Each week I participate in multiple Twitter chats –#BlogChat, #Speakchat, #Edchat, and #LeadershipChat; every group offering something unique. Although the chats them­selves are quite stim­u­lat­ing, the more impor­tant thing to me has been the con­nec­tions and rela­tion­ships that have devel­oped as a result of my par­tic­i­pa­tion. These rela­tion­ships dis­play what is best about social media, new technologies and what can happen when like minded peo­ple who share com­mon pas­sions are able to work together regard­less of time and prox­im­ity.

Twitter chats can be invaluable to your social media success. There are literally dozens of scheduled chats that take place every week; chats on everything from strategy to design. There is something for everyone, and the benefits are immense.

In  just one chat session, you could:

  • learn – expanding your knowledge, thinking, and influence
  • connect or reconnect future clients or colleagues
  • be found by new audiences
  • display your expertise
  • position your value in the marketplace
  • have the opportunity to help someone
  • become a better question-asker
  • discover a passion or develop a new interest
  • grow the reach of your network
  • expose yourself to new points of view and perspectives
  • make someone’s day
  • HAVE FUN!!!!!

That being said, the #Twitter Chat con­ver­sa­tions can be quite over­whelm­ing; espe­cially at first. The Twit­ter plat­form is an inter­est­ing place to hold any con­ver­sa­tion because of it’s innate con­straints, it is built for speed and econ­omy. When I first started par­tic­i­pat­ing in #Twitter chats I com­pared the expe­ri­ence to being in an auditorium with passionate voices shout­ing out there opin­ions about a topic in warp speed. Now, I am able to sort the signals from the noise and hear indi­vid­u­als that I wish to engage with at a deeper levels.

Here are my tips for mak­ing Twitter Chats a more reward­ing expe­ri­ence for you and your organization:

1.  Pick a Client Pro­gram that works for you.

I per­son­ally use TweetChat and Chattagged. Oth­ers I know pre­fer Tweet­deck and Tweet­grid (here is a great tuto­r­ial) with columns set up to fol­low the hash­tag and cer­tain peo­ple. Use what­ever medium works for you, the impor­tant thing is that it refreshes fre­quently to keep up with the conversation. There are Lots of Chat Clients to choose from.

2.  Do Your Homework:

Preparation Matters. All chats are open, but jumping in cold turkey may not be the best plan. A little preparation goes a long way. Do a little research on the Twitter chat you’re joining before you show up. Some chats have rules for how users are supposed to participate; for example, you may need to send in questions ahead of time. You want to be aware of the rules beforehand so that you’re able to participate. You should also be familiar with whoever is hosting the chat and get an idea for what they’re most skilled in and what they’ll be bringing to the table.

3.  Honor the Hashtag:

Honoring the hashtag is the number one rule in a Twitter chats. It helps participants stay connected in the conversation. The hash symbol (“#”) helps keep the participants in the chat on track, but also makes it easy for anyone passionate about that topic to identify the chat, read the archives, and participate in future chats. The chat archives are invaluable after the chat and would not be possible without the commitment to the #hashtag from all participants.

4.  Actively and Strategically Participate:

  • Find and Follow The Moderators: Pay atten­tion to the #hash­tag before the con­ver­sa­tion starts to learn who the mod­er­a­tors are. Fol­low the mod­er­a­tors by cre­at­ing a search for them. The mod­er­a­tors do a great job of keep­ing the con­ver­sa­tion mov­ing by ask­ing ques­tions. When they ask a ques­tion reply directly to them with an answer.
  • Pick a Few People: Real­ize that you are not going to be able to inter­act with every­one in the “chat-torium.” Fol­low the con­ver­sa­tion an pick a few folks that you find par­tic­u­larly inter­est­ing and respond to them. If the per­son who sent the orig­i­nal tweet replies to your reply you have started a con­ver­sa­tion. Like­wise if some­one replies to one of your tweets, reply back to them to con­tinue the conversation.
  • Share links conservatively: Links are great, but the speed is of the essence dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion itself and links slow the con­ver­sa­tion down. If you take the time to find a link and post it you will miss some­thing, if you click on a link dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion you are miss­ing some­thing. Save your links until after the con­ver­sa­tion is over.

5.  Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up:

After the chat ends, follow the users you enjoyed interacting with and learned from. This helps keep the conversation going and strengthens your ties with those contacts. You may also want to e-mail or send a message to the hosts of the chat to thank them for putting it together or let them know you found it valuable. Twitter chats are a great networking tool, so you should use them as such. The same way you’d follow up after an in-person networking event, you should follow up here as well.

During the chat, you may want to star or mark the tweets from people whom you want to connect with later. It is easy to forget with tweets coming at you in light speed.  After the chat, follow them, send an @username reply, or send them a polite (not spammy DM with no links). Also add them to a Twitter List of people you’ve interacted with or to a list by the main topic they tweet about.

So I ask once again, “Is Twitter Chat a part of your social media strategy?”

If not, how can I help it to be?

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About Angela Maiers

Angela Maiers

Angela is an active blogger, social media evangelist , and passionate advocate for bridging the gap between business and education. She is a recognized educational leader, trainer, and author. She is the owner and Chief Learning Officer at Maiers Educational Services, a company emphasizing the creative use of technology and social media to advance learning; in and out of the classroom.

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