What’s a # mean on Twitter and what is a Twitter “Chat”?

I’ve had people ask me how I can have a “conversation” on Twitter when I have all these tweets flying through my timeline. The short answer is a “#” which is called a hashtag. If you are new to Twitter one of the most valuable things to familiarize yourself with is the # symbol. It basically allows to you sort tweets by topic. For example if I was interested in seeing what the world was talking about with regard to news that is just “breaking” I would type #breaking into my twitter search bar. The results of this search will return any tweet with #breaking included in it. If you haven’t done this before take a minute right now and try it. If you are someone who requires focus and doesn’t like distractions you can use sites such as tweetchat. You type in the hashtag you want to follow and only that conversation will show in the timeline. The nice thing about using Tweetchat is that every time you tweet from that particular page the hashtag you are following will automatically be added to your tweets.

With the regular Twitter website browser interface you can save searches and pull them up at anytime. The problem with doing this is that you can only see one search/column at a time. I would recommend using a Twitter client which will allow you to create and view multiple columns at once.

Using a Twitter client will allow you to see what is happening on your regular twitter stream while at the same time enabling you to watch multiple lists and conversation or “chats” (as they are commonly referred to). If this is confusing take a look at the screen-shot below which shows the different Twitter columns I can view using the TweetDeck twitter client. Twitter bought TweetDeck a while back so you know it will be around a while. Another bonus with using TweetDeck is that you can sign in to the same account on multiple machines (mobile devices as well) and your setting are carried across.

As you can see from this picture I can view many columns in a single glance. If you look closely you’ll see that one column is for my timeline, one column is for tweets that mention me in them (@b_sheridan), one column if for tweets hash-tagged with #kinderchat, and one column is displays a list that I follow (more on that in the next post).

#Kinderchat is a chat that takes place on Monday nights in North America. Because I’m in Asia (GMT +8) this chat takes place from 10am to 11am on Tuesday morning for me. I try to catch it as much as possible but the beauty of the hashtag is that a conversation can be archived. So if I am busy and I can’t participate I can still read the archived chat.

There are all kinds of educational chats going on throughout the week. @Cybraryman1 has a super great resource page listing educational chats and their hashtag. Check out this page as well as the multitude of other resources he has on his website.

If you are hesitant to start using twitter I suggest you find and follow a couple “chat’s”. I guarantee that you’ll be blown away with how much you’ll learn and how many resources you will be turned on to in just one hour. Even better many of the people who participate in a particular chat will post resources all week long using that particular chat hashtag.

Do any of you educators out there have any chat’s you’d recommend?

In my next post I’ll discuss Twitter “lists” and how they can be useful.

About Benjamin J Sheridan

Instructional designer at the University of Kentucky.
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