The idea behind a hashtag is simple - by using the pound (#) symbol, users can use mark relevant keywords or phrases within a tweet to categorize them and make certain tweets easy to find through a Twitter search. As Twitter has become more popular, and users want a way to group posts on one particular topic together, the hashtag has also risen in popularity too. This rise means hashtags have started being used to allow Twitter users to partake in service-wide conversations.
A few months ago, Ragan released an awesome little write-up that revealed what the most popular business-related chats taking place in the Twittersphere currently were. While useful, they didn't go into any real detail regarding these chats, beyond a basic description. So in the interest of spreading the word to anyone interested in checking these discussions out, here are five of my favorite hashtag chats to watch out for, conveniently arranged by the day they are held on.
Monday at 5:00 PM PST - #mmchat
Social CMO's Jeff Aschcroft supervises and directing the marketing and media chat. Typically they feature some sort of guest who fields whatever questions are thrown their way - oftentimes this means that anyone following the chat can get some great insight into some of the practices of the world's most successful companies. This past Monday, for example, they featured Marcy Cohen, the social media and PR manager of MasterCard. Accidentally miss out? They also post the transcripts from the chat onto their website the following day.
Tuesday at 5:00 PM PST - #SMManners
Dabney Porte runs Social Media Manners and takes a fairly hands-off approach to the conversation. Typically there will be one main business or person to answer any questions that smaller businesses have, and conversation flows from that. All they ask is that users be courteous to one another - after all, the chat is called Social Media Manners.
Wednesday at 8:00 AM PST - #brandchat
Maria Duron leads #brandchat every Wednesday night, which quickly becomes a free-for-all Q&A session. They ask a question, and whoever is taking part answers the question based on their own experience. While the format is a bit dated, you can get some good advice from people who have faced the same exact problems that you are dealing with. Plus they also put up the transcripts from previous chats on their website.
Thursday at 10:00 AM PST - #HBRChat
The very prestigious Harvard Business Review leads this particular chat and, like #brandchat, they post questions and have Twitter users answer. The points for discussion are typically a bit more topical, and the fact Harvard has pinned their name to the chat means that you get a few more prestigious and experienced experts coming out of the woodwork to answer questions and talk to people.
Sunday at 6:00 PM PST - #BlogChat
The big kahuna of the Twitter convos, Blog Chat has been around since 2009 and, according the Ragan chart linked above, is the most popular of all the chats. Of course, this is a good and a bad thing. While Mark Collier, the moderator, does a good job of keeping things on topic, you get A LOT of people who are just loud and contribute nothing to the chat. They operate on some ill-conceived idea that as long as they say something, even if it's just a retweet with the hashtag, they'll get more followers. If you stick it out past all the RT's, #BlogChat is so exciting, can't wait to talk to people' tweets, the conversation is really enlightening. It attracts a lot of experienced businesspeople and social media managers, so it's well worth the effort.
Just remember not to be drawn in by numbers alone - these chats are not meant to find new followers. They are meant to bring together likeminded people to help solve problems and think of new ways to apply social media to one's business. And, if you do decide to follow any hashtagged discussion, I recommend you check out Tweetchat - it's a slightly more customizable interface that aggregates all of the hashtagged posts into a chat room and lets you block out the spammers.
If you find yourself with a little extra time in the evening, or in the morning as is the case on Wednesdays and Thursdays, follow one of these chats and see if you can't pick out something you like. If nothing else, it's a great chance to network.