9 Twitter Chat Best Practices from Dun and Bradstreet [Interview]

Print Friendly


“Maximizing Your Social” is all about fully leveraging the opportunities that social media holds for your entire enterprise. While most companies seem to be stuck on simply using limited social media channels for social media marketing or marketing communications, there is a new generation of enterprises that are using social media in a broader and more integrated sense to truly humanize their brand, better communicate on a one-to-one basis with stakeholders and influencers, and, for lack of a better word, reap the many benefits of simply participating in the conversations all around us for . I had the chance to be introduced to one such company, and I believe a look at how Dun and Bradstreet (D&B), a 170-year old B2B (business-to-business) brand, utilizes Twitter chats will certainly get you thinking about the potential that Twitter still has for your business.

In classic social networking fashion, I was introduced to Shelly Lucas, Senior Marketing Manager at Dun and Bradstreet from Judy Gombita, the Social Media and Public Relations contributor for this blog.  I was looking for brands that were exceptional in their use of Twitter for my upcoming Twitter Marketing: Success Tips from Brands panel at the upcoming Social Media Marketing World.  After getting to know Shelly, what impressed me about how D&B leverages Twitter is not only the depth and breadth from which they engage on the realtime social networking platform (which she’ll talk about in depth at #SMMW13), but their unique use of Twitter chats.

When I speak on Twitter, I always introduce Twitter chats as unchartered territory for most brands.  However, for those that already have an optimal Twitter presence and are looking to “Maximize Your Twitter,” Twitter chats offer an unparalleled way to “make a splash” within relevant Twitter communities and hold the potential for further amplification of your message. In fact, I go as far as challenging my attendees, if it makes sense to, to create their own Twitter chat to represent their community similar to the creation of a LinkedIn Group or Google Plus Community.

Below is the interview I had with Shelly in preparation for your Twitter panel next week. I hope you’ll both appreciate how D&B got started participating in Twitter chats as well as her best practices to allow your brand to become a better participator. Obviously, if you are interested in learning more about how to leverage Twitter for your business, make sure to join us next week in San Diego for Social Media Marketing World! (note: my questions are in italics)

What attracted Dun and Bradstreet to Twitter chats?

Twitter chats provide D&B the opportunity to have real-time conversations with groups of engaged individuals. For some people, talking with a “logo” (or brand) that’s new to the chat can be off-putting, but we welcomed this challenge because it was perfect for what we wanted to accomplish. We wanted to bring the 170-year-old D&B brand into the social age, leaving a personable, insightful and authentic impression. This is still an important goal for us. What better way to demonstrate your company’s culture (brand qualities) than to talk with customers, prospects and influencers about hot topics all of us care about? Another plus about Twitter chats: our followers can see that our handles are not automated and unresponsive—there’s someone alive and alert behind the wheel, all synapses firing.

Did you create your own chat? Join others? Both? And why?

This really gets to the heart of what social media marketers should be asking themselves: what advantage would “building my own” give me? Can I achieve my goals by participating in others’ (established and engaged) programs? In our case, the answer to this last question was “yes.” So far, it has made more sense to go where our community was rather than building something new.

What have been the results you have seen from participating in Twitter chats – and how do you measure them?

We use quantitative and qualitative metrics. For the first half of 2012, we grew our @Hoovers followers by 30%, largely due to consistent Twitter chat participation. We also track our RTs & mentions, which have increased by 50%, thanks to our chat engagement. We also track blog/media coverage (excluding Storify recaps) of our chat contributions, invitations to guest-host chats, and success in growing relationships beyond Twitter to other platforms, forums and offline. Actually, my speaker’s panel seat at Social Media Marketing World was sparked by a Twitter chat referral.

What advice would you give companies on joining other Twitter chats?

1. Review the chat questions prior to the event. These are often posted on a blog or a Facebook page. Think about them. Spend 5-10 minutes jotting down ideas for answers. Check your bookmarks/RSS feeds/social posts for relevant material.

2. Before the chat, RT the host’s Tweet announcing the chat topic, guest host and framing post—or craft a Tweet of your own using the chat’s hashtag. This gives your own follower’s a heads-up that your Twitter stream will be very active for the duration of the chat; it also invites your community to join.

3. Some chats move very fast, so using Tweetchat, Twitterfall or a similar tool can be very useful. I use Tweetchat, which allows users to control refresh speed and “smart” pause the chat. It also automatically adds the chat hashtag to your Tweets.

4. Introduce yourself at the beginning of the chat. This is especially important if you’re a first-timer/relatively new or if you’re Tweeting as a brand.

5. Engage by adding a comment when you RT someone else’s contribution. This can be as simple as “+10,” “Bingo!” or “Well said!” or “True–esp. when…” If you don’t agree, by all means, RT or respond accordingly and/or ask for clarification, but always respect the opinions of others.

6. Avoid spamming chat participants with shameless product/service promotions—unless someone specifically asks for more information. Tweeting a link to one of your own blog posts is usually accepted within moderation, as long as it’s relevant to the conversation.

7. Ask questions if relevant. Often, a related question will pop into my head while I’m chatting. If it’s relevant to the topic and within the scope of participants’ expertise, I’ll Tweet it with the preface: “Question for everyone…”

8. Caveat: avoid sidetracking the chat with extended one-on-one or niche group discussions. Exchanging a few Tweets is fine, but if it goes on too long, it can exclude others and distract from the chat host’s agenda. Wait until the chat is over to pick up the conversation.

9. At the end of the chat, Tweet an original and sincere “thank you” to the host, guest host and anyone who made the chat more worthwhile to you. Be sure to follow those folks whose contributions you found especially valuable.

What other Twitter chat best practices would you add to the above list?  Have you ever engaged with other brands in Twitter chats?  How was that experience?  Has your brand launched your own Twitter chat?  Please share your experiences in the comments so that we can continue to learn from each other.  Thank you!

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer


Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
Thank you @FlyingTern ! https://t.co/NGWMWBp32h - 20 mins ago
Neal Schaffer


  1. says

    Great post and info on Twitter chats Neal & Shelly. How did I miss this session at #SMMW13? Corona manages, moderates and participates on many Twitter chats each week.

    We typically form the questions and answers well in advance and have them in a document to copy/ paste during the live chat. The prepared tweets are formulated (with the hashtag included) and total character count limited to 120, allowing for RTs and comments. It frees up the moderator/ host to answer questions that get posted during the live chat while keeping the conversation flowing as planned. Great post and thanks for these great suggestions!

    • says

      Hey Chris! I had assumed that you had come to that Twitter panel at #smmw13 after our Twitter discussions! Yes, doing what you do is absolutely a best practice that others should follow when deciding to manage their own Twitter chat. If you are participating in someone else’s, and already know what the Twitter chat is going to be about, you can pre-populate questions and even greetings well in advance to help you be more effective in what little time you have.

      Thanks for the comment – and looking forward to continuing the conversation!

  2. says

    Excellent article re Twitter Chats. The key point though is that more and more people are taking part in Twitter Chats are they are off so many excellent opportunities for all.

    But how do people find them? how do they know when they are going on? how do they not forget to join in?

    Yes.. there are some lists with chats on, but in the main these are very out of date and there are way more good chats than the few you have mentioned.. Yes.. these ones are great by the way and we alert people to those each week.

    The answer is a new Twitter account – @TheChatDiary that tweets Twitter chat alerts. It will help you to discover new Twitter Chats & remind you of the times / dates of others. so people can decide to join in if they want to.

    It also makes sure as best as possible that the chat is live and current.

    Currently over 800+ twitter chats go out weekly to alert people to..

    All people need to do is follow @TheChatDiary to get the Twitter Chat Alerts.


    Mark Shaw

Please Leave a Comment!