You know when your teacher told you that chatting was bad? Guess what, they were wrong! Twitter chats help you network, learn and establish your personal brand amongst your community. Sounds great! Problem. How do you cut through the noise to get the most out of Twitter chats without causing a stink or being Spammy McSpammerson irritating everyone with Tweets every 5 seconds?
If you’re the shining light of a buzzing Twitter chat, you can get noticed by the movers & shakers, stay on the bleeding edge of what’s happening in your industry, and light the touch-paper on your career. But a chat chief isn’t crowned by just by showing up and saying hello. We’ve spoken to people who host popular Twitter chats and picked their brains on the best tactics to adopt in order to become the standout participant in any chat. Let’s talk...
1. Top Up On The Topic
Most Twitter chats will announce the topic that will be covered in advance of the chat. So you have no excuse not to have a quick glance through some recent articles on it, find some examples to share or perhaps even a recent industry study that may be relevant. A short bit of digging around to get some good research will show you’re keeping up to date with what’s going on in your industry.
2. Look Up Participants
Take the time to look up previous chats, see who is participating and learn a little about them. Who do you want to be connecting with? Who gets the most responses? Who is making the most interesting contributions? Identifying key members of the chat will help you know who to look out for and make connections with. It’s also worth seeing if the chat will feature an expert guest who will hopefully have great knowledge on a subject and influence in their field. Ask them specific questions based on their Tweets (related to the chat’s topic of course), learn from what they have to say, and get your name on their radar.
"I think the best way for marketers and business professionals to approach Twitter chats is as a networking tool. So when you participate, make sure you Favorite key tweets so you can review them later and follow users that you find interesting. The next step is to start engaging with those interesting users. The whole idea is to meet new and interesting people, then extend that relationship beyond just the Twitter chat."
Mack Collier, founder of #BlogChat
3. Listen Up!
See what other people have to say, it will help you gauge the tone of the conversation and stop you from repeating points that others have made. It also gives you time to soak up all of the information that may be shared in the chat. Taking a bit of time to hear people out will help you to formulate a nuanced opinion, this is always going to be better received than blurting out the first thing that comes to you just because you feel you have to be involved.
"Tweetchats are a gift to us all, nowhere else can you be a part of such diverse knowledge and experience, so it’s unsurprising that people feel engaged in their role on them. With the recent introduction of promoting shared evidence in tweetchats (via the #EBP hashtag, meaning Evidence Based Practice) they offer a credible way to learn and connect; a lot of value is gained by simply lurking."
Teresa Chinn, founder of @WeNurses, who regularly host Twitter chats among healthcare professionals
4. Respond To Other Folks In The Chat
It’s a chat, not a speech! Reply to your fellow participant in the chat, and not just the main questions posed by the host. This is where you can begin to get to know other people in your industry who could be exceedingly useful for you further down the line if you create a genuine personal connection with them.
“The most important networking tip during a Twitter chat is to focus on what matters most: people. Connect with others and learn all about them. Don't reach out purely to "sell" -- instead, build relationships. Learn about their interests, their families, their hobbies! You'll discover some amazing folks and establish some meaningful friendships in the midst of it all.”
Nicole Miller, host of Buffer’s #Bufferchat
5. Don’t Be A Fool, Use A (Twitter Chat) Tool
If a chat is busy, it may be worth getting a tool to help you see what’s happening in the chat while also being able to see how your Tweets are performing and engaging with people who have responded to you. In short, you’ll be able to multi-task without constantly loading new windows or hopping between tabs. Tweetdeck or Hootsuite will help you keep an eye on a chat and interact with it, while doing everything else you’d normally do on Twitter. If you want to totally focus on the chat, then many chats have their own channels on Nurph which is specifically designed to help you partake in chats as swiftly and effectively as possible. In our piece on free Twitter Tools, we also looked at Tweex, which is an app that is specifically used for following chats around TV and events.
6. Be Friendly
Walk into a room, ask everyone to raise their hands if they like it when people act tough on the Internet. Nobody will raise their hands, we promise you. Twitter chats are the same, snide remarks won’t impress anyone and could leave you blacklisted by some potentially useful people who you may need in the future. By all means, feel free to debate and put your point across, but remember to be polite and constructive. Play nice!
7. Bring Out The Best In Others
There are ways of building connections that don’t involve you taking centre stage. Introducing other people in the chat who may be helpful to one another can make you look like a knowledgeable networker with influence. If you connect a curious person to an expert who can help them out, they’ll both remember you as the person who introduced them. The person learning will view you as someone who knows enough on the topic to remember the experts, and the person whose work you have bought up will know you as someone who has taken an interest in their professional efforts.
“One of the best things a chat participant can do is to encourage conversation that will help other people to get their questions answered. For example, perhaps there's an opportunity to involve an expert on the subject that others might be wondering the answer to. You'll give someone an opportunity to share their knowledge, and someone else the opportunity to learn from them.”
Neil Cauldwell, CEO & Founder of Nurph, a Twitter chat platform
8. Don’t Change The Topic
You wouldn’t go to your friend’s bowling party and try to make everyone go bungee jumping instead, so don’t try and derail someone else’s chat. Stick to the topic, answer the questions asked by the host, and don’t try to start your own large off-topic discussions, you aren’t hosting the chat. If you and another person in the chat both discover that you have opinions to discuss on a totally different topic, great! But drop the hashtag so you don’t fill up the chat feed with irrelevant posts.
9. Make A List To Follow Up
Think you made good connections with people and don’t want to lose track of them? Following them is a start, and we’ve already mentioned favoriting their Tweets to look over later. But you could also make a Twitter list to keep all key participants in one place, either by selecting them yourself or make one featuring everyone who Tweeted the hashtag using a Twitter list builder.
Getting down with these guidelines will give you the best chance of coming out of a Twitter chat with a better understanding of your field, with new ideas to bring to the table, and important new names in your little black book. If you regularly partake in Twitter chats, we’d love to hear some of your favorite Twitter chat tips in the comments below.