12 Most Helpful Tips for Conversing in a Twitter Chat

12 Most Helpful Tips for Conversing in a Twitter Chat

“As if Twitter wasn’t chaotic enough, now we have Twitter Chats?!” This is a statement I heard recently from a colleague during a conversation about the growing popularity of organized chats on Twitter. Personally, I find chats remove much of the chaos by creating pockets of organized discussion amid the avalanche of information that is Twitter.

Chats are the Twitter version of discussion boards, although not quite as elegant. In short, they are organized group conversations where people interested in a specific theme come together at a certain time every week to discuss specific topics by including the chat title with a hashtag (#) so that followers can filter those tweets from others.

For the uninitiated, participating in the more popular chats like #BlogChat, #LeadershipChat or #BizForum is said to be like “drinking from a fire hose”. With upwards of 2000 Tweets and RTs in an hour it can be difficult to follow the conversation. So for those people, below is my list of the 12 Most Helpful Tricks for Conversing in a Twitter Chat.

1. Pre-chat prep

Many moderators provide a blog post or list the questions that will be asked in advance of the chat. Take the time to read those posts in order to collect your thoughts and consider your opinions before the discussion starts to flow.

2. Filter your stream

Use a 3rd party Twitter client such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to simplify the experience by filtering the hashtag into one stream or “column”.  Alternatively, use Tweetchat, which provides a hashtag filter AND automatically inserts the hashtag at the end your tweet. This saves you the trouble and ensures you don’t forget to add it.

3. Don’t try to be a rock star

You don’t need to respond to each tweet, or even read each one to get something out of the chat. Scan the stream, find a post that intrigues you and comment on that via a Reply or Re-Tweet. Carry on a conversation with those individuals and when it’s done, scan for another that you’re interested in.

4. Find Friends

Look for those you know or follow and engage them in dialogue. Conversing with “friendly avatars” creates a sense of comfort and focus, which makes the experience less stressful for chat newbies.

5. Lurk & Listen

If you’re uncomfortable Tweeting in a chat there is no requirement to do so. It’s acceptable to simply monitor the stream for your own entertainment or education.

6. Introduce Yourself, Be Yourself

It’s helpful to introduce yourself to the moderator and other guests at the beginning of the chat or when you join via a “Hi My Name Is” tweet. It’s a simple, yet effective way to make friends, ease your way into the chat and gain followers. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. There are enough people participating and lurking that if you try to misrepresent yourself or your knowledge, you will be called out. Honesty & questions are appreciated over “fake expertise”.

7. Just Comment

Engagement in a Tweet Chat is not only about replying to others. If you’re not comfortable engaging people you don’t know, watch for the moderator to post an official question or theme and simply Tweet your response or comment. If others are interested in what you’ve said, they will re-tweet or reply to you. You can choose to respond or not.

8. To Tweet or Re-Tweet, That is the Question

When not comfortable providing an opinion or engaging others, “RT’ing” someone else’s tweet is a symbol that you agree with and/or appreciation the content or sentiment of that tweet. If you have a point of view, don’t be afraid to share it. Know others may not agree with you, but that’s OK. The purpose of a chat is to discuss the topic – and all opinions are valid.

9. Be Respectful

Everyone has a right to an opinion. Accept other’s opinions and if you disagree, state your disagreement and present an intelligent argument; it makes for a great chat. Keep it professional and if you feel the discussion has run its course, agree to disagree and move on to another discussion. Regardless of the intelligence of your argument, if you make derogatory remarks about an individual in the community it’s you who will lose the respect of the community, not the person you’re attacking.

10. Avoid Pimping Your Blog

Like other social communities, the official chat hour is about community engagement and discussion. It’s not an advertising platform for your blog, business or other sites. If you believe your post is valuable to that community, post links to your blog before or after the official chat hours or when the moderator invites you to do so.

11. Stay on topic

It is easy to get off topic when you have so many people in a chat. Be respectful to the moderator and others by keeping off-topic discussions to a minimum or remove the hashtag from the tweet when you need to discuss off-topic items.

12. Read the Transcript

Many moderators offer a transcript of all or some of the Tweets that were posted during the official chat times shortly after the chat or the next day. If you missed something, that’s your chance to catch up. This also provides the opportunity to engage individuals who you didn’t get the chance to during the chat itself.

Chats are useful tool for education, networking and simply making friends. They can be intimidating but the results of engagement are worth overcoming any trepidation you may have.

Do you participate in Twitter chats? What are your tips or advice for the others in the community? Please join the conversation by posting tips in the comment section below.

Featured image courtesy of nickwheeleroz licensed via creative commons.

Sam Fiorella


Sam Fiorella is a globetrotting interactive marketing strategist who has earned his stripes over the past 20 years in senior management roles with corporate sales &marketing teams as well as consulting for more than 30 marketing agencies. Sam’s experience with over 1600 Interactive projects during the past 15 years spans the government, finance & insurance, manufacturing, national retail and travel/tourism sectors. Currently, Sam is the Chief Strategy Sensei at Sensei Marketing, where he is charged with strategic campaign guidance and marketing technology development that power the Sensei Customer Lifecycle Methodology. Sam is a respected blogger and popular keynote speaker on marketing, branding and social media communications having presented at more than 200 conferences in the past 2 years. Follow Sam on Twitter or Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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