Networking resource: Twitter chats

Here’s my confession of the day: I love Twitter. This micro-blogging, social media platform may seem confusing to some, but I have found it to be a great resource for connecting with other like-minded people from my city and across the world, including music therapists, musicians, and healthcare professionals. If you’re not already on Twitter, check out this post from JoAnn Jordan on getting started with Twitter.

One special use of Twitter is for chats. I’ve found these are a great way to meet and get to know other people who are interested in similar topics. They then make great people to follow on Twitter all the time.

Each chat is run slightly differently, but here are the basic steps to getting involved. (I am assuming you already have a Twitter account.)

1. Find a chat. If you’re already following people who are interested in a similar topic, chances are you’ll get invited to participate in a chat. Invitations are definitely not necessary, though! This Google doc has a list of Twitter chats, including scheduling info and who hosts the chat. The host would be a great person to contact if you aren’t sure how to join in.

2. Take note of the hashtag for the chat. Besides the date and time of the chat, you’ll definitely need to know the hashtag, as this will help you find other participants’ tweets and let them know that you are participating in the chat, too. A hashtag is simply a word preceded by this symbol: #. (For example, I have participated in #eldercarechat and #hcsm.) These hashtags are listed on the Google doc schedule mentioned above. 

3. Choose a chat platform, if desired. You could follow chats using whatever method you normally use to access Twitter, but some services exist to make chats easier. I use TweetDeck if I’m on my phone, and TweetChat if I’m at my computer. TweetDeck allows you to set up a column for a particular hashtag, so only the tweets with that hashtag will show up. This is handy if you’re participating in a chat and don’t want to be distracted by unrelated tweets for that hour. TweetChat has this same functionality with an added bonus – it will automatically add the hashtag for you, so that you can keep participating in the chat without having to remember the hashtag each time.

4. Look for topics/questions. Once you have your eyes peeled for the chat hashtag at the scheduled time, you’ll want to look for questions or topics given by the moderator. In fact, the first one might be, “introduce yourself.” (Easy, right?) Typically, the moderator will give the questions one at a time, and it helps to reply with the question number in your reply so other people know what you’re responding to (e.g. “Q1 Here’s my brilliant answer #appropriatehashtag”).

5. Don’t forget the hashtag! You do need to put that hashtag on every tweet meant for the chat; otherwise, some of the other participants might miss what you have to say.

6. Interact, interact, interact. Retweets (RTs) are welcome, as are replies to other users asking questions or giving feedback (@username). The very cool thing about Twitter chats (in my opinion) is that they draw a broad audience – for example, #eldercarechat draws family caregivers, people in the legal or consulting worlds, and direct care professionals like me. I love the variety in perspectives that these chats offer.

7. Follow people you find interesting. This is the best use of Twitter, right? Once you’ve found these great people, you can certainly follow them outside of the scheduled chat time.

8. Look for transcripts if you miss a chat. I’ve caught up on chats for #hpm (hospice and palliative medicine) and #eldercarechat when I couldn’t participate at the scheduled time. The moderator will most likely send a tweet with the link when the chat transcript is ready.

It has been my experience that people participating in Twitter chats are always welcoming to newcomers, so I hope you will decide to try one on for size. Here are the chats that I participate in at least some of the time – consider this your invitation to join us!

#hpm – Hospice and palliative medicine – Wednesdays at 8 pm CST

#eldercarechat – For caregivers and professionals working with seniors – Every other Wednesday at noon CST

#homecarechat – On topics about home health care – 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month at noon CST

Thank you to Michelle Erfurt of the Music Therapy Tween for suggesting this post! Do any of you participate in Twitter chats? What do you think?


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