Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of bloggers starting up their own Twitter chats – basically, setting a specific time to get on Twitter and using a single hashtag so that everyone can read what is being said as part of the discussion. I participate (even if sometimes as only a lurker) in a fairly large Twitter chat every Sunday (#blogchat), but there are Twitter chats going on in every niche, some on a weekly or monthly basis and some as a one-time only event. Is this a good way to build your blog and business? Should you be starting your own Twitter chat?
The Twitter Chat “Good”
I can say, without a doubt, that participating in chats via Twitter pulls in new readers to your blog, as long as you’re helpful during the chat. Every time I participate, I end up with a ton of new followers and my blog stats spike a bit. This may be less noticeable for someone who’s getting millions of hits per day, but if you’re a small or new blogger hoping to reach new people, Twitter chats are a great way to do it.
They can also help you understand your readership better. With so many people throwing out ideas fairly quickly, sometimes I can’t take notes fast enough. Not only do I learn from others about my niche, but I find out what their problems and concerns are. If you ask a question during a chat, it’s almost like a mini-poll of your readers. So, this is a great way to connect better with your audience.
To go hand-in-hand with that, you can use tweets made during chats as inspiration for new posts. I do that every week here at BlogWorld following Sunday’s #blogchat, but you don’t necessarily have to take on the same format I do, addressing a specific tweet made during the discussion. Think about what is being said, what the common factors are among chatters. Those are issues you should address on your blog. You can even message people after you’ve written a post with something like, “Hey, during such-and-such a chat, I noticed your tweet about such-and-such a topic. I wrote a blog post about it that I thought might interest you.”
The Twitter Chat “Bad”
Twitter chats aren’t all sunshine and rainbows, both for participants and for organizers. Let’s first think about some of the downsides as a participant. For me, I find it hard to concentrate on anything other than the chat, especially when it’s a large group, and I’m a pretty good multitasker. It isn’t like you can just easily back up and read what you’ve missed. It goes so fast, that you’re forever playing catch up if you do it that way. So, if you want to participate in a Twitter chat effectively, you pretty much have to set aside a block of time to do so.
As an organizer, the biggest downside is lack of control. Sometimes, you’ll get someone participating who doesn’t understand how Twitter chats work. They can throw a conversation way off topic, and while taking a chat in a different direction isn’t always a bad thing, it can be distracting and disappointing for participants if they show up to talk about blogging only to find that 90% of the people have gone off on a tangent about their cats. The off-topic participant is not a huge problem, though, when you consider that every once in a while you have a complete troll who’s out to make fun of everyone’s tweets, spam the chat, or otherwise just get in the way. With other chat systems, you have the ability to boot someone, ignore them, or even report them, but on a Twitter chat there is less control.
The Twitter Chat “Ugly”
Twitter chats definitely have one huge disadvantage, which I’ll refer to here as “the ugly.” When you’re participating, all of your excited tweets about the topic are going to take over the feeds of your friends, even if they have no interest in the topic. Sure, you can announce beforehand that you’re participating in a Twitter chat, but as someone who’s seen people on my following list get involved with them, I can tell you firsthand that it is annoying. Clogging up feeds is never a good thing, no matter how much your readers love you.
So should you start your own Twitter chat or participate in existing chats? At least take some time to lurk at the most popular chats for your niche. Twitter chats aren’t for everyone, but they benefits can’t be overlooked.