Mastering the Art of the Tweet Chat

If you’re using Twitter as a social networking tool for your business, you’ve undoubtedly seen promotions for “tweet chats,” or perhaps you’ve seen tweets from someone you follow who participates in these virtual gatherings. If you’re curious about tweet chats, but aren’t sure exactly how they work, read on.

It’s More Than a Cocktail Part

If Twitter is a cocktail party, a Twitter chat is a business networking lunch. Tweet chats are conversations about specific topics in specific niches, and there are tweet chats on hundreds (probably thousands) of topics. The chat organizer determines the schedule, selects the specific topic for the week and often brings in experts to weigh in and answer questions.

More than a cocktail party full of casual small talk, these chats are informative, educational and provide a common focus for easy networking.

As an example, I often participate in #getrealchat, hosted by @pammktgnut. This chat is based on based on conversations about how social media can build real relationships. Last week, the topic of the chat was Kred, a soon-to-be-launched social influence measurement tool. During the chat, Pam asked questions of @AndrewGrill, the CEO of PeopleBrowsr (the company that developed Kred). Andrew responded to questions from both Pam and chat participants, who discussed the topic, the questions, Andrew’s answers and the implications of this new service on social media marketing.

Sounds like a pretty noisy business networking lunch, doesn’t it?

The truth is, tweet chats can be incredibly busy and a bit intimidating at first. But they are also great sources of information, insight and new connections. If you’ve never participated in a tweet chat, I highly recommend reading these tips and diving in!

10 Tips for Mastering Tweet Chats

1. The first step is to find out when the chats you are interested in are being held. Ask your Twitter followers or check out this regularly updated Google Docs spreadsheet. (http://bit.ly/ulXFfJ)

2. Chats move fast, so make sure you’re using a platform that can keep up. If you use Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, SproutSocial or some other aggregator to manage your social media accounts, there may be a lag in retrieval times. My favorite chat tool is Tweetchat.com, which updates every 5 seconds and automatically puts the chat hashtag in anything you type.

3. Which brings us to the importance of using the hashtag. In order to participate in the chat, you MUST include the hashtag in every tweet. The hashtag (#getrealchat, for example) is what signifies that you are “in the room.” Tweets without a hashtag may not get seen by the people you wish to communicate with until after the chat is over, if at all.

4. If you don’t tweet often, or you are worried about creating a lot of noise on your Twitter stream, warn your followers. A simple “I’ll be participating in #getrealchat at 9 pm, so please excuse the flood of tweets. Better yet, join me!” is quite common.

5. When the time comes for the chat to start, introduce yourself to other participants. If it is your first chat, say so! The Twitter community is extremely welcoming, and it is a great way to get conversations started.

6. If you don’t already know the topic of the chat, ask! Think about the kinds of questions you may have, and what you want to learn from the chat. If/when your question is answered during the chat, FavStar, flag or retweet it, so you can reference it later if necessary.

7. Pay attention to the host. The host will ask questions, retweet important bits of information and keep the pace of the chat moving smoothly.

8. If somebody says something during that chat that you think would be valuable to your Twitter followers, retweet it. It’s a great way to spread knowledge and encourage others to participate in the future.

9. Comment on answers/response/comments from other participants. There are a lot of “So true!” and “Great point.” tweets during chats. These kinds of comments may seem silly, but nobody wants to feel like they are talking to themselves, and by acknowledging others’ comments, you are showing that you value the contributions of those participating.

10. Say thank you. When the chat is wrapping up, be sure to thank the host, the guest expert if there was one, and those with whom you’ve had conversations during the chat. Courtesy goes a long way, and I’m much more likely to remember and strike up future conversations with those who have made me smile.

ONE MORE THOUGHT: Don’t worry if you can’t keep up, don’t actively participate as much as you would like or forget a hashtag here & there during your first few chats. We’ve all been there. It takes a little practice to get the hang of it, so keep participating. It’s well worth it!

Hope to see you in a Twitter chat soon!

About The Author:

Melissa Reyes is a mom,  Twitter addict, full-time social media manager and the owner of Social Amateur, a consulting company focused on helping small businesses navigate the world of social media marketing. You can find her on LinkedInTwitter andFacebook.

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