Getting Started with TweetChats: the Essentials

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A few weeks back my colleague Liz wrote 3 Steps to Live Tweeting an Event. It made me think of my experience with TweetChats. You’ve probably heard of a TweetChat – but have you participated in one yet?

If so, then you will probably agree that a TweetChat provides an excellent opportunity to discover, connect and engage with the Twitter community around a topic of interest.

They are a great place to ask questions, exchange thoughts and share best practices with other bloggers, brands, enthusiasts, experts and influencers.

They are becoming one of the most effective ways for individuals to brand themselves as authorities and brands to discover their community and reach influencers. Case in point: Mack Collier‘s #BlogChat. ClubMed is sponsoring his chat the month of July!  But if you aren’t prepared for them, you can quickly brand yourself in all the wrong ways.

My first experience left me humbled. I was unprepared and got bulldozed by the hundreds of tweets flying past me at warp speed. Since then, I’ve done my homework, practiced a bit and found some chats that I really enjoy. Here are some lessons learned along the way that may help you out.

What is a TweetChat?

For those of you not familiar with the term, TweetChats are fast-paced 60-minute “Twitter parties” that take place once a week. They are referenced with a #tag and this tag serves as the connector of all participants and content relating to that chat.

Depending on the popularity of the chat, they can be heavily attended and move extremely fast. They may be hosted and moderated by one person, or by a team of people.

Finding a TweetChat

Not sure where to begin? Neither was I. I was invited to my first chat. But to find new chats this is what I do:

  1. Ask someone you follow who you know has the same interests if they know of a chat. The first time I asked for a blogging chat I was referred to Mack Collier’s #BlogChat. It was exactly what I was looking for.
  2. Perform a keyword search on Twitter by experimenting with a #tag or with keywords. Your attention will be drawn to chats that all carry the same #tag and lead you quickly to the organizer. Typing the key words “Tweet Chat” works too!
  3. Check your Twitter stream. At some point you’ll see a mob of tweets whiz by. It’s quite possible if you are following people based on interests that their TweetChat will interest you as well.
  4. Search this TwitterChat Doc on Google. There are 648 chats listed. If you don’t find it here, it doesn’t exist so you’ll need to start your own!

 Getting Started

TweetChats are not to be underestimated and they can easily leave you feeling like a deer caught in the headlights if you’re not well prepared. I speak from personal experience.

Here are a few things I tried that greatly improved my TweetChat experience:

  • Research your chat:  take a few hours to research your host and participants of past chats. For instance, if you are joining the Social CMO’s #MMChat check the host blog for details and look for transcripts from previous chats. Transcripts are a great way to see who participates and what type of sharing takes place (posts, tools, services), traffic volume and how many are participating.
  • Observe a chat: before joining to get familiar with the rhythm and format of the chat. Each chat is different. Some questions are tagged with a Q1, Q2 which makes it easy to respond by referencing the answer with the same format. Some take a more free-form flow. Knowing how the chat rolls in advance will help you prepare.
  • Choose a real-time tool: you can follow a TweetChat from your timeline or your monitoring app, but it’s easy to lose the thread of conversation, so I prefer using a real-time service to get the most out of a chat.
    • TweetChat – A simple web app that makes following and engaging in a TweetChat really easy. You can regulate the speed of the chat, feature or block conversations and you only need to enter the #tag once and all of your posts will be automatically referenced with it. Here’s a nice tutorial by TechSoup on how to get started.
    • Twitterfall – Also a real-time Twitter client offering more or less the same functionality. You have more customization options but for the most part, they function the same. It will be a matter of preference. Here’s a tutorial by the Creative Education Blog on how to get started.
    • TweetDeck or Hootsuite – Your monitoring clients also work well for observing. You can easily set-up a search with the #tag and monitor the tweets during the hour. I like to do this when I can’t participate, but want to have an overview of what is happening during the chat.

Prepare Key Phrases and Statements:

  • Links: although TweetChats are about conversations and not link sharing, there is always a time when you think “I have a great post for that!” Have a tab open with access to your bookmarking service, archives, or even a list or URLs in a text editor that you can quickly copy and paste to post if the occasion arises. Check the policy of the chat first though. Some hosts ask participants to refrain from posting until after the chat.

My tip: favorite the tweets that are interesting during the chat to post a link to after the chat.

  • Tweet crafting: Even if you’re passionate about a subject you may not be able to get your statement out quickly in 140 characters or less. There is a big difference between crafting a message that is not time-critical to crafting one that is.

I’ve found it helpful to check previous chats then try my luck at crafting an answer to a question that I find in 30 seconds or less. I still don’t have it mastered. Let me know how you do.

Participating in a TweetChat

TweetChats aren’t just information exchanges, they’re also networking events so good manners count! Here are a few things I do before joining a TweetChat, even if it isn’t my first time.

The day before:

  • Tweet the organizer to let them know that you’re looking forward to participating. If you’re new, it gives the host time to research newcomers and provide introductions to someone they think may be of interest before or during the chat. If you’re a regular, it’s a nice way to let them know you’re planning to attend. They’ll be happy to hear from you.

Day of, 15 minutes before:

  • sign-in to the client and enter the TweetChat you are attending. You can start monitoring to see who is attending before the chat begins.

5 minutes before:

  • Drop your tweeps a tweet to let them know that you’re headed into a chat and there may be some extra tweets coming their way. It’s always a nice way to introduce your tweeps to a chat they may not be familiar with.
  • Send a tweet letting everyone know that you are there and place the organizer’s @username on it as well. If this is your first time, let them know it’s your first time. Chat communities are really welcoming and you’ll find members who go out of their way to make you feel welcome.
  • If you are just observing the chat and not participating, let the community know that as well, or let them know at the end.
  • If you are using Twitterfall or TweetChat your tag will automatically included. If you decide to use TweetDeck or HootSuite remember to add the #tag each tweet.

During the chat

  • Be mindful of your followers. It’s easy to get excited during a chat and start RT-ing great information, brilliant quotes and tweets of inspiration. Before you do that, remember that your following may not be as amused by the tweets as you are.
  • Have your list ready of links and helper text. If it’s appropriate, send a link if you believe it adds value. Try to steer clear of self promotion. No one likes to feel like they are being sold to.
  • If it is your first chat, don’t feel overwhelmed if you can’t keep up or you only manage to get one tweet out, don’t feel bad. Practice makes perfect and after a few chats you’ll get a feel for it. The most important is to have fun and meet new friends.

After the chat

  • Send a Thank You tweet to the organizer.
  • Follow up with relevant information either to the #chat community in general, or by addressing the person who asked the question. If the information pertains to a Q1, Q2 type format, include the question number.
  • Tweet the transcript of the chat after you receive it. It’s nice to give the organizer and community exposure. Bookmark the URL. The links are great resources for blog posts, research and general information.
  • Create a Paper.li to capture all content shared during and after a #chat and share it with the community. You’d be surprised at how many people share resources on a continuous basis before, during and after chats. A TweetChat Paper.li is also a great way to keep up with content related to a topic for a TweetChat if you can’t attend. Here’s my #BlogChat Weekly.

Now it’s time to jump in and have fun, so go chat! Share your best practices and let me know your favorite chats. And if you happen to participate in #BlogChat, #MMChat or #CXO Chat  – send a tweet my way and say hi!

Main photo: Official GDC on flickr

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6 Responses to “Getting Started with TweetChats: the Essentials”

  1. Mack Collier

    Thank you Kelly for a great and comprehensive post, and the #Blogchat mention as well as Club Med sponsorship!

    To me, the biggest value in Twitter Chats or Tweet Chats is that they are fabulous networking tools! You are connecting with an entire group of people that share your interest in whatever the topic of the chat is! So it’s easy to find people to follow that share your interests! And so many people are wanting to know how to get more followers on Twitter; Probably the best way I have found to get new followers on Twitter is to participate in Twitter chats! I have had people that joined #Blogchat tell me that they got over 200 followers in an HOUR, just from joining in and participating in the ongoing conversation!

    Thanks again for the post, Tweet Chats are VERY valuable!

    Reply
  2. Paper.li

    Mack, thanks for stopping by. I couldn’t agree more and a TweetChat feels more like a fun time with friends than a formal networking event, but with networking advantages.

    I’ve really benefited from chats that I attend although I have to admit that all my favorite Chats are US based and the time difference can make it difficult to attend all of them. I think I may need to start one here in the CET time zone for the European community…

    Thanks for providing bloggers and social media enthusiasts a venue to have fun, meet new friends and exchange ideas and knowledge!

    Reply
  3. Evren Kiefer

    Thanks for this post, Kelly. It escaped my notice until now. I’ll be sure to prepare the first European blog chat better than I have the US ones.

    Reply
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