Twitter Chat series Part 1: How to Participate in a Twitter Chat

By now, you’ve probably seen either my feed or the feeds of the people you follow get flooded with a ton of responses, all with the same #hashtag. They say things like #socialchat or #blogchat in them, and can be RTs, replies or arguments. This is the next wave of Twitter’s application to people: Twitter Chat.

Basically, a Twitter Chat is when a group of people talk on Twitter using the same hashtag to link it all together. For instance, there’s my chat, #freelancechat. To participate in that chat, you Tweet what you want and add #Freelancechat to the end of it. There’s no better way to network with other people that share your interests, as well as demonstrate your knowledge.

Find a Twitter Chat – Twitter user Robert Swanwick maintains a comprehensive list of Twitter Chats available on a Google Spreadsheet. Simply scroll down the list of Twitter Chats until you find one that’s interesting. There’s a variety of choices, from the Horse fans of #Horsechat to the Christ-centered #Jesuschat. Make a note of the time the day and time of the chat. Also, some chats may have different time zones than yours, so Schedule accordingly. While you’re at it, follow the chat’s host on Twitter so you get the latest info on the chat.

Follow the Chat – Let me make one thing clear: DO NOT USE TWITTER’S WEBSITE TO FOLLOW THE CHAT. Most chats (especially large chats like #blogchat) go so fast that when you get the results from Twitter’s search page, 20+ tweets will have passed. Instead, use websites designed specifically to auto-update, such as Tweetchat or Twebevent. 

Lurk in the chat – Spend a bit of time getting a feel for the chat from the other chatters. Figure out what the topic is if you didn’t see the announcement, and see how people talk in-chat. Once you feel confident enough, start talking.

Use Replies Generously – Things go REAL FAST in a Twitter Chat, and if someone posts something you want to comment on, they may not notice your post. Hence, you need to use the @ symbol in spades. This puts your reply in the person’s mentions bar, making it easier for them to reply.


Use Common Sense – Don’t be a jerk, don’t namecall, act your age, etc. If you disagree with someone, or if they disagree with you, be polite about it. If they’re a jerk to you, don’t say anything, just block them. If they are being disruptive to the chat as a whole, you may wish to report them as well. Use this rule: If you wouldn’t say it to a person in a professional meeting, don’t say it in a Twitter Chat.

Don’t spam your blog/website – If you’re in a chat talking about Basket Weaving, and you link your blog on Gas guzzling cars in the chat, chances are it’s not going to go well for you. Don’t link to your blog or website unless asked to do so. The only exception to this: If you have written a blog entry relevant to the topic, you may link it.

Additional Rules –  Some chats may have additional rules you should follow, such as minimizing RTs in-chat or not asking questions in public. Check the website for the Twitter Chat (Which can be found on the Twitter chat list.)

Four Ways to Improve your Twitter profile.

Now that you know how to create your Twitter bio, you probably realize that nothing teaches you brevity like summarizing yourself in 160 characters or less.

Your Twitter profile is extremely important, as when users click on it to see who you are, it’s all they got. Your profile is the only thing that helps you in the viewer’s decision to hit the “Follow” button or hit the Twitter road. Hence, it needs to snap, crackle, pop, and rip off several other popular cereal crunch noises.

Pick a Style

Browse through the Twitter profiles of several users, and you’ll encounter profiles of all different types. Some type in the first person (Ex: I’m an experienced freelancer who speacializes in Basket weaving” to third person “John smith has a master’s degree in electioneering.” The popular one seems to be terms as sentence fragments: “Writer. Hacker. Social Media Enthusiast. Speaker. Coach.” My favorites are Darren Rowse’s twitter bio for first person, Robert Scoble for third person, and Robin Fay for the broken text.

Ultimately, keep your profession in mind when you work on your bio. The designer may love the broken sentence stuff, but you try that if you’re a professor or a writer, and you’ll look weird.

Keep SEO in mind

Ahh, the ever so wonderful SEO. Keyword generation on Twitter is just as important as it is on a blog or website. Use a combination of local and keyword terms to really generate  business. Terms such as “Los Angeles Social Media Consultant” really help narrow people down to finding you; you may not be able to go national unless you’re Hugh Macleod flaunting the creation of social objects, but you can dominate in your area.

If you do other things, such as blogging or designing, add those as well.

Describe your Projects

Got any current projects you’re doing? Describe them on Twitter. On my Twitter profile, I talk about #Freelancechat in it. You can discuss your site, your social network, your programs, or anything of the like. Steve Cassidy talks about being the Community Manager for the Fraternity Alumni Association. You can talk about the communities you manage or the company you work for.

Simplicity is Golden

Be as simple as possible. Don’t get cute and do poems, riddles and the like. A twitter user will look at your bio for two seconds AT MAX before deciding whether to click Follow or not. Make it obvious as to why you should be followed. Twitter already encourages this with the 160 character limit, but the shorter you are, the easier you make it on everyone.

Your turn

What do you think is the most effective bio? What should go in or go out?

#freelancechat call for topics for 5/18 Twitter Chat

This is a call for topics for Wednesday’s Twitter chat for freelancers, #Freelancechat! Topics can be about anything freelance related: Topic ideas and subjects include:

  • Getting clients and maintaining them
  • Tax information, tips and deductions
  • Selling yourself
  • Different areas of expertise (writing, design, social media, etc.)

To suggest a topic, simply post in the comments below. #Freelancechat broadcasts on 5/18, at 9am/12pm Western and Eastern, respectively.

3 Steps to Creating an Effective Twitter Bio

Everyone’s got a story to tell…in 160 characters or less. Twitter is a network that’s all about speed and brevity. People that say too much get  left in the dust, yet people who don’t say enough leave people wondering who the heck you are. The answer lies in creating an effective, yet short bio that conveys who you are and what you do.

1. Write out your bio in its entirety

To start out, create your bio as if you had an unlimited amount of space. Write to your heart’s content, but try to be reasonable with size…the more you write, the harder it’s going to be to create the bio that goes on Twitter. Ultimately, you’ll want about a paragraph or so that discusses who you are. Here’s a sample:

Johnny Awesome has been an ostrich rancher for more than 40 years. He perfected the art of ostrich grabbery, and is an avid follower of animal rights who cares for his ostriches. Awesome has several books that discuss ostrich farming for beginners and experts alike.

At 334 characters, this clearly is not getting anywhere near Twitter. It’s the fail whale of bios. I think you can probably guess what the next step is…

2. Eliminate unimportant information

Remember to keep your audience in mind when creating your bio. Now, do you care that Johnny watches Jersey shore? No, probably not. Easy kill. Ostrich eggs? While relevent, it really doesn’t say anything about Johnny’s abilities, so we can toss that out too. That gives us 264 characters, or 104 to eliminate. Remember to keep anything unique about your abilities. That could be things like creating an app that saves paperwork with the IRS, or developing a process for managing social media. For Johnny Awesome, it’s his art of ostrich grabbery.

You also want to make sure people know you’re an authority on a subject when you are, so indicating you’re a published author is a big plus. Animal rights are good too, but unfortunately it falls a little short of being important and needs to be eliminated. With that eliminated, we have this:

Johnny Awesome has been an ostrich rancher for more than 40 years. He perfected the art of ostrich grabbery, and has several books that discuss ostrich farming for beginners and experts alike.

Unfortunately, it’s 194 characters, which means we need to cut a little more…

3. Eliminate word clutter

After getting rid of useless information, it’s time to get rid of the word clutter. Anything repetitive, or can be reduced or linked together can be done. Extra words such as “easy, nice, great,” etc can be removed. Use abbreviations wherever possible. Basic grammer is important, so keep it in mind. There really isn’t a cookie cutter method to do this, unfortunately. Chances are with this step you’ll get much different results than what  I got:

Johnny Awesome has been an ostrich rancher for over 40 years. He perfected the art of ostrich grabbery, and has several books that discuss ostrich farming.

At 155 characters, the bio is fit for a Tweet. Note that you can now add information as desired up to 160 characters, and/or further edit for more brevity. You could simply place Johnny’s most popular book in the bio instead of saying he wrote several, and you can also incorporate SEO in mind too, but that’s for another article.


  1. Do step 3 of Johnny Awesome’s bio yourself and see what you get. Post your response in the comments.
  2. Think about your bio and apply these steps to it. How can you reduce your bio to the bare bones?
  3. Post your created bio in the comments for critique.


What Research In Motion got right (and wrong) in Social Media for the PlayBook

As you saw with the interesting usage last post, RIM attempted to post a BlackBerry sponsored Tweet advertising their latest product, the BlackBerry Playbook. Unfortunately for RIM, the Playbook hasn’t been doing too well in the eyes of the techfolk. Hell, it doesn’t even have an email client! The Playbook falls quite short of the sacred title of “iPad Killer.” Add to that the little mess-up of a hashtag RIM used, and you got yourself a PR clusterfleck.

Apparently, the term “Playbook” has several other terms as well, as seen when you do a search for #Playbooklove on Twitter. Terms that involve…well…things that I shouldn’t mention on a professional blog. (Check the previous post to see what I mean.) I think that people just confused it for a football playbook.

Honestly, the shortcoming of the Playbook aside, the sponsored tweet did indeed generate some ACTUAL content about the tablet. However, it wasn’t until much later that it appeared. It’s no longer a sponsored tweet, meaning that it isn’t showing up on Twitter’s main page, and the advert has lost its point.

What RIM can do in the future

Be more specific. The general populate doesn’t keep track of all things RIM, because the iPad is the be-all-end-all of tablets. #Playbooktablet would have been a lot better because it clearly demonstrates what it is. If that’s too odd sounding, maybe #ThePlaybook would be better.

Update Frequently. The post made by the BlackBerry channel was 8 hours ago…you need to be on top of your game when introducing a product, not just set it and forget it. In this case, because there were so few posts, people got confused as to what the heck it was.

Respond to comments. I’ve gotten comments back from people such as Square and Hootsuite when I discuss their services, and RIM could benefit from it as well. They get a testimonial about the Playbook, and the person gets attention from a major manufacturing company.

These should serve as a lesson for anyone introducing a new product in the field: You need to get people’s attention, ESPECIALLY if you’re not the leader in that particular markey.

4 Things Twitter is NOT

I’ve been getting annoyed with the Twitter lately. It’s mainly the spambots that think just because they follow me that I’ll click on their worthless whatever the hell it is and/or follow their sorry selves. But, alas, some of the people that end up in the court of Robot Hell are actually humans in disguise, just grossly misusing Twitter. So for your sake, I’m going to tell you some of things NOT to use Twitter for:

Twitter is NOT a linkzone

While many of us link things we’re interested in, and link content we create, some people just forsake the conversations and just do link after link after link. You can summarize these kinds of posts:

[Hey OR Hello OR Yo OR Howdy]! Check this [Excellent OR Awesome OR Cool OR Kickass] link I found on this site: [SUSPICIOUS BIT.LY LINK HERE]

Twitter is not a follower farm

Some time ago, I noticed that whenever I talked about the “Law” of Attraction (Those of you just coming to my blog: I DO NOT BELIEVE IN IT) on Twitter, I would always get followers that were avid believers in it. I did an experiment on Twitter. One day, I fired off a tweet that was nothing but incoherent gibberish mentioning the Law of was something like “LOA Law of Attraction visualize gratitude” or something of the matter.

….I got 3 followers that day that were LoA zealots.

Turns out you can use special programs that locate and auto-follow people who use certain terms, such as the “Law” of Attraction term. Do us all a favor: Don’t use those. Please don’t think you can follow whoever and expect us to automatically follow you…we do look and see who it is. I secretly laugh at conservatives that accidentally follow liberals, and vice versa.

Twitter is not a bragging site

If all your twitter stream is is this:

  • I just ran 23 miles today, gotta rest up and do weights now!
  • I made an app that sings Hagah Nigila while performing open heart surgery!
  • Our company just announced our newest product: the iWhatever!
  • Or anything constituting a nonstop bragflood…

Just stop. Please. While some bragging is fine (and encouraged,) You look like an arrogant jerk. A lot of company Twitter feeds are guilty of this. And it makes you look like someone just talking at their audience, when with Twitter, you need to talk TO them.

Twitter is not a feed all about you.

On similar lines to the bragfest stream, some Twitter places just talk about what their latest whatever is. The stereotypical tweets such as “I’m eating a sandwich” and “Checking out this random bar/restaurant/museum/toilet” aren’t bragadocious, but they smack of one problem: NOBODY CARES. Unless you’re Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian, nobody cares where you go.

So what to do instead? Participate in the conversation. Look for hashtags in areas that interest you and use them in the discussion. You might just land some interesting followers and find interesting people. BE a contributor to the collective Twitter mind, and attain recognition naturally.