April 30, 2015 | Sarah Danks


Are you on Twitter?

And by “on” I mean, engaged. Active. Like, you actually have an image of yourself (not a cartoon egg) for your avatar, you’ve written an informative bio, and you Tweet daily?

All systems go? Great. Well, now it’s time to chat. As in, Twitter chat!

If you’re on Twitter for the purpose of networking, building/maintaining your brand, PR, or any other marketing-related type of purpose, then you need to get involved in Twitter chats.

Why, you ask? Well, simply because participating in relevant Twitter chats is one of the easiest, quickest, most effective ways to network with like-minded Tweeple.

So what’s a Twitter chat?

You might be wondering, “What IS a Twitter chat, anyway? It’s not just a bunch of people sitting around gossiping with a 140-character limit…

…is it???

Depending on the chats you decide to do, probably not. Especially when they’re marketing chats. See, Twitter chats are grouped around a theme — in fact, those who start the chats are often people/companies within an industry. That’s why most often any one chat “community” is focused around a niched market, such as search marketing (e.g., #semrushchat, hosted by SEMrush).

All chats are denoted by a specific hashtag (# + word). Within that hashtag, chats focused on specific themes occur at varying intervals (most often chats are weekly, but some don’t occur as frequently). In the chat I just mentioned, one week’s theme was “social media tips.”

Every chat I’ve ever been part of centers around a question-and-answer format. So within a chat’s particular topic, the moderator (or host) will prepare a list of questions. Most chats last an hour, so depending on how many participants there are, how much interaction there is, etc., there’ll be anywhere from 5-15 questions (give or take).

During a chat, you can answer questions, comment on other peoples’ answers, and even engage in side conversations (random chatting, if you will). Every Tweet you send out needs to include that chat’s hashtag in order to be viewed by all the chatters.

There are so many different Twitter chats that exist — and more being started each week — so finding topics that interest you, or that are relevant to your industry, should be a piece of cake.

How do I start chatting on Twitter?

If you’ve never been involved in a chat, don’t fret. Jumping in and getting your feet wet is the easiest way! But, wait. Before you do that, there are a few things you should know.

Just follow these quick tips of what to do pre-chat:

1) Find chats that interest you.

First of all, you have to find a relevant chat. There are many different ways to learn about/find Twitter chats:

  • See them being used by Tweeple you already follow. If you see some of the people you follow using a certain hashtag, wander over to the chat and check it out. Or, if you don’t have time, you can always send a message to someone using it to ask what it’s about. Usually people are VERY passionate about chats and they’ll tell you all about it! (And invite you to join in.)
  • Check out Chat Salad
  • Check out Twubs
  • Google “list of Twitter chats” — you’ll come up with a plethora of results.

Once you’ve done a bit of research about chats that sound interesting, compile them into a list (trust me, if you’re going to try to remember all of them — and their data — right off the top of your head it probably won’t work.)

2) Know the basics of the chat.

So you’ve got a list of some compelling chats you want to engage in…but before you wade in, know some of this pertinent info:

  • Hashtag
  • Day of week (or whatever frequency the chat occurs)
  • Time (in your own time zone — this is a biggie, folks)
  • Moderator(s) and/or any special guest(s)
  • Topic
  • Questions (if possible). Many chat moderators will compile a list of questions beforehand and give access to it.

It happens, but especially in the very fast-paced chats, no one really likes a ton of people coming into the chat asking, “What’s this chat about, anyway?” Know what’s up before you get there.

3) Be familiar with your platform BEFORE the chat begins.

Sure, you probably use Twitter proper or any number of other venues for your normal Tweets…

…but this is a Twitter chat, and they move quickly. You’re going to need to use a platform that allows you to keep up, see notifications, respond to mentions, etc., and all within a short timeframe.

I’d suggest using a platform other than Twitter. Until somewhat recently I used it for chats and while it was alright for slower chats, it didn’t allow me to keep up with busy chats. Here are a few other options for you to try:

  • Hootsuite
  • Tweetdeck
  • Nurph
  • TweetChat

There are many more out there — these are just the “main few” I constantly hear of. Some people say they only use Hootsuite for chats; others swear by Nurph.

I personally prefer Twitter proper over either of those but have since become a fan of Tweetdeck. Once you get used to the rapid/real-time scrolling, you can easily see notifications, all Tweets happening on the hashtag, favorites, AND your normal “home” feed right on one screen.

twitter chat tweetdeck

If you decide to use Twitter or Tweetdeck, just remember to copy the hashtag before the chat so you have it saved. Then all you have to do is control+paste it into your Tweets throughout the chat.

However, the great thing about Nurph is that it preloads the hashtag of the chat you’re on into each Tweet you write so you spend less time worrying about that.

Whichever platform you choose all boils down to personal preference. Be sure to try out more than one platform to know which one works best for you.

4) Participate!

Even if it’s your very first chat, jump on in! As I mentioned previously, Twitter chats are mostly a Q&A format. Oftentimes the first few minutes before a chat are dedicated to introductions and people checking in.

Don’t be shy — say hello!

Whenever the host/moderator asks a question, s/he’ll do it with this format: “Q1. Question goes here. #chat hashtag”. Here’s an example:

twitter chat moderator question format

So, when you see a question asked, go ahead and throw an answer out there with this format in your Tweet: “A1 Text #chat hashtag”. Like this:

twitter chats how to answer question

But, don’t just answer the chat questions (although that’s important, too). Be social! It IS social media, after all. It’s perfectly fine to wander off into tangential talk. I think once during a big marketing chat I ended up in a side conversation about tattoos for half an hour.

That being said, don’t just chit-chat with people (using the chat hashtag) and NOT answer the questions. Be involved with the actual chat going on; not just the quips on the side!

Also, when people mention you during the chat, be sure to respond in a timely fashion (i.e., don’t wait until 2 hours later…although if that’s the best you can do, better late than never).

5) Mention others in the chat.

Even during your first chat, someone’s very likely to either retweet (RT) an answer of yours or mention you/reply to you. If this happens, be sure to reply back — they’ve started a conversation with you; engage with them!

Also, if you see an answer that you really like, share the love! RT the original Tweet, or at least reply to the person and acknowledge their contribution.

Also, if you know questions/theme beforehand, you can think about mentioning relevant brands/people/etc.

E.g. in a recent chat about conversion rate optimization (CRO), I knew I’d be calling out our main go-to brands for learning/reference/etc. so I had them in mind (and knew their handles).

twitter chat mention others

If there are a lot of handles you know you’d like to mention, copy/paste them into a notepad to have handy (but don’t forget after copying+pasting handles you’ll have to re-copy your chat hashtag if you’re not using Nurph!).

6) Use chats as a way to find/engage with key players.

Pay attention to who’s answering the questions — if you see a lot of good answers from a handle (or more than one), engage with them. Keep them in mind to check them out after the chat. Odds are they’re worth following — and a good networking opportunity.

twitter chat tweet key players

It’s not about calling out brands/people to get them to RT you, thank you, etc. (although that’s nice); it’s more about giving credit where it’s due. I.e., if you’ve never missed a Whiteboard Friday and something along those lines comes up in a chat, throw a shout-out to @Moz and/or @randfish.

7) If you’re not normally a chatter, alert your followers.

Oftentimes before a Twitter chat people will post an initial forewarning Tweet: “hey, guys, the feed’s gonna get crazy for the next hour because of #(insert name of chat here).” Some people swear by this, saying it’s polite to let your followers know about the flurry of Tweets to come…

…others just know their followers will figure it out because of the flurry of Tweets 🙂 Either way, it’s a nice gesture.

twitter chats forewarning tweet

We personally don’t Tweet out warnings — many times because one chat will end right when the next begins, but also because we’ve been doing it long enough we know our followers “get it;” it’s something we do frequently so it’s not a shock to see our feed blow up.

If you’re not normally a prolific Tweeter and/or have never been in a chat, I’d suggest throwing a Tweet out before you start chatting. Once you get the hang of it and get some regular chats, your followers will realize it’s chat time, but initially I’d warn them.

8) Don’t schedule Tweets during chats.

This one should go without saying, but if you’re new to Twitter chats it needs to be said: don’t schedule any automated Tweets during any time you’ll be chatting. Why not?

First and foremost: you’re going to be drastically increasing the number of Tweets already; don’t bombard your followers with more. Depending on how active you are in the chat — and how many other people are involved with which to engage — you could be pumping out a couple hundred Tweets in an hour.

Secondly, because you’ll be inundating your Twitter feed with chat Tweets, people who aren’t involved in the chat are much less likely to pay attention to what you’re Tweeting.

Of course, your followers won’t be able to see replies/mentions of other followers you Tweet out unless they also follow those mentioned, or unless you’re putting “.” in front of all your Tweets that begin with someone’s handle.

twitter chat period before handle

There’s also the possibility that many of your followers will already be on the chat with you — when you find good chats it’s mostly because it’s relevant to what you like/do/etc. and that’s pretty much what a following is, right?

Anyway, suffice it to say anything you Tweet out during a chat that’s not chat-related is likely to get lost in the shuffle.

9) Don’t spam the chat!

This might seem like a no-brainer, but believe me, it happens. Some noobs get out there and are so gung-ho about networking they feel the need to toss out their sales pitch. During Twitter chats…

…frequently.

twitter chat noob twitter chat noob 2

And, let me tell you: if you’re only entering into a chat (or using the chat hashtag) to promote yourself, you’re likely to get this type of response:

twitter chat response to noob

twitter chat responses to noob

My advice: don’t hijack a Twitter chat thinking you’ll gain lots of new followers, networkers, friends or alliances. You’re more than likely to ostracize yourself instead.

Time to chat!

So there you go — your quick-and-dirty survival guide to Twitter chats. What I’ve listed here are what I consider the main points to keep in mind before getting involved — there are nuances but you get the gist.

So, find some good chats, jump in and try ’em out. That’s what we did. In fact, here’s a list of our favorite Twitter marketing chats

…and who knows? Maybe we’ll see you out there 🙂

 


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