If you’re a Twitter user, you may have heard of or participated in a tweet chat.

Tweet chats are live discussions that take place on Twitter about a predetermined topic. Tweets related to the discussion are marked with a hashtag (a word or phrase preceded by the # sign; an example is #CTCTsocial)

Tweet chats are a great forum for small businesses and organizations to learn from people in their industry and to collaborate with their peers. They’re also a way for you to promote what you do by offering advice, and sharing your expertise on a topic.

Before you dive into a tweet chat, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Here are 5 tips on how to participate in the conversation:

1. Prepare yourself for the tweet chat topic

Write down the thoughts you want to share, and — if they’re available — check out the questions or description that the host provides before the chat. You might want to write some tweets ahead of time that you can easily cut and paste during the chat.

2. Choose your tools

TweetChat is a great tool to use when you participate in a tweet chat. Log in with your Twitter handle, enter the hashtag of the event, and TweetChat will pull up all the related messages so you can follow the conversation.

It will automatically add the hashtag to your tweets, so you don’t have to remember to do it yourself.

3. Follow Twitter etiquette

  • Let your Twitter followers know before the tweet chat that they’ll be seeing a lot of messages from you. They’ll appreciate the warning and won’t be confused by your Twitter stream. You could even invite them to the tweet chat if you think they may be interested in the topic.
  • Make sure you add the tweet chat hashtag to your tweets (if you’re not using TweetChat) so participants can find your messages in the conversation.
  • The tweet chat host will mark their questions with Q (for question) and the number of the question. When you submit your answer, mark it with A (for answer) and the number of the original question so other participants can link your response with the correct question.

4. Use the tweet chat as an opportunity to promote your expertise and what you do, but don’t over-promote

If your recent blog post, upcoming event, or services can provide value to people in the chat and relates to the conversation, mention it in your tweets.

Share your knowledge about the topic. But don’t use the chat as a sales opportunity. People are participating in a tweet chat to learn something, not to hear sales pitches.

5. Follow up after the tweet chat

Your fellow tweeters will retweet your words of wisdom, offer compliments, or ask follow-up questions, so make sure to reply accordingly.

You will probably meet new people and get new followers through the tweet chat. Introduce yourself and follow them back.

Were there comments that caught your eye during the chat? Follow the people behind those tweets and keep the conversation going.

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