Twitter has always proven a popular platform to get your message out there in a concise 140 characters or less and while your followers will always value seeing your tweet amongst their timeline, the interaction between the brand and the follower is nothing more visceral than words on a screen.
To take that moment past the periphery of life on social media, brands implore many strategies; asking questions, posting pictures and running competitions to name just a few. As brands learn to trust social media, one engagement (and research) idea is becoming more and more popular – the Q&A.
It’s as simple as it sounds. You tell your followers that for a specified amount of time, they can ask any questions they like to you on Twitter. As we all know though, nothing is that simple; there are always questions that need answering so that fears can be dismissed. Having managed a few of these here at Passion Digital we thought we’d try and give you some valuable answers.
The first thing you need to define is what the Q&A is going to be about. It can be a generic “Ask our CEO anything!” session or if you have a point to make about a specific service or product you could run an “Ask our Product Manager about all the new features on X & Y”, kinda thing. Whatever your theme is, it’s important to make it clear to your followers from the moment you start promoting the Q&A session.
Choosing Who Will Answer Questions
This may seem like an obvious one but there a few factors to consider.
You need to choose someone who people are actually interested to ask questions to. If you are fortunate to be working for a business with a famous owner or founder, they would be the first port of call. If not, you want to choose someone who is best equipped to answer the questions that will be fired over. Regardless of who it is, we recommend marketing them as something really special within the company. For example if it’s the Head Chef of a restaurant you could market them as being ‘The Mastermind Behind The Menu!’
You also need to think about how au fait with social media the person answering questions is. It’s a good idea to have someone present who understands how Twitter works. If you’re a well-known individual or a small business with success on Twitter then it’s likely that you or someone in the team will already understand the platform enough.
If you’re a big brand and the person you want to answer questions doesn’t use Twitter very often, this is where you community manager comes in very useful. This is the person who you want hitting the keys and clicking the mouse on the day. This leaves the person answering the questions to think about their responses. Community managers also have a cunning skill of taking even the longest of answers and converting them into that all-important 140 character snippet!
Preparation & Risks
Whether you get the whole of Twitter waiting to fire questions at you sending your account into a trending frenzy or (more realistically) you get a solid response from your loyal followers, it’s always worth preparing yourself for the real deal.
From a technical point of view, you may want to have a practice run so you know exactly what you’re doing within Twitter so it runs smoothly. You just want to be thinking about answering the questions well, not about you accidentally tweeting the Queen about your latest quarter’s profit/loss figures!
On the editorial side of things, make sure you spend a few hours prepping for any topics you think are likely to come up. Ensure you know exactly what can be said about your business because a Twitter Q&A is very much ‘on the record’. There might be journalists tuned in with scribblers at the ready, or hecklers ready to fire over your abuse if you’ve been wrapped up in some controversial events…
Tomorrow’s Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.
— J.P. Morgan (@jpmorgan) November 14, 2013
When to Hold It and How Long For
It may seem like quite a small thing but to get your followers to commit time out of their day which may not be part of their usual social routine is quite a big ask! Therefore getting the timing of the Q&A is a very important factor.
Based on general industry statistics, a best practice of when to hold it would be lunchtime towards the end of the week. This is due to the known increase in social engagement on Thursdays and Fridays and the fact people use their lunch hour to catch up on the latest social goings on.
However, the perfect time can only come from your knowledge of your followers and trying it out a few times. If the team behind the latest computer game to take over the student community wants to run a Q&A, then midweek 2-3pm might work better!
As for the duration of the session, we would recommend starting off with 1 hour. If your audience becomes very receptive to the idea and plenty of questions flood in, consider extending it for next time.
An example of basic messaging could be:
We’re holding a live Twitter Q&A on Friday 4th July from 1-2pm with our CEO John Doe, ‘The Founding Father of Applesoft Inc’. Tweet your questions using #AskApplesoft.
It’s simply not enough to promote a Q&A only on Twitter though. With tweets getting an average reach of about 5-10% of your audience, not all of your followers will get the message.
- Get your key influencers involved writing about it on their blog/social profiles.
- Feature it in prime position in your email marketing campaigns.
- Promote it across other social networks ensuring you post at various times of day.
Although the above example messaging is a good starting point, we’ve found that not everything can be said in one post. To overcome this issue we strongly recommend writing a blog article which you can link to. That explains everything you need. Here’s some example copy:
We’re very excited to announce that on Friday July 4th from 1-2pm we’ll be holding a live Q&A on Twitter with our CEO John Doe, ‘The Founding Father of Applesoft Inc.’ He’ll be taking over the @Applesoft Twitter account for 1 hour and at the end one of you will win one of our amazing prizes.
John started Applesoft in 1968 with Joe Bloggs. Together they created the greatest technology company the world has ever seen!
Our Twitter Q&A will be your chance to ask him anything to do with Applesoft Inc.
To participate, all you have to do is tweet your question ensuring you include the hashtag #AskApplesoft. John will retweet the question before he tweets his answer so everyone can follow the Q&A. During the hour John will be answering as many questions as he can and at the end he’ll pick one lucky participant to win the amazing prize!
If you’re not on Twitter, click here to sign up. Once you’ve signed up, or if you already are, just follow @Applesoft.
To incentivise people to participate we recommend offering a prize of some kind. Mention it in your promotional material and then on the day once the Q&A is finished, pick one of the people that asked a question and tweet that they are the winner! They should already follow you, if not ask them to. Then private message them asking to email you to arrange claiming the prize.
How Does It Actually Work?
The basic functionality of running a Twitter Q&A is straightforward, once you know how!
1. Ask people to tweet their questions using a specified hashtag.
The hashtag can be anything you like. Remember to keep it quite short so they have plenty of room to put their question. Something to note here is that people don’t have to tweet using your handle, they only need to include the hashtag.
2. Login into your Twitter account and search for the hashtag.
You should then be able to see all tweets that include the hashtag. If you’re doing this shortly before the session starts you may have some early birds who have already tweeted a question. Unless there are lots of questions we recommend only answering during the promoted time. This is because many people will go to your page just to observe the session. They will arrive at the scheduled time so don’t do anything they might miss.
3. Retweet their tweet before replying to their question.
Doing this means that people watching the Q&A on your timeline as it happens can see each question posed before your answer is posted without having to click into your answer. Here you can see an example of how your timeline should look:
4. Reply using the Q&A hashtag in your answer.
There a couple of reasons why we recommend using the hashtag in your responses. The first is that if you want to transcribe or collate all the tweets from the Q&A, you can do so easily. The second is purely usability. When people look at your Twitter feed it make it uber clear which tweets are part of the Q&A and which aren’t.
5. Gather your tweets and show them off!
With luck you’ve run a successful Q&A session that you want to share with your team, stakeholders or fans.
You could do this using Twitter’s in-built search and transcribing/embedding each tweet. There are also quite a few 3rd party tools out there to help with this kind of thing. One tool we’ve started using a lot recently is Mention. We love its simplicity! Simply setup the Q&A hashtag as an alert in advance of it taking place, give it a few hours for all the tweets to propagate through the system and export them all as an Excel/CSV or PDF! Job done!
So that’s how to run a Twitter Q&A. It’s a fantastic way to engage with your fans as it allows you to engage with them (if only for a few moments) like a human. You can talk to them in real-time conversation just like you would with your friends. It’s also a great opportunity for you to listen to your followers and for them to feel like you are listening, unlike a survey or feedback email. It’s your chance to promote your company in an interactive way and show people you are willing to take time out of your day to talk directly to your followers.
As always there may be other questions you have about running a Twitter Q&A so fire them over to me in the comments below. If there’s enough I’ll hold my own Q&A!
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