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Top Tips for Chatting on Twitter

Antique doll for sale in Decatur, TX (photo by Tui Snider)
Antique doll for sale in Decatur, TX (photo by Tui Snider)

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 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.

Tui Snider
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Published inTravel Photo Essays


  1. […] Continue hosting #StoryDam chat from 8-9pm CST on Twitter each Thursday evening.  Even when I think I’m too tired to pull it off, this writing chat always turns out to be a lot of fun. If you’re a writer, please join us. It’s a fun, friendly group and it always leaves me smiling and inspired. If you’re not sure how to participate in a Twitter chat, check out my post, Top Tips for Chatting on Twitter. […]

  2. Finally sorted this out – I’ve gone with Hootsuite so look forward to joining a chat soon!

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Sarah,

      I’m excited that you are taking the #ROW80 plunge! It’s a great group of writers. You’ll get a lot out of it!

      I’ve not tried Hootsuite… Well, I tried it on my netbook, but it’s an older model and didn’t have enough RAM. Glad you’re getting into the swing of chatting on Twitter.


  3. Great post! For anyone who hasn’t had any experience with Twitter chats, this is a good way for them to get an idea of what it’s like. And you explained it with a good dose of humour, too, which is great!

    – Murphy reporting from #StoryDam ;)

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi LM Murphy,

      Thank you!

      Chatting on Twitter can be overwhelming if you don’t have a strategy. It’s a lot of fun once you can keep up with all the chatter.

      Speaking of, I’ll see you at the next #StoryDam chat. :)

      Thanks for swinging by and commenting. :)


  4. Thanks for including me. I am also inspired by your dedication to the craft! I have to try tweet grid, but I am glad for the tutorial. It looks like a great way to stay engaged especially in large chats.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Susan,

      I’m always learning so much about social media from you (i.e. bufferapp!) that I’m happy to finally return the favor. I think you’ll really enjoy Tweetgrid if you take it for a spin sometime.


  5. Tui, awesome rundown of the best Twitter has to offer. I think everyone who starts out on twitter kind of jumps in with a vague idea of what its potential is. However, when you finally stumble on a chat that fits your need it is as if the veil has been lifted! So far I can count four different populations: bloggers, teachers, writers and readers that are finding chats to be a source of constant collaboration and inspiration. It is definitely fast moving and slightly overwhelming at first introduction, but, once you find your stride, Twitter Chats easily outrank other Social Media “responsibilities” when it comes down to divvying up my online time.

    By the way, I hope you know that you and Morgan, my Morning Memoir Mamas, are more inspiring than anyone! Your dedication is indefatigable!


    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic


      I know what you mean about the veil being lifted on Twitter!

      My Twitter account was gathering dust bunnies until I discovered great Twitter chats and started making some wonderful friends there – like you. :)

      Thanks for putting your 2 cents into the mix.


  6. I do have to disagree about daily chats being bad. I’m the host of a daily #Twitterchat of #wordmongering There my people seem to lay off the RT’s unless it’s a really great quote or if someone’s really done a great job with their word counts. Then again that’s what #wordmongering is all about. Getting more word counts in small doses oof time. Not all #TwitterChats are for everyone, but there might be one that you won’t find annoying & you really love participating in.

    Moni~ #wordmongering Co-Founder

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Monica,

      I absolutely adore #wordmongering and am so glad you helped create it!

      This whole chatting on Twitter thing has turned out to be a wee bit controvrsial. I may have to blog about my whole evolving attitude towards social media.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. See ya in the #wordmongering chats! :)


  7. I heard about these but haven’t participated yet. Thank you for explaining how it works. It’s taken some of my nervousness away.

    Now, if I could just find the time, lol.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Amy,

      It can be intimidating to take the plunge into chatting on Twitter, I agree. But once you get going, it’s quite easy.

      Thanks for your comments!

  8. I am not a fan of Twitter Chats. While they can be good for meeting new people, I don’t think the format is a good one for chats. If I had to give a piece of advice, its don’t retweet the chats in their entirety. I’ve had to unfriend people because they retweet everything the chat host says. I think the other thing I would advise against is daily chats. A daily chat is the equivalent of Twitter Spam to me.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Paula,

      You bring up some great points!

      I actually resisted Twitter chats at first because it didn’t seem like the “right” way to use Twitter. Then, however, I started doing the #commenthour chat each week and it was great. I met wonderful tweeps, I learned a lot and it became a good social outlet for me.

      I chat twice a week on Twitter. Daily chatting would be too much!

      On the other hand, I know what you mean about people who RT each and every thing the chat host says.

      Hmmm… I think we need to figure out what the proper netiquette should be for twitter chats!


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