Good day, and welcome to the alternate parallel social media universe called Twitter. Those who get Twitter are practically addicted, and those who don't understand it are lost. I'm in that wonderful cross-section, so I hope to provide a fresh perspective.
Having used Twitter the wrong way for a good while after it came out, I had the chance to redeem myself with Twitter #chat. It's the thought that counts, right? Well I failed again.
My first experience had so many hiccups that I'm convinced that others may be having similar problems. Actually, I know it's the case. Let me shed some insights on what you can do to make sure you get the most out of your first chat experience.
How Does #chat Work?
Anyone can start a chat. All you have to do is start with a hash symbol (#), add a topic of your interest (sep), and end it with the word (chat) and youve created a hashtag (#sepchat). Hashtags allow you to become a part of a whole new community, or start a topic on your own. By keeping the same hashtags, Twitter can sort the posts with the same tags and users can all see those who comment with said tags. This in effect becomes a virtual chat room on Twitter. Most established chat rooms have a set time for group chats, a guest, and/or a moderator who maintains order in the Twitter chat. The search engine related chats are always great places to learn about the newest trends and meet some of the brightest in the field. Now that you know how chats generally work, let us get started.
1. Set Your Profile Preferences to Public
My first Twitter chat sucked. I sent questions and nobody replied back to me. It was as if I were talking to a wall. Well, I was. I was talking to the wall called "my stupidity" because the "smart me" had my Twitter settings on private to protect myself from spammers - which in effect closed me in a bubble.
To avoid the same error I made, make sure you change your profile preference here:
As an added benefit, setting your profile to public will net you more followers. Remember, your tweets are only meaningful if people hear them!
2. Use a 3rd Party Tool to Monitor Tweets Real-time
I told you right? My first Twitter chat was labor intensive. I was manually reloading my search results on Twitter. Oh boy.
Programs like Tweetchat.com or Twitterdeck can live-stream the chat tweets. This means you won't be manually refreshing the page just to see what is happening. Better yet, you won't have to type the hashtag (#sepchat) after every tweet attempt. Phew! Furthermore, once you're in a chat it's very easy to forget about the hashtag. It's especially embarrassing if you're the guest interviewed for the chat, so don't twitter chat on twitter unless you run out of alternatives. *winkwink*
3. Introduce Yourself in a Candid Manner
Refer to #1. Yes, I actually did this but nobody could hear me. The reason for this tip is simple - you're here to chat, share insights, and interact with live people with their Twitter accounts. If they don't know you, and you don't invite them to know you better, it'll be that much harder to engage and enjoy the chat. Don't just spectate, join in! Once you start forming rapport between chat members, it makes the experience much more worthwhile.
4. On Coming in Late
Relax. Nobody will scorn you for having other commitments unless you're the guest or the moderator. So just drop in comfortably with a line and chat right along - ask where the topic has shifted. This brings me to the next point...
5. On Being Away From Twitter Chat
Don't waste your time reading through the past to catch up on the conversation! Being away from the chat for 10 minutes could take you 20 minutes to catch up. The true fun of the chat isn't scrolling back to read what others have said, but to participate in it live along with everyone else. (Plus, you can always catch up later - see tip #7). So just ask, "Hey, what did I miss? We were talking about X a while ago #sepchat -- and someone nice will fill you in.
6. Information Twitterload
In some chats, there can be as many as 7,000 users
commenting at a time. You'll want to increase the rate at which Twitter feeds refresh and consider using a filter. That's right, you can cull through the noise and just pretend that the chat is only between a few close friends. Here's how to do that on TweetChat.
7. Catching Up on Missed Information
Did you miss something? No worries. Most niche chats have their own website/blog, like Search Marketing Weekly or The PPC Blog that will create summaries to fill you in. This reinforces why you should follow the tips on points 3, 4, and 5 - you'll only miss out if you don't engage! Now go join any one of these Twitter #chat communities!
Or check out this extensive Twitter Chat Schedule googledocs!
In the meanwhile we'll all wait for someone to host #sepchat. @RuudHein #RuudHeinForSEPChatModerator
More Essentials On Twitter:
Victor Pan is the resident SEO samurai at Wordstream, the provider of The Free Keyword Tool, free keyword tools, and keyword tools. People who know me know that I have a quirky sort of humor.