Twitter chats: The what, why, and how.

Hand holding an iPhone on Twitter login screen (in the background you can see a table with a cup of coffee on it)

Twitter chats: The what, why, and how.

If you follow Fancy Guppy on Twitter (which I highly recommend!), you may have noticed that we’ve been tweeting a lot recently on things with tags like #ContentChat, #HootChat, or #CommsChat. What are these things? They’re Twitter chats! We’ve been participating in a ton of chats so we could tell you which ones we liked best, but then I thought maybe first we should talk about what a Twitter chat even is!

 

First and foremost, what is a Twitter chat?

A Twitter chat is a live conversation on Twitter focused on a particular topic. Someone runs the chat, they pose questions, and everyone else discusses and gives answers.

They happen at regular times, so everyone knows when to join in the conversation, and they use a hashtag to link all of the conversation together – the same hashtag is used every week so people know how to find it. And the person running the chat advertises a topic in advance, for example measuring the impact of social media, guest blogging, using live video, etc.

To illustrate I’ll just mention one chat in particular: #QChat is a chat run by @quuu_co on Twitter. It is a monthly chat about marketing, and each month a different topic within that subject is discussed. The chat takes place on Tuesdays at 6pm GMT. So, on Tuesdays at 6pm, if you search #QChat on Twitter, you will see a lot of tweets coming in as people engage with the chat. The @quuu_co account lets everyone know what this weeks’ topic is, for example this week’s chat was about video marketing.

Then they pose questions, for example ‘what are the main challenges you face when creating video?’. And then everyone who wants to participate in the chat answers the questions e.g. ‘limited time and budget’ (I’ll go more into how exactly you engage in a Twitter chat below).

Chats usually last for an hour, during which time the host will post 5-10 questions (each chat is different). When it’s done everyone says goodbye (often with amusing gifs), they all go about their day, and then they join in again next time.

Hopefully, this example has helped explain a bit more what a Twitter chat actually is.

 

But, why would you want to participate in Twitter chats?

Well, there are a number of benefits:

To learn about something.

Twitter chats are a group of experts and people working on a particular thing, coming together to talk about that thing – this presents a fantastic opportunity to learn more about that thing! Even if you don’t actively participate in a chat yourself by responding to questions, going along and looking at the hashtag and reading what people have to say about the topic is a really good way to get tips and advice from a broad range of people. And, people tend to share links to additional resources and blogs as they answer the questions, so you’ll get the benefit of all of that extra info as well as their answers.

To be seen by people, and to see people (also known as networking).

Participating in a Twitter chat on a topic is a really good way to get to know, and become known, by other people working in that area. Each time we’ve done a chat we’ve gained new followers, and we’ve followed new people.

This is especially true since people tend to have additional side conversations, alongside the main chat. These can be as interesting and useful as the chat itself – and it’s a great way to make connections with brilliant people in a particular area.

To share ideas, give feedback, and get feedback.

They’re also a good opportunity to share plans and ideas, for example you might say ‘we’re trying out a new approach to live video…’ or ‘we’re just working on a project to do…’. Twitter chats are all about engaging and being social, so people will often reply and let you know what they think, raise questions for you to consider, or give advice. So, you’re effectively testing an idea among a group of people who really know their stuff – I’m sure you can see why the feedback you could get in this environment could be so valuable.

It’s also an opportunity for you to show off your smarts if someone else asks for advice or feedback, which can help you build a reputation as a source of knowledge, and being generous with that knowledge. If you’ve ever said you want to be ‘the go-to person’ on a particular topic, Twitter chats can help you achieve that goal.

To be part of a supportive community.

Twitter chats on your area of work are where your people are! They understand your struggles, because they’re facing them too, they understand your passion, because they feel it too. Participating in Twitter chats is a great way to talk about something you really care about and find interesting, with other people who do too. You can keep up with trends, debate all the big and small things related to your topic, and get advice and a shoulder to complain on about your frustrations or things that haven’t gone well – vent away, because Twitter’s got you.

To have fun.

Yes, Twitter chats can be fun! It’s a whole hour just to talk about something you’re interested in with some great people. Plus, there is a whole lot of gif use!

So, how do Twitter chats work?
Conversations are held together with a hashtag.

Twitter chats always have a hashtag that is used every week, e.g. #WomeninTechChat, #BlogChat, #SEOChat, etc. This means that when everyone is tweeting their answers and discussion, everyone can follow along by looking at the hashtag.

But, be aware that a lot of chat hashtags don’t actually have the word chat in them e.g. #TwitterSmarter, #SoloPR, #LetsLiveStream, etc. This is usually so that people can tweet handy info and resources on that hashtag outside of the defined chat times.

When you participate in a chat, don’t forget to include the hashtag in every tweet so no one misses them.

Chats have regular times and dates.

So that you know when to get online and start watching the hashtags, chats always happen at the same time, for example the #Luv4Social chat is on Thursdays at 2pm EST (7pm GMT).

Most chats are weekly, but not all, e.g. some might be every Friday at 5pm, or the first Tuesday of the month at 10am.

You can usually find when a chat is by looking at the account of the person who runs it – it will be in their bio, on their banner picture, or in a pinned tweet. Search the chat’s hashtag on Twitter, and under the ‘People’ bit someone will come up who’s bio says they are the founder or host of the chat e.g. a search for #ChatSnap (a chat about Snapchat) turns up @KrisGillentine, whose bio says ‘Founder/Host of #ChatSnap’, the time and dates aren’t in the bio itself, but if you go on to the profile there is a pinned tweet with that information.

For some chats the people who run them haven’t put this information clearly on their Twitter profile anywhere. This is annoying (if you later choose to run a chat yourself, please don’t do this! Always make sure the chat info is clear and easy to find). For now though, you could always tweet to the host or on the chat hashtag and just ask when it is.

Set this time aside.

Once you know what the hashtag is and when the chat is, and you’ve decided to participate, put it in your calendar. Don’t book anything else during this time, don’t be watching TV or replying to emails, just do the chat. You’ll get much more out of it that way. The great thing about chats is that they’re happening live, everyone has logged on at that time to talk about this topic, so try not to miss out on that (if you do have to have a meeting or something there’s nothing you can do about that, but if you can be free for it, do!).

The host asks questions.

When the chat starts, people will introduce themselves. Since these chats are happening online there are people from all over the world participating so people tend to say who they are and where they’re from. This helps to let everyone know that you’re there and taking part in the chat.

The person running the chat, also known as the ‘host’, will sometimes do some warm up questions, e.g. if you could have one workplace perk what would it be, what was your favourite subject at school, if you could have anyone in the world be your mentor who would it be, etc. These first bits aren’t mandatory, but they’re nice!

Then, once you get into the chat properly, the host will ask the questions. So that you know this is one of the questions, rather than general chat, they will begin with Q1, Q2, Q3, and so on.

For example

You answer them.

When you want to answer a question you start your tweet with A1, A2, A3, and so on. This makes it clear which question your answering, meaning everyone can understand what you’re saying.

For example

Say goodbye.

Once all the questions have been asked and the Twitter chat is over people say goodbye – again, this isn’t mandatory, but it’s nice!

All those side conversations actually tend to carry on for a little while after, but if you’ve got to go you can always follow up or continue them later. After a Twitter chat you should also follow up with anyone you said you would follow up with and anything you said you would do e.g. if you told someone you would send them a link to a great resource, do it! You might also want to follow all the brilliant people you’ve spoken to.

 

But, before you rush out to engage in a chat, first let’s talk about Twitter chat etiquette.
This is a social event – not a sales pitch.

If you’re going to engage in a chat, engage in the chat. Don’t just come on, post your own stuff, and leave. People don’t like it. Chats are an opportunity to discuss and learn. You can share your own blogs and whatnot, if it’s relevant, but only if it’s relevant.

The key word is ‘chat’.

i.e. it’s light and conversational – introduce yourself, talk to people, maybe even use the odd gif or emoji. But, of course, don’t do anything that feels uncomfortable – just use your own voice. Act like a human and everything will be ok!

 

Now you’re all ready to go, here are some of our favourite Twitter chats:
Digital Ed Chat.

 

Content Chat.
  • Topic: content marketing
  • When: weekly, Monday, 3pm EST (8pm GMT)
  • Hashtag: #ContentChat
  • Host: @SFerika

 

Rubhu Social Chat.

 

Content Writing Chat.

 

Now you’ve read our favourites, let us know yours – post in the comments below.

Bye for now 😀

Open laptop displaying Fancy Guppy's January 2017 social media calendar.
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