Answer Twitter Questions Without Getting 'Jamesed'

twitterwhoopsYou may have seen that renowned and respected widely derided and somewhat filthy author E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey) held a Twitter Q&A for some reason yesterday. It unexpectedly (?) didn’t go well.

Users pounced, using the hashtag #AskELJames to ask pointed questions about her lack of writing skill, the misogynistic and sexually unhealthy themes in her books and ultimately, just the ludicrous idea that she thought it would go smoothly.

This may scare you off of the idea of hosting your own Twitter (or Reddit, or other social platform) Q&A, in which you or a representative of your company answer questions submitted by users on the social platform. But it doesn’t have to be so scary. Especially if you haven’t written a popular yet polarizing and much-ridiculed erotica book series.

At bloomfield knoble, we’ve helped clients large and small host successful Twitter Q&As, and presented here are some of the ways we help them achieve the goals of increased engagement, transparency and goodwill:

Avoid planning around other big news events the company’s involved in. This avoids being overshadowed by that event or having negative feedback that might unexpectedly be associated with it.

At least two weeks out, begin posting to your Twitter and other social accounts with the Q&A hashtag, establishing the host and topic and how to submit questions. Post twice a day leading up to the event to reach as many users as possible.

 If budget permits, pay to promote Tweets and Facebook posts to expand the reach. Set aside posts day-of to promote an hour before and then at the start time.

Have questions directed at a recognizable host figure or, alternately, establish the host as the leading expert on the topic prior to the Q&A.

Establish an appropriate hashtag that conveys the nature of the Q&A. Research that hashtag to ensure that it isn’t readily hijacked due to an inadvertently negative or suggestive double-meaning.

If the host or topic is not an established commodity that promises engagement (will users be motivated to put aside an hour of their day to log in and submit questions?), accept questions in advance using the hashtag and curate which will be answered during the established Q&A period.

Create a list of all the negative questions that you can conceive would be asked and be ready with a plan for how to address those issues. Some may best be ignored, but others might be legitimate and need an intelligent, strategically crafted response.

Provide the host or hosts with appropriate resources to answer questions. Once you’ve created your list of possible topics that might come up, both positive and negative, have links to appropriate resources ready for them to easily direct users to those resources.

Be prepared to take in-depth inquiries off-line. Prepare the wording in advance for how to shift those conversations to another venue.

Post-event, use the data gathered from the questions asked to develop content moving forward – blogs, tweets, etc.

For subsequent Q&As, analyze how users participated. If you receive more questions in advance and few during the hour, continue with that model. If more users logged in for the hour and submitted live questions, shift the focus to a live format in the future.

If only E.L. had come to us.