How and Why to Participate in Twitter Chats – Everything You Need to Know

Twitter chat birdsUpdate: the #solopr Twitter chat is now held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month (same time, 1-2pm Eastern). Learn more about the new format here, and read on to find out how to participate!

Since September of 2009, the #solopr Twitter chat has been held each Wednesday, 1-2 p.m. Eastern time – making #solopr one of the longest-running chats on Twitter. A cornerstone of the Solo PR community, our Twitter chat offers free access to some of the brightest minds in public relations, and continues to be one of the most popular features of Solo PR Pro.

Everyone is welcome (our regular chatters are some of the friendliest you’ll find online!), but if you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat (sometimes called a Tweet Chat), the concept can be a bit confusing. Here’s what you need to know to participate in any chat on Twitter:

What’s a Twitter chat?
Twitter “chats” are really just an informal gathering of people tweeting at an appointed time using the same #hashtag. You don’t have to “join” anywhere, just send a tweet that includes the hashtag (for example, #solopr), and those following along will see it.

Why is a Twitter chat worth my time?
Twitter can feel like a sea of noise, and it's become more difficult to engage in ad-hoc real-time conversations. Chats allow you to actually connect and network with new contacts on Twitter – people with whom you share a common interest.

water cooler chattingFor PR pros participating in public relations chats on Twitter, it can be a chance to learn new things while also demonstrating your thought leadership. The best chats are part professional development seminar, part water cooler – Solo PR Pros take their work very seriously, but also like to have fun while doing it. This is evident during our #solopr Twitter chats, and it's why many in our community say it's their favorite hour of the week!

How does it work?
Each chat handles its topic(s) differently, based on the subject matter and the likes/dislikes of the community. Some publish the questions to be posed during the chat in advance (usually in a blog post). Others identify a theme or general topic for the chat and don't ask questions – the participants just tweet in a free-flow fashion during the allotted time.

For #solopr, we follow the model first established by the trailblazing #journchat (no longer active), where participants submit questions in advance to me (either by public tweeting @KellyeCrane, or by Direct Message if you’d like to preserve your anonymity). We like having the freedom to change our question line-up in real-time, since this allows us to address any last-minute urgent questions or conundrums our participants may be facing.

Many chats use a designated Twitter account to moderate the chat. In the case of #solopr, we use @solopr to run the chat.

How to participate
To participate, you’ll want to use something other than the Twitter Web site (trying to use Twitter.com to follow a fast-moving chat can be a very frustrating experience). You can create a search column for the hashtag in a Twitter client like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite for an improved experience, or try tools created specifically for chats, such as tchat.io, for the best way to follow along in real-time. (For specifics on how each works, see our review of twitter chat tool options).

To get the most out of a chat, don’t try to read each and every tweet if it's moving too quickly — for the #solopr chat, we share a transcript every Thursday so you can catch up on anything you missed (and even save the PDF to your hard drive for future reference).

Also, don’t be shy! At a minimum, retweet the tweets of others, so participants get to know you (which will make it easier for you to feel comfortable sharing your own thoughts when you're ready).

Hopefully these tips will help you jump in and enjoy Twitter chats – let us know if you have any additional questions in the comments. Be sure to mark you calendar to join us each week on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at 1 p.m. ET. If you have any specific questions (or ideas for future chat topics), leave a comment or feel free to contact me on Twitter at @KellyeCrane. Looking forward to the chance to engage with you each week!