More On Using Twitter Chats For Your Business

A thought bubble with the word "chat" in itWhile reviewing my main website, Web Savvy PR, I found two useful posts on how to use Twitter chats for business.

The first post is, “Chats on Twitter Can Be an Effective Way to Grow your Brand.” It is a list of my Top 8 Twitter Chat Tips. click the title to read all of the tips.

The second link is an audio interview by Anita Campbell on her Small Business Trends Radio show, of me talking about chats for business, “Twitter Chats – A Small Business Secret Weapon.” click the link to listen into this podcast interview.

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Why Should I Participate in a Twitter Chat?

image of Caht on a keyboardYou might ask why you should consider participating in these funny-seeming online events that use 140 character “tweets” to talk about one topic for an hour (sometimes more) at a time.

What are the benefits? It can be hard to “connect” in just 140 characters at a time. But on a chat, people interested in the same topic are drawn together to “chat” about a topic for an hour – some chats have 225+ active participants (with many more being exposed to the chat by seeing it in each of those 225 participant’s twitter “streams”) and chats can rack up a total of a couple thousand tweets in that time. All on some aspect of the same topic. That offers much more potential than just semi-blindly tweeting something out and hoping someone is reading your lone tweet. But you have to learn the rules of each chat, and not get too spammy or self promotional.

Atypical results: one of #SmallBizChat’s guests – who hit a sweet spot of a niche and worked it – both before and after the chat – got 900 followers over 4 days. [disclosure - Melinda Emerson @SmallBizlady is the host of this chat; I am it's co-host] An online retailer selling organizational items made $15,000 in sales over a 2-hour pre-Christmas/holiday Twitter party in 2008. These are atypical results- but you can get 10 – 100 new followers after participating in a chat that is aligned with your brand, on a topic about which you are knowledgeable, and if you share useful info during the chat.

The followers you get from activity during a chat are not random followers – but they got to know you over some part of that hour and liked what they heard. Hopefully about a topic aligned with your brand and expertise. They are usually quality followers – or better yet – they are people interested in you and what you have to offer – possibly even potential customers, clients or colleagues.

You can also use Twitter chats to connect with colleagues and potential business partners; listen to & get feedback from clients, customers & prospects; build a more loyal and engaged community and more. And another main reason for participating – they are fast-paced, fun and you learn a lot.

Some of these chats are more industry based – PR professional chatting about topics of interest like #SoloPR on Thursdays, some are hobby & business based like #GardenChat on Monday nights, or tech oriented like @MackCollier’s #BlogChat on Sunday nights and many more.

Another reason is to learn about your customers, and what they are interested in. If your brand is of interest to moms and women, then Tuesday night’s #GNO (short for Girls Night Out) Twitter Party run by @JylMomIF  – is a great way to learn about their interests – but listen and learn first – don’t jump in and promote your stuff. Many of her chats feature a paid sponsor  – some are businesses and brands, others are non-profits, some of her chats are not sponsored at all: GNO twitter party link" href="http://momitforward.com/gno" target="_blank">http://momitforward.com/gno.

Historical note – #GNO was one of the first two parties/chats – that started in Fall 2008. The other grand dame of Twitter chats is #JournChat and @JournChat founded around the same time and hosted by @PRSarahEvans which runs Monday nights 7-9 CT and connects journalists, bloggers and PR professionals. @ResourcefulMom stated doing Twitter parties sometime that fall as well, and also does paid sponsored parties.  After that many others sprung up as people discovered them as a way to connect a bit more meaningfully via Twitter. There are currently over 150 twitter chats see this list for many of them. Not all are still active, and there are others that have not added themselves to this list – the list was created by Robert Swanwick @TwChat http://bit.ly/chatlist.

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5 Ways to Participate in a Twitter Chat

This is just a post to kick things off here on Twitter Chat Help. I’m Cathy Larkin (on twitter @CathyWebSavvyPR & @ChatHelp) and I’ve been participating in Twitter chats and parties since shortly after they began in the early fall of 2008 when they first got started.

For more info on what a Twitter chat is – see further down in this post*.

When describing how to participate in a twitter chat, I think there are five ways to do so. Each way of being involved works for an individual, a non-profit or for a small business or brand.

  1. Listen & Learn
  2. Participate (ask or answer questions)
  3. Be a Guest host or Guest Expert
  4. Sponsor a Twitter Chat or Party
  5. Create or Host a Chat of your Very Own

For more details on these ways to get involved in chats, check out Twitter Chats – A Small Business Secret Weapon - Anita Campbell founder of @SmallBizTrends (SmallBizTrends.com) interviewed me August, 2010 on the topic of “Twitter Chats a Small Business Secret Weapon.” Click the link to listen to the podcast.

Other intro posts coming soon: Why Should I Consider Participating a Chat on Twitter, and 5 Ways to Participate in a Twitter Chat?

Here are the links to two different versions of the “big list of chats” – one is a blog post that notes most of the popular chats and what day/time they occur & who is the host by Twitter Chat pal @MerylKEvans: http://www.meryl.net/2009/05/06/list-of-twitter-chats/. The second is a larger list of chats – by @SpkrInteractive and it is in a Google spreadsheet – with lots of details on who, what, when & website links to more info on over 500 chats listed (http://bit.ly/chatlist). (Caveat – be aware that not all chats on the list are active, or update the info, so search for the #tag or tweet the host to check the details).

*What is a Twitter chat – People use a term preceded by the “#” sign (called a #Hashtag). That makes the word a hyperlink or clickable link. For example, the chat that I co-hosted with @SmallBizLady is #SmallBizChat. Anyone on Twitter who knows about this chat in advance, or who finds it in someoneelse’s tweet stream, can join in on a discussion about that topic. There’s also #Journchat, #BlogChat and hundreds of others.

Each chat of the currently more than 500+ active chats is run by one or more people, on a certain topic and usually meet at the same time – each week or specific times a month. Some of the Twitter Parties with giveaways don’t always follow a schedule, but often have a strong website & following to communicate about it. Each chat is run a bit differently. Some chats are very open – just a topic & a time, others have a guest expert (or more than one) and a set of questions, others take questions from the participants, while some do both.

You can click one of those #chats hashtags above and you’ll see the most recent tweets of those using that hashtag. Most of the chat hosts suggest using third-party twitter tools to participate in a chat – the most simple and popular is www.tweetchat.com (@Tweetchat), next, both easier and harder to get used to, is www.tweetgrid.com (@TweetGrid).  Some people create a column for the #hashtag in their @tweetdeck or @Hootsuite program they already use. All of these are free programs (at the base level – some are completely free). The chat community is very supportive and I’d like to continue that trend here as well.

Here is a link to my Chat Tips post http://bit.ly/chattips1 on my main blog.

Here is a recent post on another Twitter Chat Pal @CASUDI, on how & why this business professional got started in participating in Twitter chats: http://www.esse-group.com/wordpress/social-media/how-i-make-the-most-of-online-chats/ – she’s also Guest hosted a chat or two!

Also: @merylkevans How to Join Twitter Chats | Meryl.net http://bit.ly/4mSyki

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