Hoping to join in a twitter chat but don't know how? Here is how to get involved plus how to maintain twitter chat relationships!

You love hashtags, but did you know you can do so much more with them? That’s right — things like participating in Twitter chats, finding local businesses to connect with, and even make new friends! Today, we’re going to go in depth on both how you should be participating in Twitter chats and how to make the most of them! Let’s get started.

Using social media, most of us have come across the term “Twitter chats.” We can guess they are conversations on Twitter, but what are they specifically? What distinguishes a reply on Twitter from a designated chat?

The answer has to do with the format. Twitter chats are commonly one hour (though they can be longer or shorter) discussions hosted by an organization or person. During that time, the moderator will ask questions (usually six-10) for participants to answer. They’re most often open to everyone who’s interested, and are often industry or topic specific.

To participate, users just have to include the Twitter chat hashtag on each tweet. Below, we’ve gone more in depth for you on how to go about participating in Twitter chats and how to get the most out of them!

How To Participate in a Twitter Chat:

1. Be sure to follow the host to keep the chat’s questions on your timeline.

It’s common courtesy to follow the host, but it also provides practical benefits. You will see reminders for the chat pop up as well as other relevant information. The questions will also appear in your main timeline as well.

2. Tracking the hashtag.

The chat’s unique hashtag ensures that everyone participating in the conversation is being heard. Tracking the hashtag means following the stream of tweets that include the hashtag. There are several ways you can follow the chat’s hashtag.

Use Twitter. First you can use Twitter’s integrated tracker to follow the hashtag as it happens. This is a simple way to do it, great for beginners and easy if you don’t want to allow a third party access to your account.

The downside of this method is having to manually add the hashtag to each of your tweets. There is a slight lag and you will find yourself clicking “view more tweets” often, especially if the chat is particularly active. You don’t have as much control over what shows up in the timeline and you can’t pause the feed. However, using Twitter allows you to manage your notifications much more easily and reply to others in the chat as well.

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How to Track a Hashtag Live on Twitter (Great to Participate in Twitter Chats!)

Use a third party. There are many third party services and applications that allow you to track hashtags and participate in Twitter chats with ease. Some common favorites are TweetChat and TChat. Both are similar and it comes down to preference.

The major pro of these services is that they add the hashtag to your tweets, simplifying the process for you. These services give you the option to hide retweets which will help refine your feed and avoid wasting screen space on repeats of the same tweet. These services also let you pause and play the feed, which is beneficial if you need to step away. The con is that replying to tweets can be particularly tough when the feed is moving quickly. There is also a short lag time and tweets usually load in batches; additionally the feed will pause if you have scrolled down from the top.

It’s up to you which method and service you prefer! Give them all a go and see what jives best with you.

3. Following the questions and giving your answers.

The host of the Twitter chat will tweet out questions to help guide the chat along and keep the conversation on track.

Here is an example from a recent #MillennialTalk hosted by @ChelseaKrost:

The host will start their tweet with “Q1” to indicate that this is the question. When replying, start your tweet with “A1,” “A2,” etc. Always make sure the number you include after the letter “A” corresponds with the proper number after the host’s “Q.” This lets everyone know what question you’re responding to. Easy, right?

4. Tracking your notifications.

Because Twitter chat hours can be so busy, it’s best to keep two tabs open: one for the chat on whichever service you prefer using and one open to your own personal Twitter notifications page. In busy chats, replies can get lost so having your page opened gives you complete access to other users who are interacting with you specifically.

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Tip: Also consider keeping a third tab open, this one with the host’s Twitter page. This will allow you to check in periodically and to interact more with the host. It’s also a great way to catch up with a question in case you missed it.

Typically, just tracking the hashtag is enough to keep you in the conversation, but taking the extra steps will ensure you are a stand out participant. Ultimately, don’t forget to include the hashtag in your tweets!

How to Make the Most of a Twitter Chat:

While Twitter chats are fairly simple, they can sometimes be intimidating to join if you’re new to them. Luckily, GenSocial has five steps to help ease the process. With them, you can improve your social media presence and network more efficiently during the chats. You’ll also make some new Twitter friends and grow your network.

1. Clean up our Twitter profile.

By participating in the chats, we’re likely to see more users visiting our page. It’s best to have a good Twitter picture, bio, and handle. This will show that we’re professional and organized online. A good Twitter profile goes a long way in attracting the people you’d like to be associated with.

We put together a great guide with nine ways to improve your Twitter profile.

2. Research the best Twitter chats.

Not all Twitter chats are alike. Some can be general, about something like millennials or creativity, while others are more specific. We should research beforehand to see where we’d be the best fit. Most Twitter chats are welcoming regardless of background, though some are more beneficial professionally than others.

Here are our favorite Twitter chats for millennials, part one and part two.

3. Mark off your calendar for the chat.

This seems like a no brainer, but sometimes plans can get in the way. If we forget to join the chat, then we risk coming in halfway through the discussion. Other times, we may multitask during the chat, but maybe miss important questions. The best thing to do is to dedicate the full hour to the discussion. The hour will go by quickly and we’ll end up answering all of the guided questions.

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This is another good reason to follow the host — seeing their questions tweeted into your feed will help jog your memory that the chat is happening.

4. Be a social butterfly.

In addition to answering all the questions, you should be actively looking at other users’ responses. Do this by following the hashtag and seeing how people reply. During the chat, it’s best to favorite and retweet other important tweets.

If you interact with or relate to another user, follow them! And keep that connection solid. That especially helps if they’re in the same industry as us. Sometimes a good Twitter chat can lead to a bigger personal audience when it’s over.

Try to be intentional with your responses. You have less than 140 characters to contribute something meaningful to the conversation, make them count!

Tip: If your response extends past these characters and requires multiple tweets, mark them with “1/4,” “2/4,” etc to make sure your responses are all read together.

5. Keep the conversation going.

Twitter chats are fun, but much more useful when used consistently. If you join a Twitter chat, try to tune in each week and become a regular face at the party.

Many Twitter chats run for an hour on weekday nights. Those are normally the easiest to participate in regularly. Being a staple of a Twitter chat will help grow engagement on your accounts and develop great networking contacts.

Tip: If you don’t want to clog up your timeline and overwhelm your followers, tweet back to the host and include their Twitter handle as the first thing in your tweet. For example, tweeting “@gen_twenty A1….” will only appear in the timelines of your followers who are also following GenTwenty on Twitter. If you include a period before the handle, as in “.@gen_twenty A1…,” the tweet will appear on all user’s timelines who follow you, even if they aren’t following GenTwenty.

In general, Twitter chats are positive places to connect with other like-minded Twitter users. Always be positive, don’t promote your own content, use referral links or try to sell products. Some Twitter chat hosts leave time at the end of the chat for networking. If this is the case, go for it! If not, be respectful of the host’s space and the other participants.

Go forth and have fun!