Twitter chat hashtagI last posted on Twitter chats back in April in the post 5 Twitter Tips for Fundraisers. Since then, I've really stepped up my participation in Twitter chats, particularly

  • #blogchat: primarily about blogging; occurs most Sunday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern
  • #speakchat: Monday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern, a moderated chat about some aspect of speaking & conferneces
  • #smNPchat: a bi-weekly chat every other Friday at noon Eastern on topics that pertain to small nonprofits, and
  • #npcons: a monthly chat every 3rd Tuesday of the month at 1 p.m. Pacific time

I'm having a blast participating in them. Here are 5 tips I've learned to maximize your Twitter chat experience:

  • Get to know the system

    Some chats are more structured than others. Look to see what the guidelines are before jumping in. Moderators often tweet the links 10-15 minutes before the official start time. #speakchat is highly structured, the moderator interviews a guest for 45 minutes. Only the last 15 minutes is open chat. On the other hand, #blogchat and #smnpchat are more open to participation by everyone.

  • Show up early

    I seem to get the most out of chats when I check in 15 minutes early. I like the banter. Plus, you might be able to share your blog link or ask other questions that might not be appropriate during the actual chat.

  • Use a tool like TweetChat...and have multiple windows open

    Chats move very quickly. So I normally have TweetChat, Hootsuite, and Twitter open in separate tabs.
    Twitter chat tabs #smnpchat

    I focus on TweetChat, but having the Twitter tab open to my "@mentions" helps me keep up with replies and retweets. As you can see in the example, Twitter nicely keeps a tally of your replies right in the tab. This really helps me interact with the people who are interacting with me. And finally, Hootsuite serves as another touch point to make sure I'm not missing questions or comments addressed to me. It seems that I always see replies in HootSuite that I didn't see on TweetChat or Twitter.

  • Stay on topic...to a point

    Moderators set the topic for each chat. It's simply polite to stay on topic. There's nothing more annoying than seeing someone drop in purely self-promotional spam that has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of the night.

    But with every rule, there are exceptions. As with any gathering of human beings, Twitter chats spin off sidebar conversations like swirling eddies in a stream. These can be particularly entertaining. They may be jokes about drink orders, or rants about something that came up in conversation, or anecdotes about each others avatar pictures. (I often get bowtie comments tweeted to me.)

    While these eddies of conversation aren't specifically "on topic," they are moving with the flow of conversation. So I'd say go with it. Just don't put spam into a chat's tweet stream.

  • Follow others

    Just like a mixer, a Twitter chat allows you to meet new people. So if you see people that are saying interesting things, follow them. Keep the conversation and connection going outside of the chat times. (I'm finding Empire Avenue to be an interesting way to keep up with people I meet in chats.)

I'm really enjoying being part of these chats. They help me meet lots of new and interesting people. And they help me keep in touch with people I don't normally interact with during the week.

Those are my five tips to maximize your Twitter chat experience. What would you add?

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