Joining your first Twitter chat

A Twitter chat is when a group of people come together at a specific time to discuss a topic or series of questions.

All of the Tweets during the chat use the chat’s hashtag, such as #hcsmanz.

The chat is usually run by a moderator using an official Twitter account, such as ours @hcsmanz. This moderator asks the questions, steers the conversation and facilitates the community discussion. You will often also see these accounts active in between chats to share content that the group might find interesting or informative.

If you’re new to Twitter, read this Getting Started Guide from their help docs.

Each Tweet you send needs to include the hashtag, or participants in the chat won’t be able to see it and follow the conversation. Capital letters don’t matter (so #hcsmanz is the same as #HCSMANZ and #Hcsmanz) but they need to include the hash symbol (#) and the tag with no space between. You can put the hashtag anywhere in your Tweet. For example:

Great to join everyone tonight at the #hcsmanz chat.

or

A1 I think that social media can really change the way that patients experience healthcare #HCSMANZ

You might see people using “Q1″/”A1” to indicate the question that is being asked (by the moderator) and the specific question they are answering. This isn’t required, but can sometimes be helpful if you’re answering a previous question.

How to follow a chat

To follow a chat, you just need to watch the stream of Tweets being sent using the particular hashtag. You can do this using Twitter’s search function on the internet (or any Twitter app) by just putting the hashtag into the search box.

A really helpful tool that we recommend for following Twitter chats is ‘tchat.io’ which provides an excellent interface for following a chat. The best part is that when you sign in with Twitter (button in the top right) it will give you a box to Tweet that automatically includes the hashtag at the end. You can visit the tchat.io for #hcsmanz here.

What to do during the chat

  • Introduce yourself. Most chats will have a brief moment at the start to encourage everyone attending to introduce themselves to the group.
  • Answer questions (of course) and provide your thoughts, experiences or even links/references to relevant things on the web.
  • Reply to others (using the Twitter @reply function) and add to their thoughts and/or debate (not argue!).
  • ReTweet other users’ Tweets if you think they’re interesting, or would be of interest to your followers.
  • Favourite Tweets you think are valuable, or maybe that you want to read later. Favourites are similar to ‘Likes’ on Facebook and are an easy way to give feedback on something you think is great.

What to do after the chat

  • Don’t forget to say thanks to other users for joining in, follow users you think were interesting or engaging, and the moderators for moderating 🙂
  • If you missed something, go back through the archives (usually the moderator will tweet a link at the end) to find the particular Tweet you were looking for.
  • In between chats, share any relevant articles or thoughts on the chat’s hashtag.
  • If you have an idea for a chat topic, suggest it to the moderators! Just send the account a Tweet or reach out to them individually.
  • And come back next time!

Things to remember

  • Twitter chats are public, so be careful about sharing any confidential information or things you wouldn’t want others to see now or in the future.
  • It’s okay to ‘lurk’ or just watch the chat happen. Some people find this more comfortable for their first chats, while others ‘jump straight in’.
  • Twitter chat communities (including #hcsmanz) are very welcoming to new members, so feel free to ask questions. There are no silly questions.
  • It can be hard to get a thought across in 140 characters. It’s okay (and encouraged) to ask for clarification or more information — everyone has to simplify their ideas on Twitter and the issues can be complex.
  • It’s usually assumed that unless you are Tweeting from a business account (such as @CocaCola) that your thoughts and opinions are your own and not those of your employer. You may want to check your employer’s social media policy if you’re concerned about this.

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