If you’re average you didn’t read this article. If you’re above average you read the title and got this far thinking, “I thought Twitter was all chat”. Welcome, you’re going to love this if you read this far.
Twitter, in case you do not know, is the wildly popular global, open stream, 140 character text chat system. If you have been around long enough to remember the AOL chat room with 25 guests maximum image that with thousands of guests but limited to 140 characters including spaces called “tweets”. If you do not yet have a Twitter account here’s what I suggest:
- Spend a minute thinking about your Twitter “handle” aka your nickname on Twitter. Mine is@thekencook because @kencook was take. The @ symbol is automatically pre-pended so you do not have to include it when registering for your handle.
- It would be advisable, also, to keep SEO in mind and incorporate a keyword but that’s less critical than actually *having* a Twitter account. As you tweet and converse you can use keywords, especially in links, to help boost your SEO. Google does index Twitter tweets.
- Personally, I would double check to see if there is a domain name to match your Twitter handle available. For example I have thekencook.com to go along with my Twitter handle. You may want yumacondos.com or sencondchancehomes.com if you catch my drift.
- Keep in mind the shorter your Twitter handle the less characters your name will take up when people ReTweet (forward) your messages. My friend Jeremy Blanton has JB140 so his only takes up 5 characters. Jeff Turner has respres. I do recommend the shorter names if you can get one that works.
There is more to it that just these but for starters you should be good to go with those. (You actually can change your Twitter handle later if for some reason it is necessary like when I was employed by AmericaHomeKey and ran their account and they terminated my division – I just kept it and changed the name to RefLeads http://twitter.com/refleads for example.)
Now that everyone has a Twitter account, ahem, let’s look very briefly at how a “Twitter chat” is different from “chatting on Twitter” and a basic look at how to do one right.
When you chat to an individual on Twitter in the open stream, not in Direct (private) Message, you prefix their handle with the @ symbol like @thekencook would come to me. You will also see words that are prefixed with the # symbol like #smedge. Those are called hashtags and are used to set tweets apart to be followed by the #hashtag. #smedge is the hashtag for Social Media Edge.
To host a chat, let’s say for example a chat about new homes you may want to create the hashtag #nhs (keeping it short so it does not consume much of your 140 character). Prior to just creating a hashtag, though, it is important to make sure it does not already exist or is not being actively used for another purpose. One way of doing so is simply to use the Twitter search function and searching for your hasthag like so: #nhs
That hashtag, #nhs, for example, is highly active because it has something to do with Nationalized Health Care in England evidently.
Another way to check, which does essentially the same thing but includes a nice little activity chart, is by visiting hashtags.org and doing the search from there. For example doing the search there for #blogchatshows a fairly active hashtag. Pick a hashtag that has not been used for several days to help ensure you aren’t stepping on anyone’s toes.
Once you have your Twitter account and have found a hashtag that will work you need to start building community around it. Firstly let all of your friends know. Do a Plancast announcement as well if you have followers there. You should also create a Facebook page with the name of the Twitter chat and invite your friends from Facebook who would be interested.
Some Twitter chats are outrageously active and it’s very difficult, at best, to follow the entire conversation stream. There are tools to help but even then it can be difficult. One of my favorite tools for very busy chats is TweetGrid which allows you to monitor multiple Twitter events simultaneously. I create a 1×3 grid, 1 row of 3 columns, and I follow the hashtag, the organizer and my own handle. There is nothing to download and it’s not a tremendous drain on system resources like some of the thrid party solutions you have to download. You can also save your configuration so every time you join a chat you already have your columns set!
Mike Mueller is a big believe in Seesmic. Honestly I have never used it. I have tried TweetDeck and I can’t stand it. Maybe it’s because it is so resource hungry because of the number of connections I have on Twitter. Be that as it may I love TweetGrid.
If you are joining a smaller chat say with 20 participants or less, there is also TweetChat which simply monitors the hashtag and lets you interact from there. With both of my preferred solutions you do not need to type the #hashtag every time because it is included in your Tweets. On TweetGrid you will add it in the bar near the top. On TweetChat it is there by default on any hashtag you are monitoring.
Have your Twitter Chat at a regularly scheduled time. If it’s every third Thursday at 9PM CST then make it know. This way people who enjoy it will make arrangements to join again. I have a few favorites I try and join regularly, too.
Have your questions prepared ahead of time. Have a guest to join you if you can. Heck, ask me or one of my co-hosts, we’re usually interested. Six to eight questions is usually plenty for a one hour chat. Three or four can easily fill a 30 minute chat. Don’t start with questions the very minute the chat starts allow people the opportunity to introduce themselves and say “hi”.
Once you have a few people who have indicated their participation, say 4 to 5 minutes past the starting time let them know you’re about to ask the first question then ask right after. It is recommended to number your questions and remember you need to leave room for your #hashtag, too. So let’s use #hashtag as our tag and here is a sample question:
Q1 when calling expired listings how do you start the conversation with the property owner? #hashtag
When people answer they should answer with A1 I always blah de blah …
Here are a few important points to help make your chats successful:
- Be consistent with the time you have the chat
- Make sure your chat is not a secret and empower people to help like having a chat co-host
- Keep your chat highly relevant to your audience and in a topic with which you are intimately familiar
- Have guests who will bring visitors with them
The goal of Twitter chats may vary buy host. For me it is to expand my network and to meet an ever increasing number of people. So far, so good!
Happy chatting! When you’re ready to have some professional assistance with handling your online influence you know where to reach me! If you don’t, try this link for amazing web solutions!