but holding an online event requires functional, reliable technology.
“Select an appropriate hashtag, one that is clearly relevant to the topic,” says Larsen. He recommends setting a specific time that is communicated to both the panellists and the audience. “Thirty to 60 minutes are usually sufficient to conduct successful sessions.”
Larsen adds: “Market the event. If the target audience is not sufficiently aware of the event, there is the risk that either the desired level of attention and exposure will not be realised, or worse, one may find that the number of questions posed is low or non-existent.”
How do I prevent a flop?Take Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James, for example. When she announced her #AskELJames Q&A, she probably didn’t expect thousands of tweets calling her out for the perpetuation of women abuse among other things. As one user said: “Whoever planned out the #AskELJames tag has obviously never, ever met Twitter.”
The best way to avoid disaster is to cover all your bases with as much planning as possible.
Mackway-Wilson says your planning should include inviting guests ahead of time and briefing them on the chat rules and goals.
“The risk, of course, is that the sessions may not go in the direction that the companies planned,” says Larsen. “Because of the transparent and far-reaching nature of social media, brands must be prepared for potential fallout or negative interaction.”
“Most chats die out because when they are not well-attended, the hosts give up or the hosts become too busy to facilitate consistently,” says Mackway-Wilson. “Consistency is key. If you start, commit to showing up every week, whether for one participant or 100.”