Twitter chats and parties are a very common and useful way to share information, promote brands, and have fun. I attended and hosted them for many years (contact me if you are interested in having me host a party for your brand). There are no right or wrongs in what services you use for Twitter chats and Twitter parties. Everyone has to find what works best for them. However, I prefer to use TweetDeck http://web.tweetdeck.com for when I host and attend Twitter parties. The rest of the time I use HootSuite primarily because I use so many columns and tabs, but it is not as efficient for chats which is why I switch to TweetDeck for those.
Here I am showing you how I set up my TweetDeck for when I am hosting the weekly #VZWBuzz Twitter chats, I would use the same setting as an attendee also. For other parties I would simply change column 2 for whatever the hashtag is for the event and column 3 for the hosts/sponsors of the event. The rest of the settings remain the same.
I prefer to use the web based TweetDeck http://web.tweetdeck.com Once there, login with your TweetDeck account, if you have one, or login with your Twitter account.
On the left side of the screen, at the bottom, you will find the Settings option. Select that and a box will pop up. The first tab is General where you can select color, text size, column width, etc. These are personal preferences and based on your screen size. I am generally working on a desktop with a 23″ monitor during parties so these are the settings I use.
Now click on the Accounts tab in the pop up box. This is where you will add your Twitter account. I have my primary account and my backup “jail” account for when Twitter says I have tweeted too much (rarely happens but nice to have in place). If you are tweeting on behalf of a client as a host you can add that account information in here as well.
Next click on the Services tab in the pop up and set these as needed. If you are just attending Twitter parties you probably can skip this step. For those hosting you may want to add your preferred link shortening service here. As you can see, I use Bit.ly for my link shortening.
Columns are crucial to effectively hosting or attending a Twitter chat. I always use 3 columns at least which include mentions, the hashtag, and the hosting team. I often have a 4th column for direct messages as well since I communicate with other team members during the party this way.
To set up your columns select Add column from the menu on the left and a box will pop up allowing you to choose the type of column you want to add to your screen. I use @Mentions, Lists, Search, and Messages. Click on any of them to set up that type of column.
The first column for me is always @Mentions. These are tweets that including my Twitter name, @RobynsWorld, in them. This allows me to see who is addressing me directly. During parties/chats a crucial setting is to exclude retweets. If you have been to an active Twitter chat you know how quickly the stream can fly by but many of those will be retweets. Having those omitted slows down the speed of the stream considerably and allows you to see much more of the actual new tweets and replies. The button at the top right of a column will toggle those settings on and off.
The second column I use to see the entire chat via the hashtag for the event. This is a Search type column. You want to set the matching term to the hashtag, in this case #VZWBuzz. Be sure to include the “#” symbol. Once again, you want to exclude retweets. If you are seeing a lot of runover or spam in the stream you can opt to exclude tweets that have other content as well in the settings.
In your third column you will have a list column that includes that chat host and team. I have a list created on Twitter for our team that hosts the #VZWBuzz chats each week, https://twitter.com/RobynsWorld/lists/the-vzwbuzz-host-team/members. Again, exclude retweets.
When you initially add a list column you can either create a list or chose from the lists you already have on Twitter with the Twitter accounts you have associated with TweetDeck. Since I already have that list created on Twitter I can easily just select that list from the lists shown. If you do not have one already made just create a new one.
Once you have a list column in place, you can edit the list as needed. The left side will allow you to search for members to add via their twitter handle and it also offers suggestions. The suggestions are sometimes correct and you do not even have to search, just click the + sign next to their name. On the right side are the current list members. To remove any of them just click the trashcan icon. Adding and removing people from your list this way is useful when the host team has special guests or the team changes often. Be sure to click done when you are finished making changes.
The fourth column is optional. It is the messages column where you can send and receive your Twitter DMs or direct messages. You may or may not need to have this column. I use it because our team for #VZWBuzz communicates privately this way during chats. Because I use the “wide” setting for my columns this is general off the screen to the right, but it is easily accessible still.
To send tweets during the chat you will click on New Tweet on the left column and the tweet box will pop out. I actually leave this out the entire time since I tweet a lot during the chats. If you have multiple Twitter accounts set up within TweetDeck you can click on the icon for the account you want to use. Your primary account will always be the first one shown. Type your tweet in the large box, there is a character count below and it will not let you send if more than 140 characters. When you are ready to send press the tweet button. There are a few other options in the new tweet column also and one of those is add image. I have this crossed out because I find that while the images will appear in TweetDeck, they may only appear as links on other Twitter tools. When I do add images during a party I go directly to Twitter.com and send the image tweet out from there.
That is really all there is to it! I have tried many other formats and services over the years for Twitter chats and parties. Some of those closed up when Twitter changed their API so I have had to adapt and change as that has happened. This is how I currently landed with using TweetDeck for parties and chat. While I am usually at my home office and on the desktop for Twitter parties, I can also use TweetDeck on laptops and tablets effectively as well.
I am happy to answer any questions and I would love for you to share any tips or tools you use for hosting or attending Twitter chats and parties.