The Big Deal About Twitter Chats

Posted February 18, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Networking Buzz

In my former life (I call it B.E. – Before Entrepreneurship), I worked in nonprofit fundraising. Recently, though I’m no longer in the nonprofit sector, I’ve been welcomed by a number of organizations to speak to nonprofit fundraisers and marketers about various best practices. Recently, Hands On Tech Chicago welcomed me to talk to groups of nonprofit employees about using Twitter to enhance the persona of their organizations. As I talked through everything from Twitter basics to fundraising with Twitter, it became clear to me that there was a specific area of Twitter many, many people are confused by – Twitter Chats.

So today, I’m tackling that subject for all of you. Let’s dive in.

What is a Twitter chat?

A Twitter chat is usually spearheaded by a business or organization, and allows its Twitter followers and others to participate in a conversation that is generally led by a staff member or leader in the organization.

Twitter Basics for Joining a Chat

  • Finding the chat. To find a Twitter chat, you’ll likely see the organizing business or organization public a hashtag (#) to accompany the chat. To find the stream for that specific hashtag, simply type that term into Twitter’s search bar. This will bring up a search of all the Tweets worldwide with that hashtag.
  • Tweeting in the chat. Tweeting to answer a question in a chat is easy. Simply follow the instructions of the organization running the chat, and be sure to include the designated hashtag in every Tweet you send.
  • Refresh! Some Twitter chats can have hundreds of participants and thousands of Tweets, so you want to be sure to refresh your Twitter frequently. You can do this by clicking on the red heading at the top of your search that will say “XX New Tweets.” You might refresh this ever 30 seconds if you really want to follow all of the action.

How do I participate in a Twitter chat?

There are a number of ways you can participate in Twitter chats:

  • Listening. Participating in a Twitter chat doesn’t mean you have to actually chat. You can learn an incredible amount by listening to other Tweeters answers and questions.
  • Following. Twitter chats are a great way to find other awesome Tweeters to follow. While you’re listening or participating, you can also be clicking on the profiles of interesting people and following them. This might get you a lot more followers as well.
  • Tweeting. The point of a Twitter chat is just that – to chat! So of course, you’ll want to participate. Many Twitter chats use the format of Questions and Answers to engage their audience. The organizer, for instance, might Tweet something like “Q1: Tell us about a time you felt powerful at work. #womenpowerchat” To participate as a chatter, you’d respond with something like “A1: When I was promoted to my current job and given a raise. #womenpowerchat” Notice you’ll include the hashtag, but also Q1 or A1 to indicate your questions or answers.
  • Promote yourself! Don’t be afraid to promote yourself during a Twitter chat. Recently, I participated in a women entrepreneur’s chat, and when marketing topics came up, I of course talked about writing a book and included a link to learn more. That’s completely OK!

Hopefully these small tips and tricks have given you a reason to start chatting! Pay attention to your favorite authors, organizations, and consulting businesses. They’re the most likely to be chatting away! One of my favorite Twitter chats regularly is with SheNOW. On March 4th, I’ll be hosting the SheNOW Twitter chat. I hope you’ll all consider joining in.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."