A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter Chats (small business edition)

I’m a huge fan of Twitter chats; I think it’s a great way to learn, engage and meet like-minded people. As a social media professional, I’m often joining different Twitter chats to stay up-to-date with online trends, best practices and also to build relationships with other fellow marketers.

Recently I’ve joined few local Twitter chats, that are run on a much smaller scale for local businesses as an equivalent to face-to-face networking. I loved this idea of local people chatting and sharing ideas together, but I also realised that most of them probably don’t know what they’re doing. It’s easy to spot a conversation going on around a certain hashtag, but there’s a bit more to it if you really want to be efficient and get the most out of your time participating in a Twitter chat.

Are you new to Twitter chats?

I should probably explain what a Twitter chat is for those of you, who might have never participated or even heard of one! A Twitter chat is a conversation based around a certain #hashtag on Twitter, usually based on a topic or a location, which takes place regularly at a set date & time each week.

Best practices on participating in a Twitter chat

The first thing coming to my mind is a question – is Twitter the right place for Twitter chats? From my experience, it isn’t. There are a few reasons for that – it doesn’t update its feed in real-time (not even if you’re in the ‘Live’ tab), you can watch only one conversation at a time and need to click back and forth to the notification page if you want to follow-up on certain conversations.

From my experience, Twitter itself is unfriendly when it comes to chats and live feeds, and that’s why there are quite a few 3rd party apps that are more user-friendly. If you’re interested in exploring more of them, I would recommend reading this article from Brandwatch: Top 10 Free Twitter Chat Tools. I’ll focus on my favourite one (the only one I’m actually using for Twitter chats, and I don’t think I’ll ever want to change it!) – TweetDeck.

Participating in Twitter chats? Only with TweetDeck!

TweetDeck is a free extension of your Twitter account, you won’t need any new login details to set up an account there – it just simply connects to your Twitter! It’s an online tool, so you won’t need to install anything to your computer. So how do you use it efficiently for Twitter chats?

>In TweetDeck you can see several streams in one window, so you can see everything that’s going on in one place. If you look at the picture below, you’ll see that I have 5 different columns in one window, each for a different purpose.


How to use Tweet Deck effectively for Twitter chats

  1. Create new tweet tab – here you can compose a new tweet, write a reply to someone or add your own quote to a retweet. Don’t forget to copy+paste the specific hashtag into each tweet you send out (otherwise it won’t appear in the stream and people won’t spot it!)
  2. If you’re running/hosting or joining as a guest in a chat, it’s helpful to have some of your tweets scheduled in advance, so you have your hands free for engaging in real-time conversations.
  3. The most important column – #hashtag stream! Here you’ll see all tweets that include the specific hashtag in real-time. TweetDeck is really great in updating its streams frequently, so you don’t need to refresh or do anything to see the latest tweets. They’ll just pop on the top of your stream as soon as someone tweets.
  4. In Twitter chats it’s likely that you’ll get drawn into side conversations with different people – introducing yourself to newbies, saying hi to old pals or following up on a specific discussion. It’s great to watch your @mention column for all these unique conversations aside from the main hashtag stream.
  5. The last column is notification tab, where you can see all interactions with your Twitter account like new followers, lists you’ve been added to and people who liked your tweets. It helps you to stay on top of all engagements happening on your Twitter.

As you can see, by using TweetDeck during a Twitter chat you can watch and engage in the all-important conversation without worrying you’re missing out on anything!

Hosting a Twitter chat? Do your homework and pre-schedule your Q&As!

If you decide to run your own Twitter chat or to host someone else’s chat, it’s important to plan and schedule some tweets in advance. Usually, you want to have all your introduction messages, questions and main answers scheduled, so you have enough time to participate in real-time conversations with other people. If you’re co-hosting a chat with another person, make sure to organise your tweets in the right order.

Is there any other aspect of Twitter chats you’re struggling to cope with? Do you know any better tool for managing multiple feeds of conversations at the same time?

Please do let me know in comments or tweet me at @lenkakopp.