Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to learn and 'win' on a #Twitterchat

Where can you learn a lot about social media quickly? On a Twitter chat of course. It is surprising how many have yet to discover this collaborative learning technique which, of course, can be about any topic.

Twitter chats use hashtags
A Twitter chat is a great way to learn
A Twitter chat is a way for people on Twitter to discuss a topic at a set time and day and to keep track of everyone’s comments and responses by using a hashtag. The great appeal for many is that each comment must be 140 characters or less.

But if you’ve never been on a Twitter chat before it can be intimidating. Here are some basic tips:

DO:

Complete your Twitter profile: This means that you have a picture of you as your avatar and your bio is filled out including your geographic location. Why does this matter? A Twitter chat is a great opportunity to pick up new followers, but an incomplete profile is equivalent to saying "stay away."

Alert your followers when you’re about to join a Twitter chat and apologize (yes, apologize) because the tweet volume is going to be a lot higher than usual for the next hour.

Use the chat’s specific hashtag:  This is so everyone will see your tweets even if they are not a follower of yours. For example a Twitter chat about Twitter chats might have the hashtag #twtcht.

Understand the format of the chat: Usually there will be a moderator who posts questions that are numbered so that people responding can number their answers. For example: "Q1: What makes a Twitter chat effective? #twtcht" "A1: It brings together expertise from a wide range of people who would otherwise not meet #twtcht".

Only participate in chats about things you care about.  This seems obvious, but you’ll be wasting your time otherwise. See "Resources" below for places to find Twitter chats.

Be a contributor to the discussion by asking thoughtful questions or adding your own insights to others’ comments.

Remember that a Twitter chat is public. Everything you say on the chat can be seen by anyone following the hashtag and this content lives on the Web forever. Think twice before hitting the "tweet" button.

Use tools that simplify participation:

My favorite is Tweet Grid because it is web-based (no downloads needed) and can track up to nine searches that update automatically on the same screen.  There are a variety of layout options and I usually select the "1x2" option so I can track the Twitter chat hashtag and any mentions of me (so I can respond quickly). You use Tweet Grid by entering the hashtag in the box labeled "hashtag" and then every tweet you send (once logged into your Twitter account on Tweet Grid) automatically includes the hashtag. 

Tweetchat is a web-based service that manages the Twitterchat in a single column.  Users sign in with a Twitter account, enter the hashtag they want to tweet to in the box and Tweetchat automatically adds the hashtag to all outgoing tweets (so remember to disable this when the chat is over). Tweetchat also allows you to highlight the moderators – a good way to not miss any of the questions and key comments.

A little less convenient is Tweetdeck, an application now owned by Twitter that must be downloaded to your computer ahead of time. (You will also have to download Adobe Air if you’re not already running it since this is what powers Tweetdeck.) Tweetdeck can be a good Twitter content management system outside of a Twitter chat, but can be useful during a chat as well. Just be sure to update your API settings so that the hashtag updates for your chat are in real time or you’ll miss out on a lot of the conversation.

DON'T

Retweet every post you like, because it clutters up the chat and usually does not add real value to the discussion.

Call out another participant. Twitter chats are places for positive back-and-forth discussions. If you violently disagree with someone this is a public forum and not the place to “get into it.”

Be spammy: Which means don’t push your own agenda with links to your blog or your company’s content. This will be viewed by some as irrelevant content and hurt your social media reputation.

Resources:
  • List of Tweetchats By Day of Week - a long, wiki-like list of chats by topic and day of the week
  • Twubs - a hashtag discovery tool that can show you if a hashtag you plan to use is available
So, are you ready to jump into a Twitter chat? Did I leave out anything you’d like to know? Let me know.

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