Writing hashtags and Twittter chats are hot right now. There are plenty of pages explaining them and what to look for, but who are these chats for? What can be gained from them?
Here are five kinds of writers and the benefits they can gain from participating in a Twitter chat.
1) The Social Butterfly
Contrary to stereotype, not all writers are introverts! There are plenty of writers who crave the company of others, and they often struggle with the solitary nature of writing. Social Butterflies should make sure they develop and maintain a strong writing community around themselves.
If you can’t get to a live meeting or conference (and you should really try to!) a Twitter chat is ideal. Wherever you are, all you need is a device and an internet connection. You can join the chat as it happens, or scroll through later. Either way, don’t be shy. Reach out to fellow participants. Compliment them, ask questions, retweet, and commiserate. The whole point is to get people communicating on topics that they care about. Twitter chats are an excellent opportunity to make writing friends! You may find your next critique partner or cheerleader.
2) The Student
Are you interested in craft? In how other writers handle writing challenges? A lot of writing chats ask questions like, “How do you do this?” and the responses are excellent.
For example, check out this Storify of a #Storycrafter chat about developing original ideas. Host Faye asked how writers generate original ideas (Question #2) and she got over a dozen unique responses. That kind of wide-ranging perspective can give you great insight into craft and how others think and view the world.
3) The Blogger
Here’s a secret: you don’t have to answer the questions in real-time as part of the chat! There are a lot of benefits to participating live, but this is the Internet and nothing ever really dies. You can use the chat’s theme or questions as blog prompts, even long after the original chat. Respond with the fullness a blogging platform grants you, where you aren’t confined to 140 characters.
The rule is, you have to cite who you got the idea from. Provide the hashtag and thank the host for being your inspiration. You’ll actually be giving the chat an SEO boost: Google loves when thoughtful content links to more good content.
When your post goes live make sure you tweet about it! Use the chat’s hashtag and thank the hosts using their Twitter handles. If you time it for just before or after a regular chat (avoid tweeting during the chat, that’s rude), you could be seen by a lot of regular participants who will click through and comment!
4) The Host
Playing host to a chat teaches leadership, diligence, vigilance, group management, and more. People are looking forward to your chat, and it’s up to you to be prepared to make it happen.
For each recurring chat, a host must:
- Decide on the chat’s theme or topic.
- Promote the chat ahead of time.
- Think up between 4 and 10 questions or prompts.
- OPTIONAL: Make graphics for the week, for promotional purposes or to help questions show up in the feed.
- Either cue up question tweets using a scheduling service like Tweetdeck or HootSuite, OR stay at the ready to tweet each question live after an appropriate interval.
- Encourage interaction between participants.
- Oversee the hashtag, looking for trolling and other harmful content, and take action when it appears.
Hosts put a lot of work in behind the scenes, and a thank you tweet at the end of the chat is a nice way to show your appreciation.
In return, hosts get:
- Name recognition & reputation boost within the writing community.
- Improved social media rankings (New followers, more impressions/views, favorites, and retweets).
- A stronger writing community that supports them.
5) The Lurker
Watching all these other writers chat and share can be a great learning experience! You may only be reading the feed, but you’re learning about other writers, about craft, and about group dynamics. Maybe one day you’ll feel prepared to participate directly.
When Robin Lovett first urged me to join her chat, #RWchat for romance writers, I was extremely hesitant. I’m one of those introvert writers. I had a Twitter account, but mostly I tweeted into the void and liked what other people had to say. I didn’t start or continue conversations. Chatting changed all that. I came to recognize other participants and enjoyed following their interactions. When I moved time zones and was no longer able to participate, I started a new chat that worked for my schedule, #RPmyBook. That’s how big an impact it had on me. That’s how much I missed my weekly check-in with other writers.
If you’re interested in finding a chat, check out Mica Scotti Kole’s excellent @writevent account for updates and her comprehensive list of Daily Twitter Writing Events. Dip your toe in with one of the prompts to post a line from your work-in-progress, and follow along when live chats happen.
Bronwen Fleetwood writes contemporary and fantasy novels for young adults. After four years running the Princeton Writing Group and acting as Municipal Liaison for the Central New Jersey Region for NaNoWriMo, she’s gone back to her roots in South Africa. From her home between the mountains and the sea she connects with writers globally through the Twitter chat #RPmyBook. Visit Bronwen at her website, or on Twitter.