TwitterParty_Body.jpgby Heather Chaet.


Are you an avid user of the 140-character social media tool to spread the word about your upcoming products and news? Do you tweet links to articles you stumble across, and thoughts on almost everything? Are you feeling pretty confident about your Twitter skills? Then take the next step and host a Twitter party—a virtual meet-up where you, as host, choose a cool topic with an awesome hashtag and invite folks to chat via Twitter at a designated time. Sounds simple enough, but the dance of the Twitter party can be tough to learn. We have your guide to throwing a successful Twitter party—in eight easy steps.


Step 1: Do a bit of research.

Before you jump right in, participate in a few parties to see how they work. “Attend as many as you can. See what you like and what you don't. There are many ways to do a Twitter party, and you will get some great ideas,” suggests Nika Stewart, co-founder and CEO of Search who you follow, see who may be hosting one—and offer to be a guest. Becoming knowledgeable and comfortable with the flow of Twitter parties can help yours be even more successful.  


Step 2: Figure out if you should throw one and why.

Why should you as a small business owner throw a Twitter party? “It's a creative, fun interactive way to spread your message, launch your new book or product, attract media attention, and develop profitable alliances,” says Stewart, “When you do it right, you can get in front of more than 100,000 accounts, and it generates buzz and excitement.” Taylor Aldredge, the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, a virtual phone system designed to help entrepreneurs stay connected and sound professional, emphasizes that, before you begin, be sure you know who your audience is and what they care about. “A Twitter party is a quick way to get your audience involved in a meaningful conversation, even if they're not all physically located in the same place. You need to know that the audience is there, that they talk on Twitter, and want to engage about a certain topic,” says Aldredge.


Step 3:  Pick a great topic and an even better hashtag.

“The most important thing is the party hashtag. This is probably the most crucial part of a Twitter party,” says Aldredge. “The hashtag is a phrase or keyword that tweets can be aggregated around. Think of it like a pseudo chat-room. The room isn't private, but the hashtag allows for all the tweets to be part of one big conversation with everyone else that's participating.” You are the host, but you don’t want to come off as self-serving by selecting a topic or hashtag that is directly related to and only promotes your product. To choose a solid hashtag, search Twitter, and see what your followers—and who you follow—are interested in. For example, a jewelry designer shouldn’t host a Twitter party focused directly on her new product line. Rather, she could host a Twitter party on the most stylish accessories seen on the red carpet at the Academy Awards (possible hashtag: #BestOscarBling).


TwitterParty_PQ.jpgStep 4: Invite everybody…and a few special guests.

Once you’ve decided on your topic and hashtag, get started promoting your event. Just like a party in the physical world, you need guests to attend. “You, as the host, have to keep letting people know when the party is [happening] and under what hashtag. You should be doing this on every medium you use—email, Facebook, LinkedIn, all of them,” says Aldredge. Also, reach out to a few industry leaders to see if they will attend, answer questions, and offer their insight. “The best parties I've seen operate like panel discussions with a host and a couple of select people to talk about the topic. It’s a good way to keep things organized and relevant to everyone else,” notes Aldredge.


Step 5: Get organized.

“The goal is to create order out of chaos. The more organized [the Twitter party] is, the better the information, and the more people will talk about what a great Twitter chat or party they just attended and who hosted it,” reminds Aldredge. Use tools to pre-load some tweets. “When organizing a Twitter party, you definitely want to use a Twitter management program because the Twitter website is not robust enough to manage and keep up in real-time,” says Aldredge. “Prepare all the questions and answers beforehand,” agrees Stewart. “This way, you don't need to spend time typing the questions or the answers and can enjoy the spontaneous conversation that happens during the party.”


Step 6: Have fun, but remember you are the host.

Just like a dinner party in your home, you are there to make sure your guests have a good time and to keep the conversation moving along. “Everyone can chime in, obviously, but it's the host’s job to manage everything and propose the questions for people to answer. I think a free-for-all gets hard to follow if you're looking for good information,” says Aldredge. Stewart suggests offering your attendees prizes to keep the participation quotient at a high level. “Hold mini-challenges throughout the party. Have them find [a bit of information] on your web page or answer a trivia question. Then randomly choose one correct answer for a prize,” she says.


Step 7: Don’t forget the follow-up.

After you have created some good buzz, don’t let it fizzle out. “Whether it's a quick tweet or an email, follow up with everyone. Staying relevant after a [Twitter party] is the key to building new relationships,” notes Aldredge, “Use it as an opportunity to directly engage with your customer-base or industry professionals. These types of events are more about seizing opportunity than they are about having fun. How often can you say that you took an online relationship and brought it into the real world? You'll begin to love the phrase, ‘Hey, I think I know you from Twitter...’” Use other social media tools to spread the word about the Twitter party—write a short recap on your website, mention it on Facebook, or include a sentence or two in your weekly email blast.


Step 8: Do it again.

Consistently hosting Twitter parties not only increases product awareness, it can vault you and your company to a better level in your industry arena. “It's a great way for any small business to set up a quick way for the customer base to engage directly with the brand and build awareness for the company. Creating a concept and brand identity that aims to help everyone is way better than being a brand that just pushes products in my mind,” notes Aldredge, “[Twitter parties] allow you to move from small business owner to thought leader.”