Twitter chats - sometimes called a Twitter "Pawty" in the animal loving world - is a virtual "chat" with a group of people who are all using a hashtag (the "#" sign) so that the conversation can be easily followed. People use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase (without any spaces) in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter Search. Some Twitter chats happen on a regular schedule, some are planned around a sepcific event or cause (such as #AdoptDontShop to dissuade people from buying pets at pet stores and adopt instead). It can be a little overwhelming (and even confusing) at first, but here is a how-to guide on how to join a Twitter chat and participate.
First, you need to be on Twitter. Go to Twitter.com and sign up for an account (it's free). Check out Twitter's instructions on how to upload a picture and fill out your profile. This is important, because in order to have other people follow you, they'll want to know a little bit about you first. Your profile tells them whether you interest them or not.
Second, you need to find a Twitter chat. Lots of people and brands advertise their Twitter chats directly on Twitter, so you'll want to keep an eye out for them in your Twitter feed. Here is a great resource to check out to see what's going on in the Twitter-sphere.
Once you know the time and date of the Twitter chat, you'll need to decide just how you are going to follow the chat. While you can just use Twitter.com to follow the hashtags, it's a little cumbersome and it can be hard to keep up because you'll have to keep re-freshening the screen. I recommend using an application that allows you to follow the hashtag more easily and not get distracted by other unrelated conversations. Check out Tweetchat.com, Tweetdeck.com or Hootsuite.com and follow their directions for set-up. Then, simply enter the hashtag you want to follow and it will filter out all unrelated conversations so that you only see those Tweets with that particular hashtag. You can even change the speed of the Twitter chat so that you are able to follow the conversation - and watch out because a really active twitter chat moves quickly!
So, you have your Twitter account and you've decided to use an application to follow the conversation. Now what? Some people like to just "watch" the conversation the first time. It's entirely up to you, but once the conversation starts, you should at least introduce yourself. Just say hello , tell everyone how excited you are and that it's your first Twitter chat. You'd be surprised at how welcoming everyone is!
Just make sure that everytime you Tweet that you put in the #hashtag in your Tweet - otherwise, it won't be seen in the conversation. If you do have questions during the chat, make sure that they are on the chat topic. No one likes a Tweeter who de-rails the conversation. Also, avoid using all-caps in your Tweet - it's viewed as "shouting" and considered to be annoying. And remember - a Twitter chat is never the forum to market yourself or your own agenda. The focus is on the hashtag topic of conversation. There are lots of "rules" on twitter, and we won't cover them here, so make sure you read through the Twitter guidelines. Also, check out their FAQ to learn the basics of tweeting.
There are lots of Twitter chats going on with Pet360, so be on the look out - we'll feature them in our community blog With Love & Wags and in our community forum boards. We'll also advertise them on twitter, so make sure you are following us @Pet360. Hope to see you there!