I have to admit that up until a few months ago, I didn’t use twitter at all. I’ve had an account for years, but I never used it except to post some little quip that I thought was funny once every few weeks or so. Needless to say, that has changed recently. In the past few months I’ve read a lot about using Twitter for business, and I’ve started investing time in using the platform. Now I schedule tweets months in advance, share all of my blog content via twitter, create great connections with others, and I participate in a tonne of twitter chats. In just the past few weeks alone I’ve gained about 400 followers, and the traffic coming into my site from Twitter has grown a lot.
Although there are lots of ways to grow your following and connect with others on Twitter, one of the best ways I’ve encountered is Twitter Chats. Not only are they great ways to prompt tweets (if you need ideas of what kind of things to write) but they create a great sense of community where you can build connections and authority in your niche. The thought of joining a twitter chat used to be daunting to me (especially when I didn’t really know how to use twitter) but now I jump right into all of them, and I love them.
What is a Twitter chat?
Well, first of all we need to establish what a twitter chat is. Twitter chats are conversations that go on surrounding one hashtag. People use the hashtag to connect and talk to each other about a certain topic. In most cases, twitter chats are scheduled for a certain day and time (usually an hour long) and happen every week. The hosts of the twitter chat tweet out questions, and participants respond to them. Though there are different forms, many hosts tweet questions with Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. at the beginning, and participants answer with A1, A2, A3, etc.
It’s not just questions and answers though. A lot of the time participants respond to each others answers, and start whole other conversations based on one tweet. It’s a lot to keep up with, and it’s definitely hard to keep up with, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it will be easy to join the chat.
How do Twitter Chats work?
The one thing that ties everything in a Twitter chat together is the hashtag. If you answer a question or reply to someone’s tweet without adding the relevant hashtag, no one else in the conversation will see your answer or know that you’re even there. The hashtag keeps everything related to the conversation together.
There aren’t really any set rules to twitter chats. Well – the only rule might be not to hijack a hashtag. If you’re using the hashtag of a twitter chat, it’s only polite to be talking about the chat topic. If you’re using the hashtag to try and promote your business or steal attention away from the topic at hand, others will likely get angry with you.
Why should I chat?
1. Build connections – You build connections with other bloggers or entrepreneurs that are in your industry and niche. This is never a bad thing!
2. Build community – Twitter chats are communities. Once you participate for many weeks, other participants expect you to be there, and you become a part of a strong community that support each other.
3. Establish authority – Answering questions in and around your niche allows you to establish yourself as an authority in your niche. People will comment and ask you questions based on your answers, and you have the chance to prove what you know about your industry.
4. Grow followers – The most basic advantage of participating in Twitter chats is that your followers will grow. People will start following you as you interact with them through chats, and others will start following you as they see you tweeting actively.
5. Learn – No matter what the topic of the Twitter chat is, I learn something new every week. I have my to do list open in another Wunderlist window and during every Twitter chat I add tonnes of stuff to it that I’ve just learned will improve my blog and business.
How do I chat?
If you want to try a Twitter chat for the first time but you’re not sure where to start, all you need to do is find a chat, and log on to Twitter at the scheduled chat time. The host will likely tweet something at the beginning of that chat asking everyone to introduce themselves, so do that (don’t forget the hashtag) and then jump right in!
There are lots of services out there that can help you see different feeds at once, which will make it a lot easier to keep up with a Twitter chat. I like to use Tweetdeck. It’s free and allows you to create numerous different feeds and view them all beside each other. You can filter what kinds of tweets, replies, favourites, etc you are seeing in each feed, and cater them to exactly what you need for each chat. They also update really frequently so it makes it possible to stay right up to date with everything that’s going on.
Below is my tweetdeck dashboard for the Blog Elevated twitter chat. I think usually three feeds is enough to get a handle on any twitter chat. You create a feed by searching for it in the toolbar on the left, and then clicking ‘add column’. The feeds I like to use are:
1. Notifications – You need a feed for your own notifications so that when people interact with you, you can interact back. That’s the whole point of a chat after all. I like to remove favourites from my notifications feed during a twitter chat because they aren’t something I can really reply to or interact with. So all I see are when people retweet me, so I can favourite or thank them, and when people reply to me, so I can chat with them further.
2. Hashtag – Of course, the most important feed you need is the hashtag. This will show you every tweet or reply that contains the chat hashtag. Keep an eye on this feed so you can reply to other people’s answers and interact with them.
3. Host – This feed is vital too because you need to see the questions as they are tweeted by the host. I like to see all the things the host is tweeting, because they are usually all important, but if you really want to get fancy you can filter by keywords like Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. so all you see is the original questions. This means you can make sure to answer all the questions as they are posed.
Once you’ve got the hang of Tweetdeck and Twitter chats and you know how to navigate your way around, then you can start thinking about how to improve your chatting skills. There are always ways to improve your chat technique and game, but below are a few that I like to (try) to practice to improve.
1. Don’t just answer questions – If the chat is about inspiring workspaces and the question is Q1: What colour is your desk? #Chat you should NOT reply
A1: White. #Chat
You’ve got 140 characters and you should make use of all of them! If you have room, include some of the question in your answer so people have some context.
A1: My desk is white. #Chat
is a little better, but still not great. Tweet a full sentence and then a little more info that people might actually want to retweet or favourite. Something like
A1: My desk is white with turquoise accents. Clean lines & natural light always make me feel more inspired & productive when blogging #Chat
2. Reply to other tweets – Don’t just reply and say Agreed! or Yes!. It’s a conversation! Comment on what they’re saying in a way that will spur an even further conversation. Yo want to talk to people during the chats, but it’s even better if you can gain followers that are going to continue to chat with you after the hour is over.
3. Follow people – You don’t have to follow everyone that is participating in the chat, but follow people who you interact with or are inspired by. If people are coming to the same chats you are, they are likely in the same niche or industry as you, so connecting with them can only be a good thing. And hopefully they’ll follow you back.
4. Shortcuts – Whether you’re in Tweetdeck or right in Twitter, hitting ‘N’ starts a new tweet. I also like to copy the hashtag I’ve using so that I can paste it into every tweet rather than having to retype it every time.
Great Blogging Twitter Chats
There are TONNES of great twitter chats out there. Some are broader and just about blogging, while some are more specialized like beauty bloggers. All you need to do is Google or explore on Twitter to find chats that are relevant for you. Here are some of my favourites. They are listed in the Toronto Eastern Time Zone (UTC-05:00) which I live in. Time zones really confuse me and I’ve missed many chats because of them, so make sure you convert properly!
Twitter chats are so hot right now. Everyone and their mother is doing them, and they are such a great way to grow your audience and your brand. If you’re not sure whether they’re right for you – start off observing. Open up these feeds in Tweetdeck or Twitter and don’t tweet, just observe from the outside (no one will even know you’re there). But, I can guarantee you that if you do that, you’ll be inspired, and won’t want to wait to jump in next week.
Are you a Twitter chat master or just starting out?