This online version of a party or mini-conference can be educational, informative and a lot of fun, but some people are unsure how to participate in a Twitter Chat. If you are new to Twitter, then start by checking out the article on Simple Steps to Learn Twitter to work out the basics.
Twitter Chats are often held on specific days, at a set time to connect people with an shared interest. Participants use a hashtag to find each other’s tweets and keep track of the chat. I often take part in #dundeehour and #scotlandhour and occasionally run the #mnlocal chat for the Local Editors of the parenting website Mumsnet.
I will use the #mnlocal chat to explain how it all works.
You can follow the hashtag on twitter.com by entering the #mnlocal hashtag, which gives you a stream of what people have been tweeting about. It is quite difficult to follow, and you have to keep flicking back to the stream from your mentions to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
This is where a Twitter tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite comes in handy. If you aren’t yet using these tools, do have a look. It makes following a chat much easier, and also helps when you are following a lot of people, or if you use lists.
I use Tweetdeck as I find it easiest to use, but you might prefer Hootsuite. Try them out and see how you get on.
On Tweetdeck, use the search button to find the hashtag, and then click ‘ADD COLUMN’ to add to your streams.
There are also a few websites that you can use to participate in Twitter Chats, such asTwubs and TweetChat (OneQube is currently not working due to a change in Twitter API but one to watch when it comes back online).
The advantage with these tools is that they automatically add the hashtag, so you don’t have to add it manually.
Twubs also highlights the moderator of the Twitter Chat, which can make it easier to follow very busy chats. With some of them, you can slow down the speed of the stream, or even pause it while you reply, so that you don’t lose track of the chat.
The problem with recommending one of these, is that they change and update regularly. I swap between using Tweetdeck and Twubs, but you might prefer one of the other options.
Now you have the technical side of things sussed, lets move on to how these chats work, and how to get the most out of them.
Twitter chats can be open chat about anything, or more structured, with questions set by a moderator. The #mnlocal is generally an open chat, with a monthly moderated chat on a particular theme.
This is how to participate in a twitter chat with moderated questions.
Find the Hashtag and Identify the Moderator
You will probably find that one person (or a couple of people) are moderating the chat. They help keep things moving, set questions and the direction of the chat. They may well open the chat officially – feel free to RT this welcome to let your followers know about the chat.
Particularly if you are tweeting from a business account, take a moment to say introduce yourself
Use the Question Number to Reply
Most moderators will use numbers or letters to set the questions, as it makes it easier to follow the chat. Use these numbers to reply so people know which question you are replying to.
Don’t Forget the Hashtag!
If you are not using a website that automatically adds a hashtag, you will have to be careful to always add it, or others won’t see your tweets.
Don’t feel that you can’t reply to someone because you are not following them – this is what a Twitter Chat is all about. If someone tweets something that you agree (or disagree) with, reply to them.
RT to Your Followers
If you find something particularly interesting, and think your followers might like to read it, RT it to those not following the Twitter Chat. Don’t forget to add to the conversation, and give your opinion.
If you don’t agree with another person, be polite about offering your point of view.
SOCIALISE instead of SPAMMING
If you join in a Twitter Chat to promote your business, don’t spam the hashtag with links to your website or blog. The point of a Twitter Chat is to network with your peers and to communicate with your customers. Some moderators will provide time at the end of the chat to allow for some self-promotion, so use this rather than the actual chat time.
No more excuses for not joining in the next Twitter Chat! See you there.
Featured Image - I searched for an image using ‘twitter chat’ and this is the one I found.