The twitter chats I participate in meet two simple criteria: either I am able to contribute and add value, as they are subjects I am very familiar with; or I want to learn something new. Mack Collier suggested I write a post and share what I think is the best way to participate in twitter chats, so here goes, sharing some of my personal online chat strategy and chat experiences. And yes, it was a planned strategy from the get go, ☺ …… well a flexible plan based on ‘trial by twitter’…..
When I first started I picked just one chat, and then selected a second one on quite a different subject. I committed time to just those two chats, and when I became familiar with how they worked (chats can be really intimidating at first), and when I had confidence that I knew what I was doing, I expanded my repertoire.
The very first chat I joined was a small business chat, where I had subject matter experience and expertise. I have been a ‘solution specialist’ for small business and start up companies forever, and have done a fair amount of implementing, consulting & mentoring in this space. Lucky for me, I had a chat mentor when I got started, @CathyWebSavvyPR, who co-hosts #smallbizchat with the @SmallBizLady. With well-thought out comments Cathy would draw me into the conversations time and again, until I was familiar with how to contribute, and she gave me some basic tips along the way. Now, I try to do the same anytime I see someone new on twitter navigating the chat scene. This chat was just the right pace and format for me to learn the ropes, as it is impeccably organized and structured, and has a different weekly expert related to small business who asks 10-12 questions which the participants answer and discuss. One of the first chat regulars who helped me along and made me feel comfortable with this outlandish 140 format was the @GetResults man himself. That was well over a year ago and we are still communicating in chats, online and sometimes offline.
It’s the conversation and information exchange that makes the online chats work for me; the more you give, the more you get; so often whatever connections I make during the chats continue into other online encounters, and some even have morphed into off-line relationships. My mother used to say, “life is meeting people” and there is no shortage of “meeting people” in the online chat world. There is so much we can learn from each other, and there are so many to learn from.
I know about newsletters, done those; email marketing, done that, but Blog strategy, Blogging and promoting my Blog…. I needed to hone those skills quickly.
My group of chat friends soon expanded; I am still conversing with just about all of my first encounters; including @wilsonellis, @loisgeller, @DannyBrown, @DavidSpinks, @amyafrica, @sourcePOV, @zkellyq, @3keyscoach, and many many more I’ve met over the course of more then a year; too numerous to recount all here, but you know who you are ☺
#blogchat is often a free for all these days (some call it planned chaos & reminds me of the model railroad above), but it is probably the largest, most popular twitter chat out there, at least in numbers. Early in its life when Debra, Danny or Amy guest-hosted, the participants were perhaps more focused on just one conversation stream.
During the early days, I learned how to set up a Posterous™ account, and did the setup actually during the chat ☺ I learned about surveys, and later put one on my Architectural Design website, attracting lots of new traffic. Just about everything I know about blogging and more, I learned on #blogchat.
To get the most out of a popular chat like this, listen first, and that’s just what I did again this week, with @chrisbrogan guest-hosting; unusual for me however, I wanted to absorb maximum content and watch the dynamics of the chat itself, something difficult to do when you are a dynamic. So it’s OK, and can be very productive to be quiet and lurk from time to time, especially when you’re starting out. Then pick a group with a focus within the chat you can contribute to or learn from.
Once you get going and start contributing, think twice before you say it, and when possible add value; however you do it, say it the best way you can in 140. There is an art in PR headlines, advertising taglines, writing telegrams (from an era past), and the same is true for online chat conversations; even the more frivolous chat banter can be artful ☺
After several months I was ready to expand my chat horizons, and with the same criteria as I started, “contribute and/or learn”, I tried out several different chats. I limited myself to five chats a week, and tried to commit to the same chat often, to build relationships and remain focused on the subject, rather than only having a fleeting experience, a ‘one night stand’ so to speak ☺ I did not want to become a social butterfly and flutter from chat to chat without ever really getting involved, though I did hover over a few for research and then move on; and lastly I didn’t want to become a candidate for “TChats-Anon” and visit every chat in existence 24/7/365 ….
So I branched out and joined a Branding group, where I was able to contribute my personal and small company branding experience, and learn about how others are doing it today. I learn about current social media involvement by big brands & non profits, and I participate in #brandchat most weeks. It’s organized by @mariaduron & @DavidSandusky and it’s easy to follow with lots of really good conversations applicable to moving forward effectively with an online & offline branded presence. A definite recommend to those starting out, and not only.
I tried a couple of other small business chats, and #u30pro for under 30 professionals ☺ not a joke, I represent the ‘other’ side of 30 and YES, I know about that. @DavidSpinks started that one a year ago and has done an incredible job of creating a chat community. I still lurk and listen or participate whenever I can.
#SMChat is another favorite with a changing group of knowledgeable social media experts who moderate; I listen more often than participate. Not long ago I discovered #IMCChat with hosts @Bethharte and @abarcelos, and they have really dynamic discussions about Integrated Marketing Communications, and how social media fits into the mix. Then there is my current focus and passion, #innochat.
I watch, I listen and then decide if a chat is pertinent to one of my many interests. Can I contribute, and can I learn something?
And what’s next?
Here are some of the ways I have contributed to the chat scene.
Framing posts: I’ve done three related to specific chats, and hope to be asked to do more. My most recent post was for this week’s #innochat INNOVATION BACKWARDS? I posted four questions for the chat and a “set up” scenario; so instead of giving my solutions and expertise ahead of time, I decided it would be more interesting for the participants to solve an actual “problem” during the chat. INNOCHAT is still a reach for me, the conversation can be challenging or difficult to understand, but the participants are amazing and often include @bpluskowski @Renee_Hopkins @DrewCM @CreativeSage @Gwen_Ishmael @ideasurge @Brioneja @FHInnovation and @DavidWLocke. So my advice is: don’t always pick the easy ones!
Moderating or guest hosting: a great way of helping out; but be forewarned, this is not as easy as it looks. I guest moderated once.
I’m always available to give my opinion, on any subject I know anything about. I’d like to think I helped #kaizenblog become one of the best chats out there. I was there at its inception and it still remains a favorite of mine, with hosts @ConversationAge and @3keyscoach. I contribute and I learn, and the chat exactly meets my criteria, and is smaller than most, very focused, very informative and fun and we are building a community.
Everyone can help by promoting chats; broadcasting the subject, time and date. Everyone can help by rounding up specific participants who might be inclined to contribute to a specific chat or subject. Get to know the other chat participants, their interests and expertise and you can often do some very interesting and helpful cross-pollination between chats. That’s what I do whenever I see contributors like @hacool @EFulwiler @Mandy_Vavrinak @LoisMarketing @JDEbberly @WriterChanelle and @sharonmostyn visible in my twitter stream. I know they can spice up the moment with real value. BTW, several have created chats or are the contributing impetus to #SMchat #Forbeschat #F1Chat #GenYchat, so please check them out!
If you only read the first paragraph and the headings or words in bold what should I say here?
Here are 12 suggested “infolets” (in less than 140 characters) ☺ via @CASUDI. Feel free to add to them in comments.
It’s the conversation and information exchange that makes the online chats work. The more you give = the more you get.
Starting out, commit to just two diverse chats until you gain chat familiarity and have real confidence in yourself.
When you say something, think before you say it; as often as possible add value, and be helpful.
There is an art to communicating good content clearly in 140, so practice, practice ☺
Watch, listen and then decide, is this chat currently within my focus or interest? Can I contribute and/or learn?
Try to commit to the same chat often, to build relationships and remain focused on the subject.
Limit your number of chats each week to a manageable amount. Think quality, not quantity. Don’t become a candidate for TChats-Anon.
Everyone can help by promoting chats; RT the subject, the chat, the date & time.
Get to know the other chat participants, their interests and expertise. Continue the conversation elsewhere.
Remember, if you are new to twitter chats, I am always happy to help you learn to fly in the chat twittersphere.
Finally, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” (and BTW, it’s taken me over 1.5 years to get to where I am in the chat scene on twitter) ☺
Have I missed anything that you have found helps you get more value from online chats? Please let me know.