Have you participated in a Twitter chat? Chances are, you've heard of the concept, but may have written it off as one of those peripheral, maybe even time-wasting social media practices performed only by people who are wrapped up in that world. Right? Wrong! Twitter chats – while yes, not for everyone – can be a great place for many brands and professionals looking to demonstrate their expertise, learn a little something from peers, and grow their communities.
Perhaps there is one particular hesitation in your mind that’s keeping you from diving in hashtag first.
What’s the point? Well, tweet chats are full of many different kinds of people, all of which can benefit you, and vice versa. Here are the types of attendees that may show up to a tweet chat party:
Let’s ride out this party metaphor, shall we? The only wrench in the analogy is that you don’t have to get all dolled up to attend. Party in your pajamas, yay! But do make sure you come prepared in order to have a good time and be a good guest.
When you enter a party, you usually greet guests one-on-one. In a Twitter chat, everyone sort of stands on a chair and announces their identities. Ha, can you imagine if we did that IRL?? The first 5-10 minutes of any given chat is usually dedicated to introducing oneself to the whole community. Doing so sets the tone for the whole chat, as it’s a chance for you to humanize yourself and show a little personality. State your name, title, and who you’re representing if you’re tweeting on behalf of a company, but go ahead and add some flavor! I’ve noticed that any little quirky tidbit you can offer usually takes off like wildfire. People are starved for those little flashes of personality, because without them, it can get dry or become a know-it-all fest.
Just as you made a formal introduction, it’s polite to say goodbye and not just slink out after the last question. Thank the host(s) and crowd for their insights and offer some sort of sign-off. Comments like, “Wow, that hour flew by!” are popular (and true), so maybe squeeze in one of those. Tweeting a shout-out that thanks people for their RTs (retweets) has sort of fallen by the wayside, but is still a welcome practice in Twitter conduct and reciprocation. Your sign-off will also serve as a nice book-end on your page, a clear end to your stream of tweets dedicated to the chat’s topic.
Tweet chat participants are professionals, and as such, they’re busy. That’s why when someone drops in and says “Sorry I’m late. Morning’s packed with meetings, but I’ll try to participate as much as I can!”, the response is invariably “Hey, welcome! Better late than never.” If you’re only able to stop in for a few questions, that’s perfectly acceptable. Of course, you’ll reap the most benefits (connections, engagement, etc.) if you stay the whole time, but a late drop-in every now and then won’t kill your Twitter rep.
If you feel like standing in the corner and observing for the first few times, there are a few ways to make sure you don’t become a complete wallflower. For example, support the chat by retweeting the host’s questions. Since the conversation moves so fast, they often get pushed down in the feed. Retweeting the questions is also helpful to your followers by giving them context for the answer you’ll follow up with.
Another way to make your presence known without going out on a limb with your own statements is by responding to others’ opinions and assertions. If you agree, try a “Well said” or, “Agreed.” If you disagree, try something like, “In my experience, ____” or, “Interesting, I usually approach it like this ____.”
There are usually a few people with whom you jive most, which is part of what makes these weekly gatherings so fun. “Good to see you, @tweetchatbuddy (not a real handle), how’s your week going?”. But try to make light touches with different individuals so you’re not overdoing it with any one person and so you make a variety of “friends.”
The host is there to post questions, facilitate discussion, and be available to share his or her expertise. But that doesn’t mean he or she is the only one you can talk to. In other words, simply answering the questions doled out by the host is not your only option. Indulge in side conversations and pose a related question. If there’s a conversation going on among two-three people and you have something to say, jump in! Just remember to use the official hashtag of the tweet chat in each and every one of your tweets.
Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. How do you actually manage a tweet chat? Well, you could participate using Twitter natively, I suppose. But with so many things to monitor during a chat, the Twitter interface can be limiting. Using a platform like TweetDeck or Hootsuite allows you to stay on top of the conversation instead of fumbling around while it whizzes by.
I am going to selfishly explain how to navigate a tweet chat using Hootsuite, because it’s long been my platform of choice!
Under the tab you’re using, create specific streams for the chat so you can monitor your mentions, retweets, your own sent messages, and the conversation as a whole. The most important stream is the latter, which you follow by the tweet chat’s official hashtag that everyone includes in each tweet. Here’s how you add a stream that follows the hashtag:
It’s important to create streams for mentions and retweets so you can stay on top of engagement in a timely manner. If someone responds to one of your comments, it will pop up in the mentions feed, and you can engage in a side conversation. This allows you to delve a little deeper into the subject matter and build relationships with others; plus, other tweet chatters can see your convo and see how smart you are. Kidding, but really, it is a good showcase for your knowledge and point of view to engage in those side conversations.
Another type of stream that may be helpful to you is to create streams for the questions and answers. You would do this by creating search streams for the official chat hashtag (we participate in #seochat so we’ll use that as an example) and the abbreviation for the question or answer. Populate these types of search streams with verbiage like:
#seochat and Q1 or Q2 or Q3 or Q4 or Q5 or Q6 or Q7 or Q8
This will fill the stream with only the questions, so you can easily keep up with what’s being asked. Do the same with A1, A2, etc. if you want to filter the answers.
Making little adjustments like setting your tab’s auto refresh options to refresh “every 2 minutes” will make a big difference when you’re in the chat and super focused on your answers. You’ll find this option in the upper left hand corner of each tab. For even more tips on the nitty gritty, check out this recent article from Hootsuite.