I did my first Twitter chat a few weeks ago. Neat experience. I was a little nervous because the spotlight was smack on me, and I’m still pinching myself over being picked up by a publisher like Gravity, but it went well.
What’s a Twitter chat? Glad you asked.
Twitter chats are nothing new. The basic concept is a guided, interactive conversation on Twitter through the use of a hashtag. The coordinator sets a time, and anyone who wants to participate follows that hashtag stream at that time. The one I was a part of was run by my publisher Gravity, using the hashtag #GravityChat. The image at right shows the tail end of this week’s chat. The scheduling and guided aspects are what set a chat apart from a conversation around #amwriting, for example. #Amwriting is just a community hashtag for writers. There are conversation threads there, and people get to know you, but it’s not really a chat in the usual sense of the word.
Why do one? Lots of reasons. Gravity used it to spotlight writers or causes, and let people meet authors in a virtual coffeehouse. Rachel Thompson, the imprint manager, acted as a moderator, fielding questions via email, DM, or Facebook. Rachel also runs one called #SexAbuseChat, where each Tuesday at 6 PM Pacific time, participants talk about different topics relating to sex abuse. It can be secondary trauma, grief work in recovery, different kinds of PTSD…you get the idea. That particular chat isn’t intended as a therapy session, but rather to help survivors and their families to talk about their experiences and journey to recovery.
So what a Twitter chat is really about is building community. Why build community?
I’ve pointed out several times via Rachel that if all you’re using social media for is yelling “BUY MY BOOK!” multiple times a day, you’re using it wrong, and no one is going to pay attention to you. But if you use it to engage your fans—interact with them—carry on a conversation with them, they’ll learn more about you and want to buy your book(s).
One other good reason to participate in a Twitter chat? Twitter exposure. Can you guess which day I did #GravityChat?So we’ve covered what they are, and why you should join one, or more. Now how do you find one, and how do you join?
You can try a Google search for “Twitter chat <#subject>.” That’s not always effective though in finding active chats, or more importantly, their schedule. What’s probably better is checking out the several lists that are out there, like these.
• Google Spreadsheet
• Find Twitter Chats In Your Industry: 5 Resources
• Twitter Chat Schedule
You can also check out advocacy groups or professional organizations and see if they moderate any chats.
Now that you’ve found one, how do you join in? Well, you could follow it on Twitter.com, but I don’t recommend that. Conversation tends to flow pretty quickly, and it can be hard to get a word in because to make sure everyone who’s part of the convo can see your post, you have to include the hashtag for the chat. Tweetchat does that automatically. There are several sites or clients out there. I’ve tried Tweetchat, Twubs, and twchat, and have been happiest with Tweetchat. I like that you can buffer the chat stream (slow it down) and that the message character count already includes the chat hashtag, so you don’t have to remember to allow for it.
So there you have the basics of Twitter chats: what they are, why you should join in, and how to join in. Now that you know everything there is to know about them, head out and find one! If you’ve got any questions, leave a comment, and I’ll try to help you out!
April 2017 Update: Gravity and Booktrope closed their doors in 2016, so GravityChat is no longer a thing. In its place is #BookMarketingChat, a tremendous resource that Rachel Thompson and Melissa Flickinger put together. Be sure to follow the Twitter account, Like the Facebook page, and set a reminder on your calendar every Wednesday night at 6 PM Pacific/9 PM Eastern.