Have you heard about #RWChat but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry. We’re here for you. We’ll start with the basics.

What is a Twitter chat?

A Twitter chat is a scheduled discussion on a pre-determined topic. It functions a lot like chatrooms do/did back in the day. Some of them are one-off chats. Some chats happen once a week. Some happen once a month. The chat’s hashtag (#RWChat in this case) serves as a marker, to let twitter and the participants know the tweet is intended for the chat.

How do I join the chat?

Technically all you need is to have a twitter account and know the hashtag. If you put “#RWchat” into the twitter search it will pull up all tweets that include it, with the most recent tweet at the top.  It can be really hard to follow a chat that way, though, if it’s moving quickly.

How do I make this easier?

A great starter tool for Twitter chats is tweetchat.  On the homepage for tweetchat, just put in “#RWChat”. It will take you to a page asking you to authorize tweetchat to use your twitter account. This is because you’ll be sending your comments to the chat through tweetchat, and it needs to know who you are to do that. Once you’ve authorized, it will take you to a page that is tracking #RWChat.

At the top of the page (below the menu links) are two text boxes. One will smash long links down to manageable sizes, so you don’t eat up all your tweet characters on urls if you want to include a website in your tweet. When you hit shorten, it will drop the condensed link wherever your cursor is in the lower box.

In the lower box, you can write your tweets to contribute to the chat. Its already going to add the hashtag to the end of each of your tweets, so you won’t have to worry about remembering. It also pre-subtracts the hashtag from your available character limit.

Some additional cool tools:

  • In room settings, you can hide retweets so you don’t see the same tweet twice if people like it enough to retweet it.
  • If someone is using the hashtag inappropriately (to push sales links instead of contribute to the conversation, for example), you can block them from your stream.
  • You can also highlight a particular person if you find their tweets particularly insightful/helpful/hilarious. We would definitely recommend highlighting the hosts and guest hosts at the very least, to make sure you see new questions and answers from the guests kind enough to offer their expertise.

There are a lot of tools you can use (HootsuiteTweetdeck, etc.). Tweetchat is just the one we’ve found to be the easiest to jump straight in to.

Tips and Guidelines:

  • Make sure you include #RWChat in your tweet, so the other participants see it!
  • Please refrain from using #RWChat in your promotional tweets. It’s very easy to clog up a twitter stream with book links and sales announcements. The #RWChat tag should be reserved for discussion on the weeks topic.
  • Side discussions and networking are welcome (and encouraged!), just be mindful of the topic. If your conversation is straying too far off topic, just drop the #rwchat tag from those tweets and carry on!
  • It’s usually a good idea to let your twitter followers know you’ll be participating in a chat ahead of time. Your stream can get pretty noisy with retweets and replies during that time, and some advance notice can help avoid follower loss if they’re not interested in the chat topic.

That’s it — You’re more than ready to get started chatting! If you still don’t feel ready, don’t worry. Just tune in and follow along. You’ll get the hang of it in no time.