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Friday
Sep022011

Guest Post: 5 Reasons you should participate in a Twitter chat (or two)

Twitter chats are a great way to connect and engage with others, especially if you are new to Twitter and looking to build your network.

Even if you are one of the seasoned Twitterati, these chats offer tremendous opportunity to make new connections and sustain existing relationships (you never know who you might know in a Twitter chat!)

For those of you who don’t know what a Twitter chat is, it’s basically a virtual meetup held on Twitter centred on a common subject. You follow the conversation via the hashtag for the chat.

Some of my favourites are #socialchat (Mondays at 9 p.m. ET, #tweetdiner (Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET) and#PR20chat (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET). To be honest, I haven’t checked in to #PR20chat in a while but it’s not for lack of interest!

Pick a chat, any chat

A really nice guy named Robert Swanwick created a Google doc that you can review to find a Twitter chat of interest – and to add your own chat to should you decide to start one.

You can use Twitter clients like TweetChat or TweetGrid to aggregate tweets related to the chat, which makes it easier to follow and respond to other participants. These clients also auto-tag your tweets with the right hashtag which is convenient since it ensures your tweet gets included in the chat stream without you having to remember to type it out.

The one thing to remember about participating in Twitter chats is that it’s not about pushing your own agenda - it’s about creating real, meaningful conversations on a shared topic of interest with other people. Whether you are representing your business or yourself, this point holds true.

So don’t start broadcasting/selling your product or service during a Twitter chat unless it’s relevant to the conversation. And even then, consider whether now is the time to be doing so. If someone expresses interest, consider continuing the conversation without the Twitter chat hashtag. 

Do it! Do it! (seriously, how can you resist the Do it! chant?)

If you’re on the fence about the value of Twitter chats, I offer five reasons you should give it a try:

1. Networking

Twitter chats are a great way to find new people to follow on Twitter, especially since you have a shared interest in common! It also enables people to discover you – which can help you build a following.

And since it is the quality of your followers – not the quantity – that is important, Twitter chats helps you to connect with others in ways that are relevant and meaningful. To sustain that connection, make a point to follow up with participants after the chat.

Relevance = the secret sauce of social media success!

2. Learning & Sharing

Twitter chats enable you to debate, question and share ideas with others who are passionate about the same topic as you! So dive in and comment. A lot.

Often Twitter chats include a series of questions (Q1, Q2, Q3 etc.) that the host shares, along with the Twitter chat hashtag. You then respond with A1, A2, etc and the associated hashtag.

Don’t be shy. If you have a question or don’t understand – speak up! Chances are someone else in the chat wants the answer too.

3. Build your personal brand

Twitter chats are a great way to demonstrate your expertise and build awareness. Reasons 1 and 2 are how you do it. Nuff said.

4. Gain inspiration

Twitter chats can be another source of inspiration for your next blog post, video, podcast, etc. Whether it’s varying points of view, a great quote or a new perspective on your subject of interest, Twitter chats can have you swimming in content generating heaven!

5. They’re fun!

It doesn’t matter if it’s online or face to face, when you get together with people who share the same interest as you, it’s fun! Twitter chats usually last 1 hour and you won’t believe how the time flies!

The Etiquette

There is some Twitter chat etiquette I should mention. Nothing too dreary – just a few points to make the experience enjoyable for you and everyone else.

  • As a courtesy to your followers not participating in the chat, you may want to send out a quick tweet indicating that for the next hour you’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #insertTwitterChatnamehere.

  • When joining the chat - say hi. You wouldn’t arrive at someone’s house party without saying hi to the hosts and other guests, right? That said, it’s okay to lurk but if your goal is to network, lurking won’t help.

  • Sometimes you may find yourself joining in late on a chat. If so, it is perfectly acceptable to ask - “what question are we on?” Be it the host or another participant, someone will fill you in.
  • Respect the guidelines set by the hosts. For example, some hosts prefer you don’t share links until near the end of the chat because sending people away from the conversation can be disruptive.
  • It should go without saying - no trolling. Disagreeing with others is of course fine, however rudeness is the quickest way to get shut out.
  • Stay on topic. If you find you and a few other participants are going off topic, by all means continue the conversation but remove the hashtag so you’re not spamming other participants.
  • Speaking of spam - don’t spam other participants with a hard sell on how great you are, your product is, your blog post on topic X is. Just don’t.
  • At the end of the chat, thank your host(s)! And your fellow participants.

So there you have it. My five reasons you should join in on a Twitter chat.

Now spill…what Twitter chats do you participate in? If you don’t currently participate in a Twitter chat…is your interest piqued?

*#TwChat image via Robert Swanwick | Secret sauce image via Crowded Ocean

*****

Mel Gallant (@melgallant) is a communications professional who writes about parenting, the social web and pop culture on her blog Confessions of a Social Media Junkie. When she’s not blowing bubbles and chasing after rainbows with her 2-year old daughter, Melany is either bookworming it or fumbling her way through a knitting project she started three years ago (it’s a tea cozy). As co-founder of Girl Geek Dinners Ottawa, Melany helps to connect women in Ottawa with a shared passion for technology.

Reader Comments (13)

Thanks for the great post Mel. I have to admit I have a hard time getting in to the twitter chats but plan be a part of some soon based on your enthusiasm. I tend to get stuck in the twitter party mindset instead of thinking about them as opportunities to share knowledge!

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLara

I've personally never been a fan of Twitter chats, b/c I find as someone outside the chat all these tweets that are uninteresting to me clog up my stream. At times I leave Twitter (*gasp*) when too many people I know are participating in the same chat. I have been known to lament to my screen/iPhone/anyone within earshot "Twitter is not a chat client!" in frustration and never understood why people didn't just use chat software instead.

However having read this article I can definitely see the upside to Twitter chats, especially for people new to Twitter. I can see how it would be a great way to find new people with common interests to follow, in addition to the obvious sharing of ideas and all that good stuff that comes with chats of any kind :)

Perhaps my real displeasure is with Twitter "parties" which are simply marketing events that draw people hoping to win prizes and not with real conversations about an interesting topic. Thanks for making me reconsider. I'll try to check out one of the chats you recommend.

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaranda

That is exactly how I felt Maranda!

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLara

Hi Maranda,

Yes, Twitter parties can jam up the Twitter stream with spam, I know. *raises hand guiltily*

But Twitter chats are different b/c it's about the learning and the networking versus the prize grab. :)

If you do check one out, let me know what you think! :)

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMel Gallant

Hi Lara, I think you'd love it, especially #socialchat. Lots of differing points of view on social media trends, tools, best practices. :)

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMel Gallant

I personally love participating in twitter chats. As mentioned in the post, relevance is key- finding a twitter chat that is relevant to you might change your mind. I know it did for me. Great opp to share perspectives and knowledge and make new connections along the way. I wrote a post on this yesterday... I think it's important to consider new ways to build relationships and engage- beyond 140 characters.

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeanna White

Share the blog post with us! :)

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLara

Yes, please do share the post! :)

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMel Gallant

If I can stay awake until 9pm on Monday, I'll do that :)

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaranda

Hi Lara and Mel: Here is a link to the blog post about expanding social media communication channels http://storylinepr.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/beyond-140-characters/

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeanna White

Another great Twitter chat is #blogchat on Sunday evenings. They announce a topic beforehand and usually have a host or two who are experienced in that topic. I almost always walk away from it with a few good nuggets of information. It's worth checking out. It moves quickly though, so you definitely need to follow the conversation with something like TweetChat.

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterandrea from the fishbowl

Hi Andrea,

I always forget about #blogchat and end up only tuning in to the last 5 minutes - lol. It's a great chat for sure.

Is TweetChat your go-to client? I go back and forth between TweetChat and TweetGrid. Not sure which is my fav.

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMel Gallant

I always use TweetChat. I haven't been able to figure out TweetGrid! :)

September 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterandrea from the fishbowl

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