How To Get Organized In A Tweet Chat

About a month and a half ago, @SteamFeedcom was lucky enough to be featured as a guest on #MediaChat. We knew this could give some great exposure to our site, so when DJ and I were approached by Jason Thompson (@nosaj_jason) and Aaron Kilby (@Kilby76) to do the chat, we didn’t hesitate to jump to the opportunity! Having never been to a Tweet chat, I had to do a bit of research to get ready for it – especially since I was participating as the featured guest in the first Tweet chat I was attending.

DJ knew a lot more than me about Tweet chats, but was away that night, and had to participate in limited capacity – so he wasn’t able to take over the SteamFeed console at that time. It just happened I was gone to an extended job interview at InNetwork Inc, in Toronto, so I was freakin’ busy that week!

On one of the evenings I was there, I ended up going to supper with one of my university friends, David Alexander (@davidaalexander), Digital Marketing Coordinator at Maple Leaf Foods. I mentioned over supper I was a guest on #MediaChat that evening, and told him I had never been in a twitter chat before. He started telling me a story about how Maple Leaf hosted a twitter chat, how much work was involved, and how fast-paced it was. I started freaking out!!! Good thing he wasn’t busy that evening, and helped me out. Here’s what I learned from the experience, in case you’re ever a guest on a Twitter chat:

Understand the Format

The format of #MediaChat seems pretty simple – the host asks a question, and the guest answers. Over the span of an hour, the host asks 8-10 questions, and then opens up the conversation for anyone that has questions at the end. There’s around a 5-6 minute interval between questions. The format of the Q&A is the following:

Host: Q1 The host asks a question to the guest? #hashtag

Guest: A1 The guest answers the host’s question. #hashtag

This seems fairly simple right? Wrong! You constantly have to remember to use the #hashtag in all of your tweets, you have to look out for the questions, you have to answer the questions promptly, all the while engaging with people that have comments about your answer! It can be overwhelming! Thank god there are tools that can help you out!

Use a Few Tweet Chat Tools

First thing I did was open up Twitter itself, and tracked the #hashtag on Twitter. That helped me keep track of how many tweets were being sent out using the #MediaChat hashtag. The second thing I did was setup a #MediaChat stream in Hootsuite, so I could easily track the conversation, and organize mentions at the same time.

Hootsuite Tweet ChatThe last tool, which was the most important one, was a suggestion by David – TweetGrid. TweetGrid lets you organize the Tweet chat in three columns: 1. #hashtag mention, 2. host/guest tweets, and 3. your Twitter handle to track mentions and sent tweets. The most important column is the second one, because it lets you easily follow the Q&A, so you know when a question is asked, and you remember which one you just answered.

TweetGrid also automatically adds the hashtag to all of your tweets, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to add it.

TweetGrid Tweet Chat

Don’t do it Alone

This one is easy – I couldn’t have done it by myself. I want to thank David again for his help during the chat – he was my second set of eyes. The Tweet chat ended up getting close to 200 participants at different points in the hour – it’s virtually impossible to reply to everyone’s comments and keep an eye out for the host’s questions. While I was on Hootsuite answering comments, and replying to mentions, David was keeping an eye out for questions. When the next question would pop up, he would let me know so I could answer promptly, and keep the pace of the chat going.

Get Organized

What I loved about #MediaChat was that Aaron sent me the questions he was going to ask me beforehand, so I could pre-write my answers. When he asked me a question, I was ready to go simply by copy/pasting my pre-typed answer. This made sure I could answer quickly, and didn’t have to waste time typing anything. My focus was on engaging with the participants.

One last thing I would add – leave room in your answer for re-tweets (so roughly 15-17 characters). TweetGrid will show you how many characters you have left in your tweet, and takes into account your #hashtag as well.

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Again, thanks David for helping out with the chat, couldn’t have done it without you. Everyone, make sure to join us in our own SteamFeed chat tonight! – #SMRebelsHelp at 9PM EST. Our host this week will be Robert M. Caruso (@fondalo), with guest Rock Scar Love (@rockscarlove).

Have you ever participated in a Tweet chat? What was your experience like? Please leave a comment below!

Why (and How) to Join Tweetchats

Tweetchats are special gatherings that happen on Twitter.

They’re driven by a hashtag that charactertizes the conversation topic, but more importantly, there’s a community around the hashtag that keeps it very much alive.

Tweetchat Cocktail PartyTweetchats are extremely informative, keep you up to date on current trends, supportive and social. I can’t say enough good things about them. A frequently used metaphor to explain Twitter is how it is like a digital cocktail party, but tweetchats truly bring meaning to this description. People even enjoy pretending they’re passing around drinks or munchies (or disclose what they’ve actually brought to the laptop) as they greet each other. Chats are one hour long events that happen at pre-determined times once a week, but the conversation can carry on by using the same hashtag. Plus, if you decide to join one, you’ll find some have Facebook groups.  Most of them have featured guests every week for the audience to interact with, learn and ask questions. You’ll find many industry experts are a lot of fun and thrilled to join the conversation.

Necessities

Other than a pair of limber hands, Tweetchat.com, and setting up a stream in Hootsuite are my favorite tools and usually the most popular. I especially love tweetchat.com because it’s fast, you can feature or block users, pause, set your pace for refreshing speed and it automatically adds the hashtag at the end of your tweet to ensure it shows up in the stream. Log in with your Twitter account and type the hashtag you’d like to follow in the search box. Important: with any tool you use you want to have visibility of mentions so you can respond (it’s not that hard to miss them in a quick tweetchat)!

If you have to use mobile (or prefer it because you have some amazingly strong and fast thumbs) you want to download the app Echofron (available for Apple products). Hootsuite is available for Apple and Droids and offers the same functionality to filter tweets based on the hashtag.

Hashtracking is a neat analytics tool if you’re a numbers kind of person or needs to deliver them. Features include information on impressions, reach, tweets, the top participants and influencers that were involved with the chat.

How many do I want to attend?

Before you start participating, you might want to “lurk” by following the stream to get an idea. Most first impressions are overwhelmed with the speed (but it becomes manageable)!  How many you should attend a week is your decision. People can go high in double digits while some stick with a couple a week. Chats are either scheduled during the workday or evenings.

Personally, I was addicted once I started. It was an unbelievable way to improve my knowledge, ask questions and make righteous friends I’ve had the honor of meeting in real life (or intend to). I go to Twitter to….hang out! Just like you go to a friend’s house, coffee shop or book club. It does take up a chunk of your time so after many months, I started narrowing it down to a just a few a week. Just one can enrich your online experience. I stay in touch with people or moderators I’ve bonded with out of tweetchats. After all, as Dan told us, we don’t abandon relationships!
 

Which tweetchats do I go to?

Some of the killer social media and marketing tweetchats with amazing, intelligent, kind and welcoming moderators include:

  • #MobileChat – @MarketingMusing & @Redeapp – This is somewhat new, and is growing rapidly. Learn about the trends and future of mobile (Wednesdays 9 PM EST)
  • #MediaChat – @kilby76 – About online media, new apps and anything media related! Full of #bacon lovers. (Thursdays 10 PM EST)
  • #BlogChat – @MackCollier – Tips and strategies to improve personal and corporate blogging. (Sundays 9 PM EST)
  • #AWEtalk – @margieanalise – The Mojo Diva helps women entrepreneurs with their millionarieness mojo, but cool guys are welcome! (Mondays 11 PM EST)
  • #PinChat – @Tribe2point0 – For avid Pinterest users to share information, trends and more. (Fridays 9 PM EST)
  • #LinkedinChat – @LinkedinExpert – All things you want to know on LinkedIn. (Tuesdays 8 PM EST)
  • #Brandchat – Variety of topics related to managing and growing brands – corporate, non-profits, etc. (Wednesdays 11 PM EST)

I could go on and on. Actually, there is this giant Google document floating around with hundreds of chats, names and times but I recommend doing personal research. You can ask your peers for suggestions that fits your interests. Do keyword research on Twitter and see what hashtags appear.  After some listening you will notice some tweets are populated with certain hashtags more than others.

List.ly has an amazing list of resources to help your expedition! Store this link.

What if I can’t find a tweetchat I’m interested in?

Well, well. That is a fine opportunity for you to begin your own! I still strongly encourage you gain experience in tweetchats and establish (or maintain) an active presence on Twitter.  With over 700 chats to date for various industries, causes and groups, there’s likely something for you. But if you can dedicate yourself and bring fresh ideas (and hashtag), it’s a remarkable way to build your community base, promote your brand and business. Check out this great guide to hosting a chat.

You’re going to have a blast. Please feel free to ask us if you want more names for chats for social media and marketing. If you have some you’re fond of then share the details in your comment! 

What’s your favorite tweetchat?