When people join Twitter they are looking perhaps to gain new followers, meet new people to chat to, find new suppliers, locate local businesses to theirs, banter with people with similar views, find people with similar interests and to demonstrate their expertise and knowledge. Without any doubt running or taking part in a Twitter Chat should form part of the way of achieving most of these things.
What is a Twitter Chat?
A Twitter Chat is a simple idea. People on Twitter following Twitter updates that all have the same #hashtag in so that you don’t necessarily need to be following anyone involved, although part of the reason you have joined in is to start to follow new people met through the chat. Twitter Chats are usually at a pre-defined time, on a specific topic and the #hashtags are known in advance. It is a virtual world where you can virtually chat to anyone in the world – Twitter chats have no boundaries.
There are two types of Twitter Chat – Those that are more formal and those that are not.
The more formal ones have a moderator who usually asks a few questions to get the banter going. Participants join in and answer those questions and banter with other participants all by making sure that all their tweets contain the pre-defined #hashtag for the Twitter Chat. The informal Twitter Chats are simply that, people joining in at a pre-defined time without any agenda. Perhaps some have business issues, some want to chat about their week, let off steam, have a laugh, have some fun, meet new people etc.
Why run a Twitter Chat?
One of the best things about Twitter is that it allows you to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge to others. One way you can do this is to run a Twitter Chat. You are now effectively in charge in a loose way. You invite questions on your area of knowledge and you answer them. Because everyone is following the Twitter Chat with the predefined #hashtag you are now appealing yourself to a much wider audience. Over time you will become more known, memorable, gain more followers, and possibly become a go to guy or gal for that issue. You are also bound to create advocates for you and your business if you do a good job.
How do I start a Twitter Chat?
This is easy. Firstly do some research on the #hashtag. Although hashtags cannot be owned by anyone like a domain name, you don’t want to have the #hashtag of another Twitter Chat as confusion will reign. Once you have decided on the #hashtag, you need to decide a time and date. Then you need to start telling people. Simple as that.
How do I find a Twitter Chat to join in?
One of the issues with Twitter is that there is no central place that gives times, dates, topics and the #hashtags of the Twitter Chats. So it can be tricky to find ones that you want to take part in. However a new service has just started to help with this. @theChatDiary is a Twitter account that finds loads of great Twitter Chats. Simply follow @theChatDiary and it will help you to discover all the Twitter Chats going on and remind you of the times. It will also tell you the #hashtag to follow and a brief synopsis of what the chat is about.
Do I need any tools to take part in a Twitter Chat?
Twitter Chats are in real time. Because of that the tweets can sometimes be flying around pretty quick and it can all get a bit messy. I would suggest checking out Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, you can also try OneQube who offer a free Twitter Chat room with tons of extra facilities which will help you. All you do is create a search on the #hashtag being used and have a column that displays those results. You can then follow along, reply to others, write your own tweets, find new people to follow and so on. Make sure though that all tweets you send have the pre-defined #hashtag and above all remember to have fun.
Remember to follow The Chat Diary for Twitter Chat alerts and reminders.
Mark Shaw is a Twitter Consultant, speaker and troubleshooter. Founder of @TheChatDiary which helps people to discover new Twitter Chats. Mark has appeared extensively on the radio as a Twitter expert, has authored a book called ‘Twitter Your Business’ and has spoken all over the UK on why every business should be on Twitter.