What’s in a Twitter Chat.
Twitter chats are one of the most powerful tools in your social media arsenal. Even better: they’re fun!
TL;DR Twitter chats are a quick-fire opportunity to teach, learn and make new friends in 140 characters or less.
In my (very) humble opinion, Twitter is one of the best social media platforms available today. Some might think the 140 character limit restrictive but in itself, that is the beauty of it. It forces you to think before you post, to consider your responses and make your point wisely.
Twitter chats are possibly the epitome of this: Questions and answer sessions on some truly fantastic topics.
Yes, outwardly it’s the digital equivalent of going down the coffee shop (or pub in my case) with 200 mates, all shouting over each other in a cacophony of voices: chaos. They are not: the filtering power of Twitter puts paid to that.
Just to clarify a couple of points before we move on. This post contains my tips on how I enjoy Twitter chats as a participant. These techniques really work for me so take what you like and feel free to leave the rest.
There’s a great post on how you can host your own Twitter chat on the Hootsuite blog at http://blog.hootsuite.com/a-step-by-step-guide-to-twitter-chats/
Sonia Chopra Gregory (@freshsparks) has a great article on the marketing side of using Twitter chats at http://freshsparks.com/twitter-chats-for-marketing/
Finally, I’m hoping for this to be a ‘living document’: One that I will endeavour to keep up-to-date as necessary. Twitter chats will evolve and take on new forms — after all that is what social media is all about!
Whoa there Tiger… Here’s a few things to be mindful of before you go in to your first chat, all guns blazing.
Remember, you’re not going to a sales event. Your are what you say. Don’t try to sell your stuff. Offer your insights freely: If you can’t do that twitter chats probably aren’t for you. They are an excellent opportunity to learn — even more so to inform others. Hosts can brand the chat by all means and do so very successfully (look at Buffer, Hootsuite, Sproutsocial, Weal Media) but they don’t brand the subjects.
Polish your twitter profile. It’s part of your personal brand and this may well be one of the biggest showcases it will receive. Use a photo of yourself, if you can. Brand accounts should use a good logo. Either way, get your description sorted — people will view it; a lot. That is good!
Don’t get caught out by timezone differences. Most times will be posted in a US timezone, either Eastern Standard Time or Pacific Standard Time. These might work out to be the early hours of the morning for you. Although that is not necessarily an excuse! ;)
Twitter chats can be a bit daunting — at first sight it looks complete chaos. It isn’t. Listen in on a few twitter chats if you want to feel more comfortable and then chime in when you feel ready — we don’t mind! If it’s your first time at a particular chat say so, we will be mindful.
Be aware of the house rules. Some chats have tighter rules than others. That’s fine. If that’s the case, those rules will be laid out at the start of the chat. Adhere to them.
Every chat has it’s own hashtag. Use it. #bufferchat, #hootchat, #sproutchat, #cloudtalk, #leadwithgiants etc. If you don’t use it, no one will see your tweet as they will be filtering their tweets using the chats hashtag.
There will be questions! These will usually be in the format of: Q1) What’s so good about twitter chats #chattag. Use the reciprocal format in your answer: A1) Twitter chats are social media — done right! #chattag
There are no experts, only those with more experience. We are all learning. If you think you’ve learnt everything, it’s time to give up the social media and live in a cave!
Be prepared. Most chats will have an announcement of some kind so you can prepare in advance. At least the subject matter will be disclosed. Others will publish the question list and there may even be articles to brush up on before you start. Retweet the annoucement — the more the merrier.
So, you’re all prepared and you’ve decided to take the plunge. Now, it’s time to get your chat on…
Double check those “house rules”. These will usually be posted before the chat gets going.
Remember to use the hashtag at the end of every tweet!
Say Hi! Introduce yourself, say hello. If you see someone you know — or have seen before, engage. These could well become some of your new friends.
Relax. Don’t try to read every single comment or even answer every single question. You will get lost! Anyway, it’s not a competition. Instead scan the stream and pick up on what interests you. This is where the 140 character limit comes in again: you can’t get stuck reading verbose speils because there aren’t any. Everything is to the point.
Be you. Even with 140 characters, your personality will shine through, so don’t be afraid to show some emotion. Humour is OK! Use emoji’s to make your tone clear if in doubt. (If you’re joking use a smiley for example.). But don’t be objectionable.
Be friendly. This is social media: There is absolutely NO place for BULLYING or TROLLING. If you don’t agree with something either offer a constructive alternative opinion or just simply shut up and move on to the next question.
Show your appreciation. If you like something, favourite it. If you really like something retweet it. The ultimate honor is when someone follows you. Do not take this lightly. Seriously consider following back: My rule of thumb on this is “if you can’t find a good reason not to, then always follow back.”. Remember: Twitter chats are a great way to grow your followers organically. Use them wisely.
Respond and reply to others. Don’t be afraid to ask your own questions either. It could well be something no one else has thought of! (Those not mentioned in the reply will still see it as they are filtering by hashtag).
Check before you click Tweet. Have you used the right hashtag? Does it read right? Have you used an emoji especially if your comment might be misinterpreted? A “common sense check” really.
It’s not quite over yet …
Thank everyone. You wouldn’t leave the pub without saying goodbye. Would you?
Go through your notifications. Take time after the chat to go through your Twitter notifications once more. Tidy up any loose ends. Have I answered everyone? Have I followed back? One last favourite maybe?
Make a list of your favourite chats and keep it up-to-date — with dates and times local to you. You could even go and note down some of those newly found twitter handles. Check out their profiles. Like what you see? Then, give them a follow!
Tips and Tools.
Here’s some quick tips and tools for participating in Twitter chats. The key here though it to try different things and see what works for you.
Try out some tools. TweetDeck, TweetChat.com, Nurph.com. All are great. I tend to use Twitter.com in two browsers and alt-tab between them. Keep the hashtag in the pasteboard and copy it in at the end of each tweet.
Always keep a browser tab open on Twitter.com, set to show your Notifications. This is your portal on what really matters to you during the chat — replies, follows, retweets and favourites.
Discovering new chats. There are a number of great Twitter Chat directories available: https://chatdir.kneaver.com, http://twubs.com/twitter-chats, http://nurph.com/chats are three of the best. Also, have a personal list, in Evernote for example.
Mobile Twitter Chats! It is surprisingly possible to do a Twitter Chat using the Twitter app on iPhone etc. Practise! Hint: Again, keep the hashtag in the pasteboard.
If you do forget the hashtag and it’s not a reply, then delete the tweet and repost. If it’s a reply then it’s probably already been seen by the recipient. Apologise and repost the tweet, with the hashtag!
If your tweet gets taken the wrong way. Or even if you realise that it might be taken the wrong way. Immediately apologise and clarify your position. Do so openly and sincerely. Don’t leave it to chance!
A Twitter Chat is social media done right: Enjoy it and have fun! Oh, and just a little warning: they’re quite addictive! :)
Chats In Which I Participate.
I was asked recently which chats I participate in, especially in relation to being in the UK and how that can make some chats relatively inaccessible due to timezone differences.
So below is a list of the chats I try and participate in on regular basis (and yes, some are in the early hours in the UK!)
#WealChat — Monday 15:00EST (20:00BST)
#H2HChat — Monday 15:00EST (20:00BST)
#SBizHour — Monday 16:00EST (21:00BST)
#LeadWithGiants — Monday 19:00EST (00:00BST)
#CMWorld — Tuesday 12:00EST (17:00BST)
#SocialCentsChat — Every Even Tuesday 13:00EST (18:00BST)
#RaganChat — Tuesday 15:00EST (20:00BST)
#InfluencerChat — Tuesday 20:00EST (01:00BST)
#cutserv — Tuesday 21:00EST (02:00BST)
#brandchat — Wednesday 11:00EST (16:00BST)
#bufferchat — Wednesday 12:00est (17:00BST)
#SproutChat — Wednesday 14:00CDT (20:00BST)
#CloudTalk — Thursday 12:00EST (17:00BST)
#HBRogue — Thursday 13:00EST (18:00BST)
#TwitterSmarter — Thursday 13:00EST (18:00BST)
#InboundHour — Thursday 13:00EST (18:00BST)
#Luv4Social — Thursday 14:00ESST (19:00BST)
#HootChat — Thursday 15:00EST (20:00BST)