Today, I’m going to share with you some hints and tips to help you to get the most out of the Twitter Chats you participate in because, let’s face it, whilst Twitter Chats such as #UKEdChat can be a great fun to be a part of, and a fantastic form of CPD, they can also be somewhat overwhelming. Especially if you’re new.
Get properly set up & don’t expect to be able to carry on with other things
Of course, you can follow a twitter chat on the fly via your mobile whilst you try and get on with your weekly shop or do some marking. I wouldn’t recommend it. Good twitter chats are fast and furious to say the least and you get out as much as you put in. So I’d suggest that you set yourself up at a computer or laptop with no interruptions, and set aside the time to fully engage.
Don’t rely on Twitter.com
If you’re taking part in a popular chat, you will find it far easier to follow if you use a different twitter client than twitter.com. I recommend using twitterfall to follow chats; other people recommend tweetdeck or hootsuite. It’s a matter of personal preference so you might like to try a couple of different options until you find the one that works best for you.
Don’t forget the hashtag
The most important thing to remember when participating in a twitter chat is to include the relevant hashtag after every tweet. Otherwise, people following the chat won’t see your words of wisdom. Nor will they be recorded in the chat archive. It can be difficult to remember, but some clients such as twitterfall enable you to automatically add the hashtag to all new tweets – which is great if you have a mind like a sieve like me!
Engage and interact
Lots of people choose just to watch the conversation, and that’s just fine, but I think that to get the most out of a Twitter Chat you really have to get stuck in. It can feel a little daunting at first as there is so much going on, and often there are lots of people tweeting strong opinions or really well formed views. But I promise that people WILL be interested in your ideas and experiences so tweet away.
Ask and answer questions
One of the quickest ways to get yourself into the swing of things is to ask some questions… if you ask a relevant and interesting question then other tweeters will engage with you. I find this a particularly useful strategy when taking part in a chat session that is a little beyond my comfort zone. Twitter chats are a very friendly environment so if you don’t know about or understand something, just ask and someone will be happy to explain. It’s a great way to learn. Answer questions too. Never fall into the trap that some new tweeters do of thinking your opinion isn’t valid or interesting. The more voices that participate, the more we all learn. So get asking and get answering.
Use the reply button – and view conversations if you feel lost!
When you’re answering questions, or asking questions that have been inspired by another tweet in the chat, be sure to hit reply rather than just writing a fresh tweet. This will ensure that other tweeters can follow back the conversation. I often keep a twitter.com tab open just to be able to view back conversations as they are displayed really clearly on twitter.com (click the little speech bubble next to any tweet to see the preceding tweets).
Find new people to follow
Twitter chats are a fantastic source of new people to follow. Everyone involved in the chat has a common interest or you wouldn’t be chatting together. There will always be tweeters who stand out within chats as being particularly useful or interesting, or maybe just sharing a specific common interest with you – be sure to follow them, they will be a great addition to your network. You’ll also gain a lot of new followers by actively engaging in chat sessions.
Favourites are a lifesaver for me during chat sessions. It’s all so fast and furious that it’s virtually impossible to keep pace at the best of times – then someone tweets a fantastic link that you’re keen to read – but if you do so you’ll miss a chunk of the conversation. I will always favourite tweets with great links, or good ideas that I want to put into practice or come back to to think further on, and review them in the morning. Once I’ve recovered from the chat!
Retweet noteworthy tweets
The moderator will retweet good tweets and it can become a bit of a free for all if everyone retweets any half decent tweets so don’t go crazy on the retweets BUT if something particularly stands out, or you don’t think it’s been picked up by the moderator, retweet it as this will help it to get some extra airtime and engagement.
Don’t try to read everything
It’s just not possible to read every tweet that occurs during a busy chat session. You’ll make your eyes bleed. Don’t even try. There are a few different approaches you can take. Either have a specific focus, like you would for a lesson observation or simply read what catches your eye. There’s no great science to it, but all seasoned twitter chatters would agree that the one thing you can’t expect to do is to read the lot!
Don’t be afraid to huddle in a corner and explore a tangent
If you and a couple of other like-minded folk find yourself going off on a tangent, don’t worry about it… that’s okay! Huddle in a corner of the chat and carry on. You’ll often find that you’ll draw other tweeters in and start your own mini-chat within the session. You’re here to learn something from each other, and as long as that’s happening it’s all good.
Include links and refer to other sources of information
If you’ve written or read a blog post that relates to the chat session be sure to tweet a link. Sharing links to any relevant sources of information is a very helpful thing you can do to contribute to a chat. Some tweeters will favourite them and come back later, and others will pick them up via the archive, so don’t hold back on sharing links and information on the basis that there isn’t time for people to read and process it right away.
Read the archive or summary afterwards
Most twitter chats will produce an archive of all of the tweets afterwards – this can make heavy reading and can run into the thousands of tweets. For this reason, the summaries that some chat moderators produce outlining the main thrust of the conversation and picking up the best tweets and links can be a far more inviting prospect. I always read the summary of #UKEdChat as it’s a great way to recap on what was discussed and pick up any interesting points I might have missed out on at the time.
Drink after the session – not before!
This suggestion by @mikeatedj is a very sensible approach. One I preach rather than follow. (which is why my tweets get a little slurry towards the end of a heavy chat session…)
Happy chatting! And please share your hints and tips by commenting. A big thank you to these marvellous members of my PLN who contributed to this post: @IanPocock @JackieSchneider @chris_1974 @chickensaltash @cathprisk @mikeatedj @maxrayner @mushychelle @colport @ukedchat