Have you participated in a Twitter Chat? If not, you're missing out. Twitter chats have a number of benefits, including:
- Learning-Chats are usually focused on a specific topic. They are places where people share their knowledge.
- Sharing your knowledge-If you like helping others to learn and grow, chats can be very rewarding.
- Meeting new people-I've found some great people to follow through Twitter chats.
- Gaining visibility and sharing your content-When your stream fills with topic-specific tweets containing a hashtag, it tends to be noticed. Chats also give you a chance to share your own and other relevant content.
- Gaining followers-Just as I've found people to follow, others have followed me when we've met in a chat or they've seen my tweets from the chat.
If you're new to chats, here's some information about how to find and participate in them, with a few tips for getting the most out of them.
What is a Twitter Chat?
Twitter chats are discussions that happen in Twitter, via hashtags. People meet online in Twitter at a specific time and use a specific hashtag, such as #solopor or #blogchat. Usually, chats are an hour long and have a facilitator, who may provide questions that people discuss in the chat.
How do I find a Twitter Chat?
One great resource is this spreadsheet that shows Twitter Chats by subject and gives you the day, time, and hashtag, among other information.
How do I participate?
There are a few ways to do it. You can use Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, or another client, or even the Twitter UI. In a client, create a stream/column using Search to search on the hashtag. For example, if you're participating in #blogchat, create a column based on a Search for #blogchat. If you don't already have one, create a column for @ replies to you, as well. In Twitter, you can open Twitter in multiple windows/tabs. Do a hashtag search in one window, and use the other to view your mentions.
Once the chat starts, you watch for the facilitator to tweet the topic or questions. Then, respond by tweeting your answer and ending with the chat's hashtag, such as #blogchat. Including the hashtag makes sure the tweet shows up in everyone's chat search.
Another alternative is to participate through a service such as TweetChat.com or the new ChatTagged.com. You login with your Twitter handle, and then enter the chat's hashtag in the search box. TweetChat or ChatTagged displays the chat, automatically updating as new tweets come in. They allow you to tweet and reply to tweets in the chat. Best of all, they automatically postpend the hashtag, so you don't have to type it.
If you use TweetChat, you'll still want open a Twitter window with Mentions displaying, so you can more easily see replies just to me. ChatTagged does this for you, displaying a separate window with mentions.
Holy crap! I can't keep up with the conversation!
That's ok. This isn't like a real world conversation, or even an IM session. You won't read every tweet in the chat. Read what you can or what catches your eye, and respond as you can. People often go off on little side threads, discussing an answer in greater detail by replying all, while using the hashtag. Keep an eye on your mentions so you can see when someone is replying to something you've said.
- Be prepared to share links. I often open bit.ly, which I use as my URL shortener for my best posts. You may also want to open SnapBird so that you can search for a tweet you made or create a trunk.ly list of your tweets for reference. I often want to reference either something I've written, someone else's blog post, or some study or research I've tweeted about. I open these sources so I can find content quickly.
- Retweet other people's good tweets. If someone says something in a chat that you think is spot on or really good, retweet it. It's a way of recognizing people's good comments, as well as indicating agreement.
- Invite others. Make a point of inviting other people you know who might find the chat interesting. And consider making a general tweet out to your followers recommending the chat.
- Participate even when the chat is over. The chat hashtag is available for relevant tweets even after the chat is over. Sometimes, a new study or blog post comes out after the chat, that is relevant to it. Tweet the link to the hashtag. If you had a side conversation with people about the topic, @ them as well.
- Consider summarizing the chat. Chats can be good blog fodder. You may want to summarize the consensus or tips you got via the chat, giving due credit and quoting tweets, as appropriate. Many hosts archive the chat, making it easier to reference tweets. Otherwise, you can always search the hashtag.
- Oh, and don't forget the thank the host and participants!