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Sunday, 15 January 2012

Twitter Conversations

Image from Hubspot Blog
I briefly mentioned twitter conversations in my last post about twitter - finding great tweeters and I promised I would tell you more about them later, so here it is.

It seems twitter conversations (or tweet chats) are a growing phenomenon and many people on twitter don't really know about them yet so I want to start by explaining exactly what they are and how they work. If you already know about them and use them you will probably find this post quite boring, my apologies.

Why should I care?
Tweet Chats are a fantastic way to enjoy using twitter and to get the most from it and the perfect way to network with people around the world!

So what are they?
Effectively a tweet chat is like creating a public chat room on twitter, usually around a common topic of discussion. Anyone can view and join in any chat so long as they know which hashtag to look for.

How do they work?
If you've used twitter at all you will probably have seen a hashtag used at least once. A hashtag is where you place the hash symbol # in front of a word. This makes that word searchable on twitter and means other people can find your tweet if they are looking for that tag.
I make and sell jewelry, if I post about something I sell, on twitter, I can add #handmadejewelry somewhere in my tweet. Someone on twitter who is looking to buy a new piece of handmade jewelry can search for #handmadejewelry and my tweet will show up in their search even if they don't follow me and have no connection to me whatsoever.

What's that got to do with tweet chats?
Tweet chats are based around a particular hashtag and the tag is what allows everyone to see each other's posts - they are the mechanism by which the ordinary twitter interface can be turned into a chat room.
Instead of just adding vaguely relevant tags to my tweets in the hopes that someone will search for them, I use a specific tag that I know other people will also be using and looking for.

That doesn't sound like much of a conversation...
Right, but what happens for a lot of tags is that someone chooses a tag, one that isn't likely to be randomly used by anyone else. This person usually organises a fixed time, usually an hour period once a week. During that time period everyone who knows about and is interested in that subject will search for the tag and use it in their tweets to reply to what others have posted with it.
This is a screenshot (from tweetdeck) of a tweet chat I attend most weeks. It happens every Thursday from 10-11am PST.

Newest tweets are at the top so start at the bottom if you want to follow the conversation. With such a short snippet of the chat it will probably hard to follow each thread of the conversation but hopefully you can get the gist.

#omhg is the tag and it stands for 'oh my handmade goodness' (notice you can see it in every post). @ohmyhandmade (Jessika) is the person who hosts the chat.

The people who attend the chat are mostly handmade business owners, handmade business coaches or related to the handmade industry in some way.

The chat is focused around sharing the joys and woes of running a handmade business and getting and offering moral support and business tips.

Each week, Jessika will have a handmade business related topic for us to discuss and several points within that topic to keep the conversation fresh. Often there will be a guest host (usually someone experienced, with knowledge to share) who prepares the topic.

That's just one example of loads of chats out there. Pretty much anything you are interested in will have at least one chat devoted to it, the trick is just to find the right tag.

OK so how do I join in?
First you need to find out which tags are being used for these chats, that's the hardest part. Look out for tags in tweets from people you follow, especially if they use the same tag a lot during a short space of time.

Next you need to clear a space devoted to just that tag. This is optional but it's nigh on impossible to follow a chat otherwise. On Tweetdeck this is super easy, just click on the tag when you see it in someone else's tweet and tweetdeck will open a new column for you. Alternatively click to add a new column and type the tag (including the #) into the search box. It's just as easy on, simply type the tag and # into the search box. [If you use a different app for twitter please share how best to follow a tag in the comments below.]

You don't have to follow a single member of the chat but you might discover people you want to follow.

You only need to have your search open during the time period your chat runs for but you may find that members of the chat will use the tag at other times as well, to continue chatting to one another. It all depends on the community in each chat.

To reply to people (it's often polite to introduce yourself first) all you need to do is include the hashtag in your tweet. You don't even need to @ reply to anyone. If you know of any great chats (related to handmade or jewelry or other topics in this blog) please share in the comments :)

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