If you know me, you know I love Twitter. In fact, you may be one of the hundreds of people I have met through Twitter. I’ve been using twitter for about 4 years now, to learn, share and get to know people around the world. When I started participating in Twitter Chats is when my Twitter experience became really impactful. Here’s how I got started participating, some recommended chats to join, and some how-tos for newbies.
What is a Twitter Chat?
A Twitter Chat brings a bunch of passionate, intelligent people together to discuss their throughts and experiences about a certain topic. By following and using a #hashtag, the participants’ tweets all appear in the same stream. The chats usually last for an hour, and are run in different ways. Some have structured questions for everyone to answer, others are like an interview with a leader, and still others are more informal, just a period of time for everyone to share their thoughts about a topic.
My First Twitter Chat…
One Tuesday evening, while I was searching for new blogs and articles about leadership on Twitter, I stumbled upon #LeadershipChat. Led by Lisa Petrilli and Steve Woodruff, this was a chat full of leaders from all over the world, asking and answering questions, sharing their thoughts in 140 characters. I remember seeing a question that I wanted to answer, typing in my response and sitting there, afraid to press the send button because I didn’t know these people, and who was I to jump into their chat, why would they care what I had to say? After deleting and retyping several times, I finally sent that tweet to the #leadershipchat group. Within seconds, people were replying to me, and I was hooked! By the end of the chat, I had virtually met many new people and heard many different views on leadership. Unfortunately, #leadershipchat was retired earlier this year, but many other chats continue.
Twitter Chats and Hashtags to Build Communities
I often get asked “What’s up with those #hashtags on Twitter?” Technically, a hashtag simply makes a term clickable so that you can see a stream of tweets all with that tag. But in my mind, one of the greatest applications of hashtags is that they actually help to build informal communities. While Twitter chats often take place over an hour, many of the chat hashtags have become virtual cafes for people to visit 24/7, knowing that there is always someone there to discuss thoughts about a topic or interest – or just to check in to say hello.
A few of my favourite Twitter Chats and #hashtags
- #TChat – a weekly chat that happens Wed 7 pm ET – all about the World of Work – there are amazing, brilliant leaders on this chat!
- #bizforum – Wed, 8 pm ET, a twitter debate about business-related topics, led by my friend Sam Fiorella
- #SWChat – Thurs, 4:30 pm, led by David Chris, about the Social Workplace
- #usguys – the most supportive community I’ve met on twitter, they really put the “social” in social media for me – and there is a weekly #UsGuysChat on Mondays at 3 pm ET, about various topics related to marketing, social media and business
- #CXO – Mondays at noon ET, all about Customer Experience
- #DThink – led by the Disney Institute, sharing their insights into culture and customer experience
- #HRBookChat – Held every 4-6 weeks, led by Alyssa Burkus, who brings a business book author to share their thoughts and answer our questions
- #impact99 (of course) – this is the hashtag Christine McLeod and I use to continue the conversation about the future of work and the social workplace – did you know that #impact99 trended across Canada during our Oct 24th conference? That’s a lot of sharing!
How to participate in a Twitter Chat
A Twitter Chat can be overwhelming for the rookie tweeter, but there are some tips to make it somewhat easier. First of all, don’t even attempt to participate in your first chat on your phone or using twitter.com. My suggestion for your first time is to try TweetChat.com.
When you go to tweetchat.com, sign in using your twitter info by hitting the button in the top right. then enter the hashtag to follow, and “voila!”, only the tweets that are involved in that chat will appear.
You can type your tweet in the Message box, and it will automatically add the hashtag at the end of your tweets. You will notice that when someone replies to you, the tweets will be highlighted differently, and that your tweets will have your name bolded. You can slow down the stream, block retweets, and even pause to catch your breath.
Twittiquette Tips for Twitter Chats
- Read the framing post if there is one. Often times, the moderators of the chat will write or refer to a blog post or article that helps to frame the discussion. It may include information that will be discussed or debated and even the questions that will be asked during the chat. It’s best to read the post before the chat.
- Introduce yourself. Twitter chats are social and people like to get to know who’s “in the room”. When the chat is getting started, the moderator will often ask who’d joining it – feel free to introduce yourself, let people know it’s your first time, and tell them a little about you and why you’re there.
- Wait until after the chat to share links. This isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule, but I find it distracting to try to read links during a chat – it’s best to let people know you have a blog post or article to share and that you’ll post it at the end, so that people can remain focused on the chat.
- Lurk at first if you’d like. There are lots of people who follow chats but don’t actively participate. You may want to try that at first, just watching the stream and seeing how the conversation flows. Of course, you’ll get WAY more out of it if you participate, but if you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to listen.
- Never spam a chat. Don’t try selling something or using a hashtag to promote something unrelated. That is never appreciated.
- Just do it. My experience has been that the people involved in chats are extremely friendly, welcoming, and helpful. If you have questions, ask them, but don’t be afraid to participate – you’ll love it!
What other tips do you have for first-time Tweet Chat-ters? Are there other chats you love participating in? Please share your thoughts!