Twitter chats, or live conversations via Twitter that last about an hour, are one effective way to connect with others. Participants use and follow a specific hashtag, a unique word with a # in front. Including the hashtag in your tweet allows everyone following that hashtag to see your contribution, rather than just the people who follow you.
To give you a proper introduction to Twitter chats, I reached out to three people who co-moderate some of the best Twitter chats for job search and career help. Here are their chats:
#jobhuntchat (Mondays, 10:00 PM, ET): Created by Rich DeMatteo (@cornonthejob), co-founded by Jessica Miller-Merrill (@blogging4jobs) and also moderated by Kate-Madonna Hindes (@girlmeetsgeek).
#HFChat (Fridays, 12:00 PM, ET): Created by Margo Rose (@HRMargo) and moderated with help from Tom Bolt (@tombolt), Cyndy Trivella (@CyndyTrivella) and Steve Levy (@levyrecruits).
#careerchat (Tuesdays, 1:00 PM, ET): Co-created and moderated by Amanda Guralski (@bizMebizgal) and Jill Perlberg (@MyPath_MP).
Twitter chats have been described as "sucking on a fire hose" for new participants because so much information comes so quickly. Do you have any helpful tips for new participants?
Jessica: Do your best to follow, but the networking and relationships you build are just as important. Connect with the people who participate in the chat that can best help you.
Tom: Not all Twitter chats have the pace of #HFChat, but ours is like speed dating on steroids. I post a transcript of the chat session on the #HireFriday web site so users can review the conversation at a more leisurely pace.
Amanda: The biggest thing is to stay engaged in the conversation that you find the most beneficial to you. There will be multiple conversations going on at one time, you just need to pick and choose what makes the most sense.
All three of these moderators highly recommend the use of a Twitter tool like Tweetchat, TweetGrid, or Hootsuite to allow easier following of the hashtag. They also recommended using searchtwitter.com to follow the hashtag after the chat so you can review ideas, links, and conversation at a more leisurely pace.
What’s the main reason a job seeker would want to spend an hour in your chat?
Jessica: Networking is the number one reason. These are great times to learn tips and develop relationships with online social media connectors.
Tom: For job seekers, there’s a wealth of information provided by the experts who volunteer to show up to help out. Obviously recruiters can make useful contacts as well, but mostly it’s just caring people, lending a helping hand. In this economy, this is important.
Amanda: We talk about the things that are happening all around us that no one wants to talk about. We cover corporate politics, looking for a job when you have one, work place romance, bullying bosses, etc. Our participants get heart-felt advice to truly help them be successful.
How is your chat formatted? Do you always have a guest host?
Jessica: We rarely have a guest host but are looking to expand our format to offer different opportunities for experts, service providers to connect on various topics. We're open to the opportunity.
Tom: Most weeks there’s a guest host from the ranks of key opinion leaders in the Recruiting, coaching or HR fields. These, too, are volunteers who receive no compensation for their time other than to publicize their company or a book they have written.
Amanda: We typically ask three questions (one every 15 minutes) to structure the chat a bit and then the leave the last 15 minutes for open Q&A. We have had guest hosts in the past, but typically it’s just Jill and me.
Who benefits most from your chat? Can you describe your average participant (job seekers, career experts, recruiters)?
Jessica: This chat is driven for job seekers. Our chat has been going strong for a year and 5 months. It's amazing how time flies and how many job seekers we have helped land a job opportunity with #jobhuntchat.
Tom: Participants are generally divided equally between job seekers and job helpers, but a recent survey of participants showed that 35% of those attending the chat session were currently unemployed.
Amanda: Anyone looking to get ahead in a career. We have a variety of participants from job seekers, recruiters, and career experts. That’s the biggest benefit: our job seekers learn from experts and our experts are able to showcase their expertise in a non-sales format.
If you’re a Twitter chat veteran, what are your tips for getting the most out of a live chat?
Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and learn about his two popular job-search books.