Communicators staying current via Twitter chat: IABC/Toronto [case study]
When the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Toronto Chapter first started hosting a Twitter chat in late 2013, it was a way to continue the conversation among members, following local professional development events. According to Scott Fry, VP of Social Media for IABC/Toronto, this continued conversation turned out to be quite popular, and based on the excellent response, #IABCTOchat increased to a weekly frequency in early 2014.
“IABC/Toronto members have regularly expressed interest in interactive ways to stay up to date on current issues that are relevant to the profession,” explains Fry. “In creating a social media strategy, we reviewed past member surveys to provide insight into what our members were looking for. After checking in with the IABC/Toronto Board to ensure the chats aligned with our overarching strategy, we piloted #IABTOchat in late 2013 and it has grown from there.”
#IABCTOchat is facilitated by volunteers on IABC/Toronto’s social media team and is designed for current and aspiring communications professionals at every level. The chat provides a venue for communicators (public relations, marketing, creative professionals, etc.) to regularly discuss communications issues, trends, best practices and news. According to Fry, the audience changes subtly based on the topic of discussion and relevance to various subsets: students, new professionals, managers, senior communicators, etc.
Lessons learned about running a successful Twitter chat
Fry describes the lessons and practices that IABC/Toronto has applied to build and sustain a successful chat:
“Choosing topics that are relevant and interesting is critical to achieving strong participation. The best topics have proven to be those likely to generate debate and differences of opinion – or those with a bit of controversy attached.”
“The questions you ask during a tweet chat are every bit as important as the topic. Good questions are open-ended and provoke strong opinions.”
“Promotion of the chats needs to be targeted and timely, using multiple methods. We promote the chats in our biweekly newsletter and then send reminders via our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). We also post to the IABC/Toronto commVERSATIONS blog before the chats letting participants know what questions will be asked. Providing the questions beforehand has been a great way to build excitement for the chats. If the chat is a follow-up conversation to an event, we make sure it is actively promoted to event participants.”
“We now have a calendar that outlines future topics and who will moderate each chat. This helps with promotion and increases the level of organization and coordination.”
“Actively participating in the chats and promoting engagement has been a positive experience for our volunteers, and has helped build a strong participation base.”
“Determining a time that is convenient for your target audience can be difficult. We consulted our social media analytics to determine when the ideal time would be to host the chats. We found that our Twitter followers were most active on Thursday evenings, so decided to host our tweet chat each Thursday at 8:30 p.m.”
Current success, future plans
Today, #IABCTOchat averages 20-30 participants and 150-200 tweets, though these numbers vary from week to week. The participation in the chats has been lively and enthusiastic, the feedback has been positive – participants report enjoying the quality of the conversation and the networking opportunities – and the number of repeat participants continues to grow.
“The chats have become a consistent way for our members to discuss trends and issues relevant to their profession. This is a positive add-on to our in-person networking and professional development events,” explains Fry. “The chat also helps establish IABC/Toronto as a hub for communicators in the Greater Toronto Area by providing a weekly forum for discussion, which adds positive value for our members.”
“We have many exciting things planned for future chats, including inviting experts to be involved and facilitate chats on specific topics. We hope the base of participants will continue to grow. We will continue to consult with members and our analytics to ensure the chats are offered at convenient times, and cover topics that are relevant to our members.”