The first use of a hashtag on Twitter was in 2007, over a year after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet.
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
At the time, Chris Messina, now the Developer Experience Lead at Uber, thought it would be a great way to organize and distinguish group conversations. He likely had no idea how hashtags would proliferate nearly every social media platform! From live tweeting TV shows, to displays of solidarity, to celebrations of International Coffee Day, hashtags have served to fuel conversations around every topic imaginable.
Hashtags Make the Social World Go ‘Round
This is certainly true for Twitter chats, where Twitter users gather to discuss a designated topic, all using the same hashtag. These are different from a Twitter party, which are one-off events often conducted by brands or influencers. Twitter parties are typically organized to promote a new product or celebrate a holiday or event, and usually involve prizes or giveaways.
— ASPCA (@ASPCA) February 10, 2016
Twitter chats, on the other hand, are more like networking events. They happen on a regular basis (usually weekly) basis and typically last an hour, during which topical questions are posed to guide the conversation. Every Twitter chat has a designated host, who posts questions and moderates the discussion; some chats are hosted by brands, while others are hosted by individuals (typically influencers in their area of expertise).
We at ModSquad participate in a number of Twitter chats, both for ourselves and on behalf of clients. We consider them “oldies, but goodies” – as new social media platforms have emerged, Twitter chats have stood the test of time as effective ways to gather a community for a meaningful discussion. Some of the ones we find ourselves frequenting lately have been #bufferchat (hosted by Buffer), #sproutchat (hosted by Sprout Social), and #hootchat (hosted by Hootsuite), which often discuss topics related to the things we are passionate about: social media, customer engagement, community management, digital marketing, and so much more.
Twitter chat topics run the gamut, with new chats popping up all the time. Whether you want to connect with others around a personal passion like food and travel or a career-specific topic like advertising or customer service, chances are there’s a Twitter chat for you.
Why Participate in a Twitter Chat?
There are many benefits that come out of taking part in a Twitter chat, especially if you become a regular participant at specific chats. For individuals and brands alike, Twitter chats are a great way to engage with industry peers and others with similar interests. You may find yourself sharing your own experience and insight, learning from others, or both! Through these conversations, you will find new accounts to follow, as well as increase your own follower count.
Depending on your industry, Twitter chats can be an effective method for generating new leads and building relationships. You never know who you might encounter during a Twitter chat — a brand looking for the services your company provides, a user who ends up actively retweeting your content, or even a qualified candidate for a job opening you’ve just listed.
Above all, they’re the perfect context for sharing your expertise in or experience with a specific subject. The organic flow of conversation gives you opportunities to provide insight that on its own would come across as self-promotional or lacking context. Some chats will even provide the list of questions before the chat, allowing you the chance to prepare your answers ahead of time and spend more of your effort during the chat engaging with other participants.
How to Participate in a Twitter Chat
First, you’ll want to find a chat that is within your area of interest. There are a number of great resources for finding a relevant Twitter chat, including:
- AllTwitterChats (recurring Twitter chats, listed by day, time, and chat hashtag)
- TweetReports.com (recurring Twitter chats, filterable by details like hashtag, topic, day, and time)
- Twubs.com (list of user-submitted chats, both one-time and recurring)
Next, you’ll want to check the host’s handle and confirm that week’s topic. If the questions have already been shared, take some time to think about how you’ll respond, or even craft some responses ahead of time.
As the chat is set to begin, prepare to monitor the chat in real-time to keep up with the conversations. While there are lots of social media management softwares you can use to monitor hashtags, mentions, and the like, we actually prefer using native Twitter to monitor chats (but you can use whatever makes you most comfortable).
We recommend having 3 separate browser tabs open:
- A live monitor of the chat’s hashtag. Feel free to copy the URL below, and just replace the bolded portion with the chat’s hashtag (minus the hash sign).
- Your notifications. This will help you keep an eye on any retweets or mentions you might want to reply or otherwise engage with. You’ll also see all the new accounts following you as a result of your participation in the chat.
- The Twitter account of the chat host. While their tweets will show up in the live monitor, having their main feed open in a separate tab will ensure you don’t miss any new questions as they’re posted.
Dos and Dont’s: Twitter Chat Best Practices
DO let your followers know ahead of time that you’ll be participating. Since your tweet velocity is likely to increase during that hour, it’s good to give your followers a heads up. It also gives better context to the answers you’ll be posting and may even encourage others to join in.
— ModSquad (@modsquad) June 8, 2016
DO use the chat’s hashtag in every tweet (including replies). In addition to providing context to your tweets, this ensures your tweets will be visible to the chat host and participants, allowing them to engage with your tweets. A number of hosts will also post recaps after the chat has concluded, and by using the hashtag and providing valuable insight, you increase your chances of your response being featured.
A7: Monitor beyond mentions; respond to tweets talking *about* your brand. Your unexpected reply could make someone’s day! #bufferchat [AR]
— ModSquad (@modsquad) July 20, 2016
DO be professional and personable. As with all social media posts, your tweets are a reflection of you and your brand or organization. While Twitter chats typically promote a casual atmosphere, your tweets should still have proper spelling/grammar and be consistent with your brand voice.
DO engage with other participants. After all, it’s a Twitter chat, not a Twitter Q&A. In addition to answering the questions posed by the host, replying to others and liking or retweeting their responses is essential to acquiring new followers and building relationships. Even a short “Agreed!” or “Great point!” can go a long way in showing another Twitter user you value their insight. Be sure to acknowledge when others take the time to reply to you, too; a like or retweet can suffice here, but we recommend continuing the conversation whenever the opportunity arises.
— ModSquad (@modsquad) July 20, 2016
DON’T be overly self-promotional. While some Twitter chats will offer you the opportunity to promote your own website, blog, or product/service, avoid doing so when it’s not prompted or perfectly relevant. Participants are unlikely to click away from the chat to visit your website, and doing so outside of your initial introduction can come across as disingenuous.
You’re Ready for Twitter Chats. Now What?
Now that you understand the who/what/where/why/how of Twitter chats, use the resources we linked above to find one you’re interested in.
Want more help? We’re happy to share additional tips! Drop us a line and find out how we can help your brand improve its social presence through Twitter chats and other community engagement strategies.