What is a Twitter Chat?

I fondly remember people telling me, way back in 2009, when I first got on Twitter, that it was a flash in the pan.

“It will be gone within the year,” said one friend of mine who shall remain nameless.

Oh how wrong they all were.

Today, everything from “The Voice” to “Survivor” has a twitter hashtag associated with it, along with every conference, every restaurant, every tourist activity and tourist location.

Twitter didn’t go away; in fact it has become part of the fiber of everyday culture.

I admit, I’m a Twitter addict. A fellow travel writer recently called me a “tweeting fool!” And that’s okay. I accept the title, because I love twitter. It’s my way of connecting instantaneously with the world, and for my brand, that’s priceless (but don’t tell Twitter I wrote that). 

When I’m on a trip I can instantly share photos with my followers. I can tell them where and what I’m eating and what I’m doing while I’m doing it. For a travel writer like me, I think it’s imperative that I tweet.

So now that you know where I stand on Twitter, let’s talk Twitter Chats, also called Tweet Chats.

First a little Twitter 101, for those who may be new to this social media platform.

A hashtag is the pound symbol.  This à #

The hashtag is crucial to Twitter. It allows users to filter the information they want to get from Twitter.

For example, I use the hashtag #Colorado on nearly every post, because HeidiTown is all about Colorado. In fact, I’m one of the biggest users of the hashtag #Colorado on Twitter.

I don’t know when Twitter Chats first developed, but I became involved in #TourismChat last year. A chat is when a group of Twitter folks all use the same hashtag for a specified amount of time. The individuals involved in the Twitter Chat are basically having a conversation about a specific topic and creating a way they can all follow along by using a specific hashtag.

From what I can gather, there are hundreds of Twitter Chats. From tech chats to mommy chats and everything in between. The chats occur at specific times during the week or month and run for a set period. Usually one hour.

I join in #TourismChat (every other week on Thursdays from 1 to 2 p.m. MST) #SkiChat (every Thursday from 1 to 2 p.m. during the winter) and most recently #BikeChat (every Wednesday from 10 to 11 a.m. MST).

My chats all use a similar formula. It’s a question and answer session. There’s a moderator and for #TourismChat it’s the ladies who run @TourismChat. They field 10 questions during the hour on a specific topic to those involved in the chat. For instance, the last topic was Online and Offline Connections - how destinations are using online methods to connect offline to their potential visitors.

Why join a Twitter Chat?

In some industries, mine included, it’s a great place to network. It also gives me street cred; I know my stuff and now other people know I know my stuff. But I don’t know everything, so it’s also educational. For instance in #TourismChats people often share best practices within the industry. What’s working for their destination and what’s not. Also, it’s just fun! Chatting with people who are interested in the same stuff you are interested in is always fun.

Finding the right Twitter Chat for you might not be easy. I stumbled into #TourismChat by complete accident. 

I did find THIS SPREADSHEET that lists over 600 chats, and that could be helpful. You can also ask around. Tweet out your inquiry.

“I’m looking for a #TwitterChat on #baseball. Can someone help me?”

“I’m looking for a #TwitterChat on #coworking. Can someone help me?”

“I’m looking for a #TwitterChat on #gardening. Can someone help me?”

I think you get the point.

So this brings me to the conclusion of my Twitter Chat 101 class. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, or email me at TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.

Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is a freelance writer and founder of HeidiTown.com, a blog about Colorado festivals and travel. She has been coworking since 2010.


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