Here at IT World Canada, we put on a lot of Twitter chats for our brands – ITWorldCanada.com, ITBusiness.ca, and ComputerDealerNews.com. With our Twitter chats, we love to get people talking about shifts in technology, like the cloud and mobile, as well as new trends like Bitcoin and crowdfunding.

But for those of you who have never done a Twitter chat, we want to help you start tweeting with us, too.

The first question we get is, what is a Twitter chat?

A Twitter chat is when a group of people follow a conversation on Twitter by using the same hashtag. A hashtag is any keyword or phrase with a number sign in front of it.

For example, when our Twitter chat was on privacy for the ITBusiness.ca audience, we made a hashtag called #itbprivacy. For everyone who was part of that chat, every tweet needed to have the #itbprivacy hashtag somewhere in the text of the tweet. That way, all chat participants could see every tweet related to the chat. It doesn’t matter if there are capitals or no capitals used in the hashtag. The important thing is, if you are part of a Twitter chat, you always use the hashtag to tweet in the discussion.

The second question we get is, how do I follow a Twitter chat?

Since a Twitter chat usually generates a flood of tweets, it may be better to use something besides twitter.com to keep track of the conversation. After all, when you use Twitter in your browser, it just doesn’t keep up quickly enough with the flow of tweets in a Twitter chat. So we like using this tool, Tweetdeck, because it loads tweets very quickly, almost in real-time. That way, you will never be out of the loop of the conversation.

To get Tweetdeck, you don’t have to download anything. Just like Twitter, it can be used inside a web browser. Link it to your Twitter account by clicking this red button that says, “Sign in on the web.” After you log in, you can create whatever columns you want to keep track of.

For example, you can add a home feed column to see tweets from the accounts you are following. Or you can create an @mentions column, to see what people are saying to you or tweeting about you, if they are tweeting with your username. However, what we want to create today is the column for a Twitter chat.

First, go to the left-hand side of your Tweetdeck dashboard. Go to “add column.” Then choose “search.” Type in the hashtag for our Twitter chat – for example, you can type in “#ITBCMO,” the hashtag for our chat on chief marketing officers. It’s coming up this month, on Sept. 25.

Then go to “add column.” Terrific – you’re done!

Let’s test this out. I’m going to tweet using the hashtag, and my tweet should appear in Tweetdeck under the column #ITBCMO. Now I am typing, “Shooting a video on how to be part of Twitter chats! It should be useful for our upcoming chat, #ITBCMO.”

And there it is.

Don’t forget, always use the hashtag to tweet in a Twitter chat. And make sure to stay within Twitter’s 140-character limit.

See you on Twitter!

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