12 Step Twitter Chat Guide
Twitter chats are virtual meetings that consist of concurrent Twitter conversations at a designated time. A special hashtag (#) is used so participants can track the conversation in real-time. Focused on a specific topic, these meetings are open to anyone who wants to jump into the conversation. The goal of these chats is to exchange information and discuss topics of interest. Twitter chats showcase the many-to-many communications possibilities of social media platforms.
Since participating in Twitter chats can be more like navigating rapids than crossing a quiet stream, newbies may find them intimidating. To start, it’s a good idea to use a special Twitter application where you can view multiple streams at the same time. (My personal favorite is Tweetgrid.) This allows you to track the following:
- Entire flow of tweets (the name of the chat preceded by a hashtag). This enables you to see what everyone is saying.
- Questions. This keeps the main topics of the chat and related inquiries separate so you can see what’s being answered.
- Moderator and/or special guest. This is the master of ceremonies for the chat. Everyone pays attention to this person, especially if it’s a special guest.
- Mentions. You want to be able to respond to people if they mention you, ask you a question, or reply to your tweets.
12 Step Twitter Chat Guide
Here are twelve steps to help you become a Twitter chat champion.
- Do your homework. The first few Twitter chats can make you wonder how people keep up because the tweets fly through your application at jet speed. This happens especially in the bigger chats like BlogChat. Don’t worry. Lurk a few times to get the hang of how people are exchanging information. Watch to see how people interact. While it looks like every one is participating, most chats, like other forms of social media have a significant number of lurkers. Also, some chats supply a post and/or set of questions in advance to focus the conversation.
- Warn your followers. Once you’re ready to join a chat, it’s good form to let your followers know that you may be sending a lot of tweets since you’re on a chat. This way they know and don’t get pissed that you’ve filled their Twitter stream.
- Listen to Emily Post and mind your manners. Since Twitter chats are open conversations, the participants have varying amounts of experience and may come from different parts of the World. They may not speak English as their first language or they may use different abbreviations to get their thoughts condensed into 140 characters. Therefore, show everyone respect and be polite.
- Get your nametag. When you join a chat, it’s good form to introduce yourself. This doesn’t mean that you should give your entire biography over the course of ten tweets. Some chats, like lurkers, to say hi so they can get an idea of who’s attending.
- Contribute to the conversation. This can take a variety of formats. It can be re-tweeting information you think is important, it can be sharing your perspective, or it can be replying to something another person has said. Realize that popular tweets get lots of retweets so be selective in what you choose to retweet. Understand that the conversation can be very fast paced, so don’t get upset if someone’s doesn’t respond to your comment immediately, especially since everyone’s using different platforms and devices. Just jump in, the conversations are generally warm and inviting. Ask yourself if you’re adding to the conversation and the collective knowledge.
- Be friendly. Realize that a limited amount of small talk is acceptable at the beginning of the chat as people join. It’s like a real-life meeting. Particularly after you’re comfortable and have attended a few chats, reach out to newer attendees. Let them know the ropes.
- Take a time out. Every so often the conversation on a chat can get heated. If that happens, take a moment to regroup. Realize that it’s difficult to communicate via your fingertips. Sometimes you just need to let the conversation go. In the long term it’s worth it. Remember, that your followers can view your tweets as well as the people attending the chat. The Internet is forever.
- Show your appreciation to the moderator and others. Acknowledge the work that the moderator has put in to help guide the conversation. Also, thank those with whom you connected. It’s good manners.
- Follow people with whom you connected. If you liked what they said in the chat, you probably will be interested in following them on Twitter. It’s easiest to do this following the chat while the activity is still fresh in your mind. Remember you don’t want to be creepy about it.
- Get the crib notes. Many chats share the session transcript. This can be useful if you missed part of the chat or need to remind yourself about specific points from the chats. These can also be useful to share with your followers.
- Gone but not forgotten. Many chat participants continue to exchange ideas during the week through the use of the hashtag. This way if something comes up, it can be shared with others interested in this topic.
- Be a cheerleader for the chat. During the week, tweet and/or blog about the chat to encourage your followers to join you.
Remember Twitter chats are just big multi-directional conversations. They are transmitted via a social media platform restricted to 140 characters. While they require practice to get the hang of, they are useful ways to connect with other people in real time.
Do you have any suggestions that you would add to this list? If so, please do so in the comment section below.
Tip of my hat to Mack Collier who runs #BlogChat on Sundays at 9.00pm EST and to Chris Jones (aka @SOurcePOV) who runs the #SMChat on Wednesdays at 1.00pm EST. Also, to #USGuys who broke the rules on how to run a chat.
Here are some related articles worth reading:
- How to get your Twitter mojo.
- Lisa Barone’s How to participate in a Twitter chat
- Mack Collier’s 10 steps to creating a successful Twitter chat.
- Margie Clayman’s How to keep up in Twitter chats.
- Caroline Di Diego (aka Casudi)’s How I make the most of online chats.
- Social media’s social responsibility
- #USGuys – Social Media Case Study
Photo credit: Brains on Fire via Flickr