How to Be a Twitter Chat Champion

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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:

Photo credit: Brains on Fire via Flickr

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  • http://BoomerTechTalk.com Linda Sherman

    Nice job Heidi – we know each other from #BlogChat. Hope to see you again this Sunday.

    I like the format you are using in your posts – nice and clean.

    Great topic. I recently promised to explain twitter chats to my Boomer Tech Talk peeps when mentioning #journchat in my introduction of Sarah Evans. We can’t have too many posts on the topic, especially when they point out which ones they like and why (like @Casudi did so well) – and give us new tips like the #USGuys you found.

    I see you have included the twitter chat schedule google doc. There is some history there. Happily, the original source of that doc – http://www.meryl.net/2009/05/06/list-of-twitter-chats/ – is at least permanent now (although only visible if you take the unlikely step to click the header tab). Over time, many of us attempted to insert a link to Meryl in various places on the google doc. Initially the creator of that google doc strongly promoted a paid twitter chat app – but that may have evolved. No one else has taken the initiative to create a wiki twitter chat schedule for the community so it is difficult to complain about what we have.

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Linda–

      Thank you for stopping by and adding to the collective knowledge about Twitter chats and supplying the link to another source of interest to readers.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

    • http://swanthinks.wordpress.com Swan

      Linda,

      thx for your comments. I am the originator of the google chat schedule. For a long time, I posted the attribution to meryl for having the original blog post listing twitter chats. I contacted her multiple times about linking from that post to the sheet since she only represented a fraction of the total chats. She never replied so I eventually took down her link. Do you feel that is unfair?

      As for linking out to a paid twitter chat app from the header….If I had done that I would also consider it fair game. It is called an advertising model. It takes a lot of work to make sure that list stays organized, should I not have the right to get paid for that? However, I never did link to a paid anything. Originally there was a more overt promotion of a free service. Even that has been reduced.

      Again, thank you for your comments. I hope that I have addressed them fairly.

      Swan

  • http://waynemcevilly.com Wayne McEvilly

    Heidi-
    Thank you. Great clarity and content here. I would have liked to have had this when I was really new to Twitter Chat kindergarten – Now I am in about 2nd grade – & (responding to an idea I picked up in my first blogchat) I have created my own Twitter chat – It is #MozartChat & is a global (twitterers/tweeters on the list from Australia, Hong Kong, Kyoto, Vienna, London, New York, Sweden, Chicago, Holland, and some really exotic ports such as Kansas and Oklahoma. It’s a BirthdayTweetParty for Mozart on 1/27 and (since it crosses timelines is open all day/night / 106 on the list so far.
    Well, back to your post here:
    I am going to see to it that those 106 are going to get this. There are many on the list who have never been to a twitter chat and who will have to be instructed in such basics as you cover here. One point they have been great about is: ” 12. Be a cheerleader for the chat. During the week, tweet and/or blog about the chat to encourage your followers to join you.”
    Thanks again.
    Wayne

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Wayne–Congrats on your Twitter chat and I hope that this post helps you. I agree that it’s important to keep the conversation going during the week. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • @debweinstein

    GR8 post Heidi. I’ve met, followed and made friends w/ so many great tweeps through chat participation (like you!) and am blown away by the useful & actionable info I discover. I do much of my chatting from my BB and simply follow the hashtag. You really can chat anywhere. My advice to newcomers is to read backwards in the stream to discover the topic (if you’ve just stumbled in) as frequent queries like “What’s #MMchat” or “What’s the topic” can be annoying to some and sometimes perceived as disrespectful. @swanwick keeps an as up-to-date list of chats as possible #incaseyoureinterested.

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Deb– Twitter Chats are a wonderful way to meet wonderful people. I admire your ability to participate from a blackberry. I useTweetGrid since I try to manage several conversations at the same time.

      Great suggestions for people who stumble onto interesting chats.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.integratedalliances.com Lori Ruff

    Fabulous post Heidi… Getting lots or RT’s and comments on my own tweet. This is a valuable resource for anyone trying to catch up to the technology that makes such amazing things happen.

  • http://banter.ly Cory

    Heidi, very well put. I love coming across people and articles that catch the vision of gathering people around interests. It stands in stark contrast to most of the communication that we have online (i.e., friend-based conversations). I’d love to get your feedback on a project of mine (http://banter.ly). My partner and I created it because we thought there might be value in giving a home to these real time conversations so that your followers don’t get annoyed. The conversations are all around a Twitter hashtag and tweets with that same hashtag are visible alongside the conversation. We kind of look at Banterly as Twitter’s real time sister. Let me know if you want a tour and I’ll show you around.

  • http://bggarden.com/blog/ Bren

    This is great information Heidi! I’m sharing it on my twitter base chat forum at #gardenchat. One thing I always stress to everyone is ‘tweet responsibly’!

    Happy Tweeting Friend!

  • http://Www.Laura-Kinoshita.com Laura Kinoshita

    Really great article. Complete & detailed. Well done! I will be sharing this with others in Hawaii.

  • http://www.pvariel.com Philip Verghese Ariel

    Hi, Heidi.

    I am here from your 64 Tips….
    This is indeed a new idea to me.
    Sure i will make try on this tip.
    Thanks again for all your tips.
    Keep informed
    Best Regards
    ~ Philip