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.