HOW I MAKE THE MOST OF ONLINE CHATS

August 19th, 2010 by CASUDI (Caroline Di Diego)


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’…..

Starting out
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.

Enter #blogchat into my life, and the big wheel of BLOGCHAT, @MackCollier

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 ☺

Branching out
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?

Here’s a complete list complied by @merylkevans, so pick and choose. She also has some good tips.

And what’s next?

Helping out
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!

Wrap
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 ☺

Here’s a complete list http://bit.ly/twitterchats by @merylkevans, so pick and choose, but choose with a chat strategy/focus in mind.

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.

@CASUDI

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22 Responses to “HOW I MAKE THE MOST OF ONLINE CHATS”

  1. Elli STlGodfrey Says:

    Thank you so much for including #kaizenblog in your mentions

  2. Brian Driggs Says:

    I love Twitter chats. They are an excellent source of fresh, thoughtful information. Unfortunately, Twitter is 100% blocked where I work, I’d soon find myself unemployed if I spent an hour a week staring at my Blackberry trying to follow #kaizenblog (my favorite), which doesn’t update as fast as, say Tweetdeck, to begin with.

    As an unfortunate outsider, I really wish more effort was made to compile these chats into transcripts or the like at a centralized location so that people like me might be able to follow along with the conversations after the fact, get to know all the wonderful people participating, follow them, and possibly build similar relationships “after hours.”

    Last year this time, my days were spent sitting at a workbench building circuit boards or working on cars in the field. Today, I’m up to my eyeballs in curriculum development, instructional design, and trying to apply my community development experiences behind a firewall for corporate America. If I am unable to participate in these chats, I stand to fall behind as the saw gets duller and duller from use without regular sharpening.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on chats, CASUDI. Much appreciated!

  3. Amy Africa Says:

    A couple other thoughts…

    I wish chat participants would take the hashtags off their retweets or tweet them at a later time, not during the chat itself. At #techchat this week, it seemed that everything @guykawasaki said was retweeted over and over and over. Granted, that chat was small but with the bigger chats it gets to be a ton of noise. And yes, I know you can use -RT but it doesn’t work with all the tools. (I think one or two RT’s is fine per chat but the people who RT everything so their audience gets to hear it are the ones who clog things up.)

    The “use your hashtags” wisely should also apply to all the semi-private conversations that people have — if you want to talk about your vacation for half an hour with someone you only see on Tuesday nights at #XXXchat, it’s fine, but it’s really not necessary to use #XXXchat on every tweet.

    If you really like the chat, read the transcript. You’ll always find a few golden nuggets you missed.

    I like the way @bethharte and @abarcelos structure #IMCchat. They have very structured questions AND they manage the ongoing discussion.

    Thanks for this post!

  4. Elli St.George Godfrey Says:

    Had some kind of technical weirdness and most of my comment got cut off.

    As I said before, thank you for including #kaizenblog in your mentions. Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge) and I really appreciate your enthuiasm and encouragement!

    Participating in chats is a great way to meet people, learn other viewpoints, and gain an understanding of how certain skills are used in real life. I know participating in #blogchat changed how I blog. #journchat was how I met a lot of people that I still connect with.

    It’s a marvelous networking tool that allows for us to strut our stuff and learn simultaneously!

  5. CASUDI (Caroline Di Diego) Says:

    Elli, it’s always a pleasure to promote #kaizenblog. I really like the co-hosting format; adds new dynamics to the mix. Keep up the good work.

    Brian, sorry you are unable to contribute to chats. There is no central repository for all chat transcripts that I know of, but there are most always transcripts of each chat, and the best ones are edited, and have the RT’s deleted, so one can follow the conversation thread(s) better.

    Amy, I am inclined to agree that there should be RT-free chats, and I am curious if it might cut out as much as 50% of the noise; and for sure it would minimize the competitiveness by some to have the most tweets/hour! It would certainly increase the quality of the conversations….

    To all of you: as far as I am concerned, we are still in the infancy of online chats on twitter, and they are close to capacity now. When you step back and really think about it, can you visualize how can we grow it to the next level? What is needed? What would make it viable for you to participate, Brian?

    Yes, it’s sure high energy to be part of it now, in its somewhat crude and unpolished state; and as you have seen from my post, I do get extensive benefit.

    Thanks to you all for taking the time to read my post and comment!

  6. Z. Kelly Queijo Says:

    Caroline,
    You are truly a leader when it comes to connecting with people online and putting social media tools to work. I have met many great people via online chats and via #blogchat in particular (including you!). Inspired by Mack’s blogchat, I started #CampusChat to bring parents, students, admissions experts and others who serve the college-bound audience together.

    I’ve tried to keep the chat unstructured, but I often question whether that’s the best approach. I like Amy’s suggestion of holding back on the retweets until later, but I like this suggestion for a different reason than simply reducing chaos. I like to RT the next day or even later in the week to provide added exposure for the both the chat and the person I’m retweeting.

    I’ve started to use the Favorites indicator to flag — what else — my favorite tweets of the chat. This way, I know which tweets to RT later or who I want to follow up with or gather topics I want to research or write about. Your post offers some well-thought-out tips for new and seasoned chatters. Thanks for sharing your insight.
    – Kelly
    .-= Z. Kelly Queijo´s last blog ..How Do You Narrow Your List of Colleges to Tour =-.

  7. Heidi Cool Says:

    Thanks for mentioning me! I’ve learned a lot from the various chats I’ve participated in, but I too have noticed that the people I connect with in chats often turn into the people I converse with more at other times on Twitter. They’re a great place to quickly make connections that last well past the initial chat.

    Brian, if a particular chat is registered on “What the Hashtag?!” you can usually still grab a transcript a few days after the chat. It lets you pick a date range. (Though the times and dates can sometimes be several hours off.) For instance, http://wthashtag.com/Blogchat would be the source for #blogchat, but many others such as #kaizenblog, #smchat and #brandchat are also there. Alas not every chat has registered with WTH, but many of the biggies have.
    .-= Heidi Cool´s last blog ..Making the world better- by building better Web sites- Cleveland GiveCamp =-.

  8. John Antonios Says:

    I remember we met for the first time on #brandchat – that alone stands as proof to the fact that you meet great people during chat session that enrich your online experience and teach you a lot.
    Online Chats have taught me a lot and as mentioned earlier have introduced me to a lot of like-minded people – unfortunately there are some chats i would like to join but the time difference is usually horrible.
    Thank you for sharing that great list of available chats – i’m going to go through it and filter according to subject and time :)
    .-= John Antonios´s last blog ..Monetize Your blog- Don’t Commercialize it! =-.

  9. Brian Driggs Says:

    @CASUDI & @Heidi –

    Thank you for the tips and information. Surely there are more places like Ability-Success-Growth where these chats are distilled and published for the long haul, but in the mean time, I’ll try taking WT# for a test drive and see how that works out.

    Ironic that Twitter brings conversation in the digital realm to near real time and I’m out here trying to program my social media VCR.

    12:00
    12:00
    12:00
    12:00
    12:00
    .-= Brian Driggs´s last blog ..Paul and Monty- his JDM Pajero =-.

  10. Eric Says:

    Caroline, great stuff. I know we have riffed a bit back and forth about the “time investment vs return” of Twitter chats, and it’s great to see your thoughts/philosophy/strategy laid out here. I know you and your methods were instrumental to my early days on Twitter and really helped show me how to grow and prosper within all the communities you mentioned above. This is a perfect ‘101’ post for people who need to understand the how/why of Twitter chats. Thanks for sending it my way!

    -@EFulwiler

    P.S. You should start a twitter chat on twitter chats. (im only half kidding…) ;)
    .-= Eric´s last blog ..2010 Charter of the Twitter Neighborhood Watch Committee =-.

  11. Sharon Mostyn Says:

    Hi Caroline! Thanks for this Twitter Chat 101 – I’m adding it to my bookmarks to send to chat newbies.

    I’ve found that my participation as the Marketing Editor and Moderator for #SMchat gives me the extra incentive to post on a regular basis (even if it’s only a framing post for the Twitter chat).

    Following several Twitter chats on a regular basis also gives me great ideas both for content for my blog and for improvements to marketing strategies that I develop.

    I’m honored to be included in your post along with other great Twitter chat participants and look forward to seeing you during our next chat together!

    ~ @sharonmostyn
    .-= Sharon Mostyn´s last blog ..Haiku for Sarah Evans =-.

  12. CASUDI Says:

    Kelly ~ It’s been fun to watch you, all the way from, “This is what I want to do…..should I do it?”, through the implementation process including “please vote on my logo”, and now, SUCCESS! Our core connectivity has been online chats; but this connection has of course now expanded to other forms of communication. It’s interesting to me how many of those first connections I made on #blogchat I am are still connected with. I guess we all had the common goal of blogging, which we still have. It’s going to be interesting how smartcollegevisit.com evolves; I think we will all be surprised, perhaps you most of all :-)

    Heidi ~ Always great to get your input; I’ve learned a lot from you both in the chats and out. Don’t you do a followup post of #SMchat when you moderate; does everyone that moderates your chat follow up? That would be a good one for Brian to get post updates as well as the WT# transcript. I know a number of people who are time-challenged and can’t partake in chats (work restrictions, etc.) so it could be good to round up a list of some alternative places where there is good discussion/or regular follow up posts related to a chat, like your Ning #SMchat group or Elli’s blog (for #kaizenblog)

    John ~ Yes, chats are an ongoing learning experience, and you reinforce this to the nth degree. It is the people you meet and continue the conversation with. I try to at least hover over a couple of new and different chats from time to time, and did attend #techchat again on Tuesday. @Amyafrica (who commented above on it) would have been glad how it is evolving even by their second chat. The focus was SM for the Enterprise ~ imagine trying to pull together a SM strategy which includes an open policy and 70K employees!

    Brian ~ see above, my response to Heidi. I will see what I can come up with on my favorite chats and pass on the info to you. Also, are there any you have come across that you would like more info on? Sometimes I think the follow on discussions can be as useful as the chat themselves, you would (with my help) just have to find out where the follow on is happening.

    Eric ~ I met you on #kaizenblog; you were new on twitter, and you were the guest host. Impressive; you did it like a pro, a twitter natural :-) I know we’ve had the discussion before, but how are twitter chats going to grow up and evolve. How are we going to take them to the next step, more real discussion, less cliche, and delete the dreaded RT as Amy suggests above?

    Thanks all for commenting and continuing the chat conversation.

  13. CASUDI (Caroline Di Diego) Says:

    Sharon ~ That is a great point about Chats giving us ideas for our posts and of course I got this one from participating in chats and a nudge from Mack. Do you have any #SMChat links I can pass on to Brian so he can follow the excellent content and posts you and others do related to the chat? I think this will be very valuable in keeping him updated and relevant to his current job at the University. The Chat community is certainly a very exciting one and getting more so all the time. Thanks so much for commenting.

  14. Heidi Cool Says:

    Brian, as much as people get excited about more things being available in “real-time” I think you are also on-track about wanting to program your social media VCR. Much of what I like about the online world is related to time-shifting. I prefer e-mail over the telephone because I can attend to it as my schedule allows, I don’t have to respond to each message as it comes it. The same is true for Tweeting, blog commenting etc.

    Then of course we have things like Hulu which allow us to forget the VCR and just watch the show when we feel like. Podcasts are even more flexible. When we subscribe in iTunes they come to us automatically when released and we can put them on our iPods and listen in the car, during a walk, etc. So we’re accessing information both whenever and wherever. And we’re seeing more peple do that with other forms of content on laptops and iPads as well. Real-time gets a lot of hype but I think we all rely quite heavily on that which we can schedule for our own time.

    Caroline,
    I fear I’m not as consistent about posting post-chat follow-ups as I should be, but I usually do try to make a .pdf of the transcript and post it somewhere (often Ning) for posterity. I do this by viewing the transcript on WTH then I use print to save it as a .pdf.
    .-= Heidi Cool´s last blog ..Making the world better- by building better Web sites- Cleveland GiveCamp =-.

  15. Linda Sherman Says:

    Caroline, It has been so delightful making your acquaintance on a twitter chat.
    I very much appreciate your listing your faves. Given your length and depth of experience traveling around the twitter chat world, I consider it very valuable feedback.

    Have you checked #custserv? It IS on wthashtag and quite robust. Tues 9PM ET. I think you’ll find it related to your interest in small business.

    I was very glad to see you refer to Meryl K Evans’ originating list of twitter chats. Various people have attempted to add Meryl.net as the source to the Google doc version that was created from Meryl’s list but it always gets removed (although it’s still on the “copy twitter chat” page.)
    Hopefully some techie knowledge management type without a product to sell with the doc will eventually create a real wiki for us. It’s a very nice device.

    I’ve seen these referred to as tweet chats and twitter chats.
    .-= Linda Sherman´s last blog ..Chris Heuer Talks To Social Media Club LA – Preview =-.

  16. Marsha Collier Says:

    This was a thoughtful post. Thanks. I enjoy Twitter chats and as co-host of #custserv, it is quite a challenge at times. But we all learn from each other.

    Twapperkeeper can be used for chat archives. Ours is at http://twapperkeeper.com/hashtag/custserv

  17. Marjorie Clayman @RLMadMan Says:

    Man, I wish I had seen a post like this ages ago when I was just getting started. this follows the process I engaged in pretty closely, but it’s written far better than I could have said it.

    Great post!
    .-= Marjorie Clayman @RLMadMan´s last blog ..c’mon Vogue! =-.

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