blue bird in a bush
Twitter chats are a great way to amplify your social reach PHOTO: John King

With 330 million active users posting an average of 500 million tweets a day, it can be hard to get noticed on Twitter. 

The most common tweets, aside from GIFs, take the form of a headline, a link and a hashtag. Ninety percent of my tweets follow this form, with the exception of when I share articles or posts, when I tag the authors by listing their Twitter handles. Getting noticed involves a number of factors, including who's online, who "likes" or shares my tweets, popularity of hashtags and more.

The number of followers you have on Twitter is not necessarily an accurate indication of the number of people who will read your tweets. Some are spam accounts or bots and some are inactive and no longer log in to Twitter. Others are on Twitter just to broadcast their own content and don’t bother to check other people’s tweets.

In short, capturing an audience, much less generating any degree of engagement via Twitter is a challenge. In an informal audit of my Twitter account, I found that my average tweet has an impression count (i.e. how many people saw the tweet) that’s one percent of my follower count.

Break the Mold to Make a Bigger Impact

How can you make a bigger impact on Twitter? By breaking the mold of the typical “headline, URL, hashtag” tweet. One way to do that is to join Twitter chats.

Anyone can organize a Twitter chat. You pick a topic, a day and time, and a hashtag and gather at the appointed time on Twitter. The most successful Twitter chats occur consistently (i.e. on the same day and at the same time every week), have a designated moderator (or moderators) and invite special guests or hosts each week.

Twitter chats give you a designated window to engage with others around a topic of common interest. As long as the chat has a minimum viable audience, engagement and interaction are guaranteed.

When participating in a Twitter chat, you won’t need to worry about whether your current followers are seeing your tweets. Instead, you’ll meet new people and gain new followers. And because people have gathered together, your tweets will be seen.

When I participate in Twitter chats, most of my Twitter metrics skyrocket. As my schedule permits, I participate in these Twitter chats about content marketing:

  • #ContentChat (Mondays, 12 noon to 1 p.m. Pacific time).
  • #ContentWritingChat (Tuesdays, 8 to 9 a.m. Pacific time).
  • #CMWorld (Tuesdays, 9 to 10 a.m. Pacific time).

Here’s some advice for getting the most out of Twitter chats.

Prioritize Wisdom-Sharing Over Content-Sharing

The chat is humming along and participants are actively discussing Topic X. Then you remember that you wrote a blog post about that very subject. It might seem like a good idea to share the post, but there’s a tricky balance here: If your post is 100 percent spot-on for Topic X and would contribute to the conversation, then go ahead and share it. However, if it’s only tangentially related or doesn’t help advance the conversation, you may be perceived as an overpromoter if you share the post.

One thing to keep in mind when deciding whether to share a link is that participants would have to break out of the flow of the chat to read what you shared.

To avoid disrupting Twitter chats with overzealous link-sharing, think about sharing wisdom rather than links.

Even if your post is directly related to the topic at hand, it’s better to share individual insights form the post, rather than a link to the full post. Participants will find the nuggets of wisdom more useful.

“The biggest mistake people make is using the chat as a self-promotion opportunity and spamming the participants with links to their content,” said Erika Heald, a marketing consultant and the moderator of #ContentChat. “Twitter chats can be a great way to show your knowledge, but not by being promotional. Rather, when you have smart, helpful answers to the questions and add to the conversation, you make a great impression.”

Prioritize Direct Engagement With Users

In typical Twitter chats, the moderator posts questions in the form of “Q1, Q2, Q3 etc.” and participants answer in the form of “A1, A2, A3 etc.” You could participate solely by answering each question. But that would be like attending a cocktail party and only speaking when someone asks you a question.

Instead, “mingle” and make small talk with others. Here are some examples of how you can do that:

  • Comment on a user’s answer.
  • Retweet the moderator’s questions.
  • Retweet a user’s answer or comment.
  • Reply when users comment on your answers.
  • Make a general comment to a user (for example, “I love your profile photo” or “I’m from the Bay Area too”).

When I first participated in Twitter chats, my attitude was “I’m all business.” In other words, I’d stay laser-focused on the topic. Now, I find as much enjoyment in meeting and mingling as I do in talking shop. So go out and have some fun.

“A lot of users simply answer questions without ever replying to others,” said Rachel Moffett, a social media strategist at Express Writers and the moderator of #ContentWritingChat. “But what makes a Twitter chat so special is that it brings together people from all around the world for one hour. It’s an amazing opportunity to make new connections. It’s not just about building your brand and finding new customers for your business; it’s also about forming relationships and making new friends online.”

Monina Wagner, a social media community manager at the Content Marketing Institute, uses an ice-breaker question to kick off the weekly #CMWorld chats. She’ll ask about favorite foods, songs, activities, etc. in order to get participants comfortable tweeting with one another.

“Our community is made up of smart marketers, willing to share their insights and opinions on several topics,” Wagner said. “To maximize a participant’s time on a chat, it’s vital they converse not just with the brand but with other participants. Large chats can be intimidating, but it’s worth jumping in and starting a conversation.”

So go out and find a Twitter chat that’s relevant to your interests. If you find one and join in, please share your experiences. You can find me on Twitter, where my handle is @dshiao.