Twitter Chats 101–What are they? How do you participate? And why?

Vector of a blue bird with wings up on a white background.

I was chatting with efriend, Glynis Jolly, over at A Scripted Maze, about social media. Specifically Twitter Chats. I’ve been using Twitter Chats as a cornerstone of my professional development and learning network for a few years, but I still remember the first one I joined — that feeling of worry, trepidation, shyness, as I reached out to join a group of individuals who I was sure knew each other intimately. It was like going to a party alone, knowing no one and believing they all were BFFs.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Twitter Chats (sometimes called Tweet Chats) are a group of strangers brought together online by a common interest in a topic. Often, there will be a core of people who know each other (usually in the virtual world, but not the physical one) that provide energy and structure. The purpose is to share ideas and grow together.

Glynis asked three great questions:

How do you find out about them in advance?

Usually, whoever is holding the Twitter Chat announces via FaceBook or Twitter or their blog that they’re having a Twitter Chat at (say) 2 pm Thursday. They also give a #hashtag (say, #writing101) that interested writers use to participate. All you do is log into Twitter at 2 pm Thursday, search #writing101, and you’re in. Usually, the moderator asks everyone to introduce themselves (sometimes there are dozens; sometimes fewer) and then starts with a list of questions. Participants weigh in, respond to others, and learn. You can lurk the first few times–don’t even fess up to being there. Just read, listen, see if it suits you.

What are the most common topics discussed?

Twitter Chats address every topic imaginable from cooking to gardening to writing. I use them in the grad school classes I teach (go ahead and search #mti562) as yet another way to reach out to students who aren’t willing to put their hand in the air during class time. I join lots of Twitter Chats to provide myself with perspective on writing topics, get help on a problem I’m having, or simply to see what fellow writers are doing.

Debbie Oh puts out a Twitter Chat list that’s pretty comprehensive. Try one out.

When do they usually happen?

Since Twitter Chats happen all over the world, there’s no way to make the timing convenient for everyone. If you like a topic, but can’t get there during the prescribed time, simply search the #hashtag in Twitter and read the participant responses. You can also add your thoughts and reach out to particular attendees by using their handle (like mine is @worddreams).

If you’re interested in joining a Twitter Chat, here’s a webinar I put together about Twitter chats for the professional development classes I teach:

Questions? How can I help you get started?

More on social media:

21 Writing Tips From Twitter

How to Talk to People Online

4 Reasons You Want a PLN and 13 Ways to Build One


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.