Twitter chats seem to be a popular trend nowadays, especially among creative businesses and blogs. And for good reason; they’re a great way to build community, network with others in your industry, and gain some helpful tips and insights in the process.
But for those who are first-time chatters or new to the Twitter scene, these hashtags and conversations may seem a little foreign and often intimidating.
That’s where today’s post comes in. I’m going all-in to give you a simple overview of what a Twitter chat is, how it functions, and why it’s worth participating in.
For those of you who are familiar with Twitter chats and are considering hosting your own chat, keep scrolling - I share some tips for hosting a Twitter chat at the bottom of this post!
First, what is a Twitter chat?
A Twitter chat is a live event on Twitter, usually moderated and focused around a specific topic. The chat is filtered around a hashtag, and a set time is also established to allow the moderator and participants to engage in conversation.
How it works
I learn best by example, so here’s a sneak peek at Elle & Company’s weekly Twitter chat (#ellechat).
I have the pleasure of moderating the chat each week Thursday night from 8:00-9:00pm EST, and I usually center it around a business or blogging topic like “Improving Your Site’s User Experience.”
At 8:00pm on the dot, I start the chat with a welcome and invite participants to share a brief introduction.
I use the #ellechat hashtag so my tweet pops up in the live #ellechat feed, and participants respond by replying to the tweet and using the #ellechat hashtag.
Once the introductions are out of the way, I start asking questions that are geared toward the topic. I use the abbreviations “Q1, Q2, Q3…” so participants can easily keep up with the questions and refer back to them throughout the chat.
This is where the conversation starts to take off. Participants give their answers to the questions by using the corresponding “A1, A2, A3” abbreviations as well as the #ellechat hashtag. It can be a little tricky fitting a response into 140 characters (but that’s part of the fun!).
The questions and answers go on until 9:00pm, when I wrap things up and announce the next #ellechat topic.
Benefits of Twitter chats
When I first started the #ellechat, I thought it would be a fun way to share content and interact with Elle & Company readers. And while those are 2 great benefits, I’ve seen several other positive results from Twitter chats.
Tips and insights
What do you get when you have a bunch of creative people in one place? A fantastic resource. The questions are designed not only to spur on conversation but also to encourage participants to share their tips and ideas. Each week I walk away with new strategies and ideas for running my blog and business.
When you’re sharing thoughts on a topic, you’re bound to get feedback. Many people leave these chats encouraged because they’ve recognized one of their strengths, received praise for a good idea, or gained needed feedback about a concept they’ve been toying with for their blog or business.
Twitter chats are a great way to meet others in the creative industry. Many #ellechat participants walk away with several new connections and many of them have ended up collaborating on a project. When I first started utilizing Twitter chats, I underestimated the amount of conversation and community that could be built from them.
Networking inevitably leads to new followers. But more than that, participants are constantly retweeting each other, which introduces chat participants to new audiences. Chances are that if participants in a similar industry, their audience will probably be interested in following along with the people they’re retweeting, too.
Tips for participating in a Twitter Chat
Before I discovered Tweet Deck, I was struggling to keep up with notifications, mentions, and the hashtag feed itself. This helpful application allows you to see 3 separate Twitter feeds in one window, making it easier to keep up with the chat. We’ve also noticed that tweets appear faster in TweetDeck in the live hashtag feed in Twitter.
Whether you're hosting a Twitter chat or participating in one, you need to check out this helpful tool.
Provide thoughtful responses
Not only are #ellechat participants reading your answers, but your existing Twitter followers are following along with them, too. Thoughtful, helpful responses reflect well on your blog and business and are more likely to be retweeted.
Interact with other participants
It’s possible for participants to tune into the chat and simply respond with their answers, but they would be missing out on a great networking opportunity. Respond and interact with other participants, retweet their answers, and follow along with their accounts. You never know the possibilities that could come from Twitter chat connections in the future.
Retweet each question
While abbreviations like Q1, Q2, Q3 are helpful for those following along with the chat, it helps give your existing followers (who aren’t a part of the chat) context if you retweet the original questions.
Tips for hosting a successful Twitter chat
Use a short hashtag
140 characters doesn’t give participants much wiggle room for answers as it is, so make it easier on everyone by choosing a short hashtag.
Consider creating graphics for each Twitter chat question. Not only are images more eye-catching and engaging, but they also appear larger in the #ellechat feed.
Twitter chat graphics are also helpful marketing tools. By including the chat hashtag, your Twitter handle, and your site URL on each image, you’re able to reach a wider audience and potentially drive more traffic to your account and your website.
To make it easier on myself, I’ve created an Adobe Illustrator template for my graphics. Each Thursday, I simply open the file, change the colors and text, and all of my #ellechat images are ready to go in less than 5 minutes.
The pace of a Twitter chat can move pretty quickly. Give yourself more time to interact with your audience by writing out the questions and preparing the graphics ahead of time.
Create a recap
This has been a recent favorite among #ellechat participants. I use a site called Storify to recap the questions from each chat and highlight some of the best answers (view an example here). Chat recaps are helpful for those who can't attend the live event and those who want to refer back to some of the great responses and ideas shared.
One last benefit: Twitter chats are a blast. It's fun to join in a community of like-minded people, share ideas, and make connections. If you're interested in giving one a try, we would love to have you join in our weekly #ellechat! We'll be discussing productivity tips and strategies tomorrow night from 8:00-9:00pm EST, and I have a hunch that the conversation will be great.
Have you participated in a Twitter chat before? What are some of your favorite Twitter chats?