Last week, we blogged about Twitter for Authors. Before we get away from it, we wanted to talk a little more about an underutilized idea in the Twitter community called a twitter chat. For authors, Twitter chats can be an excellent way to connect with your audience, and grow it.

Twitter Chat vs. Hashtags vs. LiveTweets

When people use the same hashtag, Twitter groups their conversations together. Sometimes those are Twitter chats.Hashtags (#hashtag) are used to do many things on Twitter. They can be used as a emotional vibe (#grateful) or to denote meaning (#sarcasm) or even just to be silly (#thispostisthebestyo). When a bunch of people use the same hashtag, Twitter groups their conversations onto a single page. If you’ve never clicked on a hashtag before, try it and you’ll see.

A Twitter chat happens when a bunch of users assemble on Twitter at the same time and answer questions (or just converse) using a single, unique hashtag. For example, the #QwSush hashtag is used by S. Usher Evans to host her quarterly book conversations. And #BBTC is used by blogger Brittany’s Book Rambles to host her weekly chats.

Now, you might have heard about Livetweeting, so what’s that? The same basic idea–a group of people talking about the same hashtag–but in this case, it’s related to something happening in a movie or on TV. Jamie (and her team) from Black Girl Nerds regularly livetweet television shows, movies, and award shows using unique hashtags. In some cases, livetweeting and social media has been picked up by showrunners to gauge how well something is being received.

Joining a Twitter Chat

For authors, a good chat to join every Wednesday is the Book Marketing Chat hosted by Melissa and Rachel. How do you join? Log into Twitter around 9pm EST and click on the hashtag. Add to the conversation by replying to questions or making comments about the topic at hand, but make sure to add #bookmarketingchat to every tweet so it gets seen by the larger group.

In most cases, there will be Q1, Q2, Q3 which denote the questions the moderators are asking. So you’ll respond

A1: Here is my comment #bookmarketingchat

And so on.

You can find a full list of Twitter Chats courtesy of Emily from Emily Reads Everything.

Starting a Twitter Chat

Prescheduling your Twitter chat content helps make sure you ask the right questionsThis one may take a little while to master. Of course, you can start a Twitter chat by adding a hashtag to your tweets, but there’s no guarantee someone will respond and join. As with most things, you should schedule your chat in the future, and use your soft-selling skills to inform your friends and followers that it’s happening.

For our Twitter chats, we prefer to pre-schedule everything. From promo tweets to the questions themselves, everything is set to go in our CoSchedule application up to a month before chat time. We also like to add graphics to each of the questions with the day and time of the chat, but it’s not necessary. The biggest reason why we like to preschedule is it ensures we ask all the questions we want to, and more importantly, we’ve added the right hashtag!

If you’re doing a chat to just chat, the questions can be as crazy as you are. If you’re doing a book-related chat, try to mix up the questions. Some about the book, some about topics tangentially related to the book, some about the people themselves. It’s always good to toss in a question that asks them to tag a friend, so you might get more chatters in the mix.

The important thing is to have fun!

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