Chatting on Twitter = Fun!
Even though I’ve been on Twitter since 2008 – a fact I double-checked by going to TW Birthday – it wasn’t until the fall of 2011 that I began participating in Twitter chats. Up until then, I was really resistant to the idea of using Twitter for chat. I don’t even think I knew they were going on, actually, but I finally took the plunge and discovered that chatting on Twitter is really fun!
If I hadn’t joined the weekly #commenthour Twitter chat, for instance, I wouldn’t have met the lovely @MDragonwillow, the inspiring @riverand or the ever-so-knowledgable @cirquedumot on Twitter. Morgan (a.k.a. @MDragonwillow) often meets me on Twitter at the crack of dawn to work on our writing projects. Even though we’re in different time zones and have yet to meet in person, she’s a wonderful friend and a fabulous writing partner!
What the heck is a Twitter chat, anyway?
Perhaps you are wondering what a Twitter chat is. Here’s the deal: people gather on Twitter at a pre-determined time on a certain day of the week and tweet about a topic they enjoy, such as travel, writing, Texas, steam engines, thimbles, spiny lobsters – whatever! There really is no limit to the subject matter.
I found out about the first Twitter chat I participated in simply by noticing that my stream suddenly exploded with a bunch of tweets that all ended with the hashtag, #ttot. What’s a hashtag, you ask? Well, since the pound sign is also called a hash by those who write computer code, putting # in front of a word is a way to let others find your tweets on a certain subject.
Here’s an example: When I’m curious about the weather here in Texas, I simply search for #txwx on Twitter and up pops the most recent forecasts. In the case of #ttot, I learned that it stands for, “travel talk on Twitter.” Since I do a lot of travel writing, this piqued my interest and I soon joined one of their chats.
How do I join a Twitter chat?
Once you find out that, say, there is a chat at 7 p.m. your time on a subject you are interested in, you need to log into Twitter at that time. Actually, I recommend showing up at least five minutes before the chat is scheduled to begin, because – just as in real life – it’s fun to mix and mingle and see who is around before the meeting is called to order.
The first few times I joined a Twitter chat, I simply tweeted from my twitter profile page. Wow – was it ever hard to keep up! As tweets flew by at a crazy pace, I just knew I was missing out on much of the conversation. I marveled at the other people who seemed to be able to keep up with it all. How were they doing it? I finally fired off an exasperated tweet along these lines, and was quickly pointed to several different helpful Twitter applications such as Tweet Chat, Hoot Suite and Tweetgrid. There are a lot of options out there, and you may have to experiment a little to find out which one works best for you.
These days, I use Tweetgrid for Twitter chats. Your mileage may differ, but here’s why Tweetgrid works great for me:
1. There’s no software to download. I use several different computers throughout the day, so it’s nice to just log into Tweetgrid.com from wherever I am.
2. You choose the format that is best for you. I love the new format with five columns side by side. This lets me follow five different topics and/or people at the same time.
3. It’s easy to use. The learning curve for using Tweetgrid is not steep at all. I love that!
What should I put in my Tweetgrid columns?
Here’s what I do when I participate in a Twitter chat. I’m sure it’s not a perfect system, but it works for me. If you have a different strategy, please share it with us by leaving a comment. I’m always looking for new social media tips.
As I mentioned earlier, I like to have five columns up in Tweetgrid. Here is what I put in each column:
1. My Twitter name. I put, “mentalmosaic,” (minus the quotes) in the first column. I don’t put an @ sign in front of it.
2. In the next column, I put the name of the Twitter chat. For example, on Thursday nights from 8-9pm CST, I put, “StoryDam,” (again minus the quotes) in the next column. I don’t put an @ sign or a # in front of the word, “StoryDam,” either. This way Tweetgrid shows me everything people say to #StoryDam chat as well as all the tweets that are coming from @StoryDam, too.
3. The next column is for keeping up with specific people on Twitter. If I start getting chatty with @riverand, for instance, I type, “@riverand” into this column so that I don’t miss any of her replies.
4. The next column is for Questions and Answers. I’ll explain more about the Q&A format of Twitter chats, but basically, I use this column to search for things such as, ” storydam Q3,” if I notice people replying to the third question of the night, but I missed that particular question.
5. The last column is my wildcard. Sometimes I leave this column empty, but sometimes I use it. It’s just nice to have an empty column ready for something you didn’t think of in advance.
How to format your replies to questions on Twitter chats
Generally, during a Twitter chat session, the person leading the conversation will start tweeting questions out every ten minutes or so. These questions are usually formatted something like:
Q1 Why do you like chatting on Twitter? #StoryDam
As you can see, the first question is labeled, “Q1,” and it ends with the name of the particular chat group. In my example, I used the online writing group Story Dam, which hosts a chat on Twitter each Thursday night from 8-9pm CST using the hashtag #StoryDam to discuss topics of interest to writers.
When you post a reply to the question labeled Q1, you should format it like this:
A1 Because chatting on Twitter is fun! #StoryDam.
If you are using Tweetgrid, you can easily set it up to automatically end each of your tweets with the hashtag, “#StoryDam,” so that you don’t have to keep adding that during the chat.
What are your tips for chatting on Twitter?
That’s all there is to it, folks. At this point, my only advice is to simply lather, rinse and retweet!
As I said before, please share your tips for chatting on Twitter in the comment section below this post. I look forward to learning new tricks from you! :) Also, if you know of any on-going Twitter chats, tell us.