Tweet chats for newbies: Getting started

13 Oct

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See also Part 2 (tweet chat do’s and don’ts; and what you can expect during a tweet chat) and Part 3 (tweet chat trouble shooting)

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Whenever I have the chance to participate in a tweet chat, I always get a great deal from it. Whether it’s finding interesting new people to follow, learning something new, or having a view challenged or confirmed, it’s never dull.

I’d been on Twitter for a while before I learned what a tweet chat was, another little while before I dipped my toe in the water and it was another while longer before I realised I didn’t have to sit at a computer watching tweets then tweet in on my phone! If you haven’t heard of tweet chats, are curious but cautious or would like a little help to get you going, here’s my introduction – what Americans would probably call “Tweet chat 101” – in the spirit of sharing.

Initially it was one big fat blog post, so I’ve broken it up into bite-sized chunks, of which this is the first. It covers the following topics:

  • What is a tweet chat? – tweet chats in a nutshell
  • What’s in it for me? – what can I gain from participating in a tweet chat?
  • How do I follow a tweet chat? – how do I sign up and join in?
  • How do I find tweet chats?

Follow up posts will cover topics such as:

  • Tweet chats on mental health topics with links to some of the best!
  • What can I expect during a tweet chat? – what format does a well-run tweet chat follow?
  • Tweet chat do’s and don’ts – tweet chat etiquette & suggestions for getting the most from your tweet chats
  • Tweet chat troubleshooting – some common problems and what to do about them

If you have some personal favourite top tips for tweet chats or have comments on mine, let me know by adding them to the comments below – or tweet me!

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What is a tweet chat?

A tweet chat (or Twitter chat) can simply mean a spontaneous discussion on Twitter between several tweeps (people with Twitter accounts) on a particular topic. In this post, I use the term to mean when the following:

A tweet chat is when people with a common interest gather together on Twitter at a designated time to discuss and share ideas.

So that everyone interested can follow along, people include a unique tag (#) called a hashtag (such as #mhchat) in each tweet. Typically a tweet chat will take place once a week or once a fortnight and will last an hour.

What’s in it for me?

What can you gain from participating in a tweet chat? The benefits depend to a large extent on why you’re using Twitter in the first place. There are so many different reasons. In general, however, here are some good reasons to join in:

  • Find follows – Engaging in a tweet chat on a topic you’re interested in can be a great way to find like-minded people to follow from amongst the millions around the world on Twitter – and to make new online friends – in one concentrated blast.
  • Share and learn – A tweet chat is an excellent way to communicate and share knowledge on a topic- and to learn in ways you may never have anticipated.
  • Engage – As tweet chats are open. public and in real time, you get the opportunity to engage with, make an impact on and learn from people you might never meet in real life.
  • Spread awareness – Engaging in tweet chats can help you spread awareness of your own brand and ideas, and create content and connections to enhance your personal influence. That’s a bit of a mouthful but what it means is that, if you’re starting out or branching out, tweet chats can give you a leg up.

How do I follow a tweet chat?

First, you’ll need to sign up to get a free Twitter account. Then, once you’ve found some relevant chats (see below), you can check the designated hashtag at the time the chat is scheduled to take place. Alternatively, follow the tweeps who run the chats (the organisers or moderators) to get updates on their upcoming sessions.

This is what you'll see when you first log in to tweetchat.com - type the hashtag into the box

This is what you’ll see when you first log in to tweetchat.com (though with your Twitter background, not mine) – type the hashtag into the box

Once a tweet chat starts, an easy way to follow along is to use a free service like TweetChat (the one I use) or Twitterfall. Just log in with your Twitter user name and password, type the relevant hashtag in the box in the top middle … and you’re off!  (You can also follow a hashtag in services such as  Tweetdeck or Hootsuite: set up a search for the hashtag, and all of the tweets with that hashtag should show up in the search window.)

Only tweets which include the hashtag will appear on screen; they’ll be in a stream, updated as new ones come in – like the screen below right. This means you won’t be distracted by seeing tweets by people you follow who aren’t using the hashtag; and you won’t miss out on tweets by people you don’t follow.

You can watch the chat, tweet into it and reply to others’ tweets – all at the same time, in the same screen

This is what a tweet chat looks like in tweetchat.com (though it will have your Twitter background)

This is what a tweet chat looks like in tweetchat.com (though it will have your Twitter background)

Popular tweet chats can have tweets coming in at a furious rate, so you might want to just observe (“lurk”) for a while – maybe even the first couple of times – till you feel comfortable joining in. When you want to tweet into the chat, remember to include the relevant hashtag so others following the chat can see them. If you’re signed in with a service like TweetChat, the hashtag will be added automatically.

How do I find tweet chats?

To find a relevant tweet chat, ask tweeps you know, search Twitter or search online for “tweet chat schedule”.

In my next post on tweet chats, I’ll post tweet chats which cover mental health topics. In the meantime, if you have some personal favourite top tips for tweet chats, have comments on mine or know of some great tweet chats, let me know by adding them to the comments below – or tweet me!

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15 Responses to “Tweet chats for newbies: Getting started”

  1. Nedra Weinreich (@Nedra) 14 October 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Great resource for me to share – thanks! My favorite list of health-related Twitter chats is the Healthcare Hashtag Project (symplur.com/healthcare-hashtags/tweet-chats/).

  2. Ana 14 October 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Thank you, I have just signed up to twitter, specifically for mental health twitter chats and your post has helped it all make sense!

  3. peter atkins 16 October 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    R u monitoring how many people r being arressted with mh issues @ not being assessed within 3 hours In dorset. ?

  4. peter atkins 16 October 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    What mh trg do dorset police get involving mh s\u and carers ?
    Same question for social workers

  5. jellyjennybean 11 December 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Thanks so much for this! I had no idea how these chats worked (I’m fairly new to Twitter). Possibly a stupid question: On sites such as twitterchat and twitterfall, should I be able to see my own posts in the conversation? Thanks!

    • Sectioned 12 December 2013 at 9:47 pm #

      Glad you found it helpful. And yes, you should be able to see your own tweets … but why not join in a tweet chat and try it out for yourself? It’s a great way of making twitter friends.

  6. MEN HEAL 4 December 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    Reblogged this on MEN HEAL.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweet chats part 2: what to expect and some do’s and don’ts | Sectioned - 3 November 2013

    […] month, I put together a beginner’s guide to tweet chats. Here, I develop that further, sharing some more of the things I’ve learned along the way […]

  2. This Week in Mentalists – Final Edition « Mentally Wealthy - 10 November 2013

    […] in every tweet. That way, peeps following the tweet chat in tweetchat.com or equivalent (see part 1) will see your contribution to the conversation. No hashtag, no visibility in the tweet chat. […]

  3. Tweet chats part 3: Trouble shooting | Sectioned - 17 December 2013

    […] Tweet chats part 2: What to expect and some do’s and don’ts […]

  4. #40Forward Twitter Chat with Esther Dyson & Annelies Van Den Belt | Startup Grind - 25 April 2014

    […] On April 25 at noon EST, Esther and Annelies will help us kick off our conversation with a 30 min Twitter Chat. If you are not familiar with Twitter Chats, click here for the basics on what to expect. […]

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