Taylor Graves currently works at Miller Brooks, Inc., an integrated marketing and public relations firm in Zionsville, Indiana. Originally from San Diego, the Miami University graduate moved to Indianapolis, and back to the Midwest, to experience the seasons she fell in love with in college. She found her home at Miller Brooks working with clients in the building products industry and uses her background in PR and love for social media to push her clients and co-workers to adapt to new social media trends. Taylor blogs or connect with her on twitter, @taylorgraves.

While some of the more social media savvy tweeters out there may be all too familiar with this particular social opportunity, the average Twitter user may not yet have experience in the hashtag-intense Twitter conversation known as a “tweet chat”.

The question is, should the average Twitter user know about tweet chats? Should you participate? Are these chats valuable or are they hashtag spam to be aware of and avoid?

What is a tweet chat?
A tweet chat is a conversation conducted via Twitter in which Twitter users use hashtags to track and monitor the conversation by topics. I’ve heard Twitter users complain that these chats are simply added noise on their Twitter feed. Many others claim the chats are a great educational experience – maybe one of the best social opportunities that any social media platform has to offer.
While the chats seem like merely a more intense version of Twitter, participating in an organized Twitter chat is very different from regular tweeting with hashtags. Organized chats usually have a moderator, special guest, expert contributor and the topics are determined before hand allowing participants to submit questions to the chat moderator.

About a year ago Mashable named tweet chats as one of the top five Twitter trends to watch. With more than 35 weekly scheduled tweet chats Twitter chat is clearly a mainstay and a growing trend in the Twitterverse. If you haven’t participated it one yet…maybe you should.

There is a Google document that exists publicly on the web that has constantly updated information about which tweet chats are being hosted. The document includes a schedule, hash tag information and founders of the respective tweet chat. The following chats are examples of tweet chats that may be relevant to our clients. It’s proof that there are tweet chats for seemingly every industry including: design, architecture, several for public relations, and cooking.

How do you participate in a tweet chat?

1. Find your hashtag
Using hashtags tweeters broadcast their comments and questions to a specific group and follow others tweeting with the same hashtag. The hashtag is the essential ingredient to engage successfully in a tweet chat.

2. Find a chat tool
The key to successful Twitter chat participation is to learn how to remove all the extra tweets so that you can focus on the tweet chat at hand. There are several tools that can help you follow the conversation without being bombarded by unrelated tweets. Examples of Twitter chat tools include: TinyChat (tinychat.com), Tweetchat (tweetchat.com), Tweetgrid (tweetgrid.com), Tweetdeck (tweetdeck.com), Monitter (monitter.com), Whatthehashtag (whatthehashtag.com), Tweetree (tweetree.com), and Twubs (twubs.com).

3. Learn the rules
Once you’ve identified the hashtag and the tool that works best for you, it’s time to get involved. When you log in, watch for the moderator to announce the start of the chat and remember to use your hashtag in each tweet so others can see your comments. Many chats may have established ground rules so let the moderator do their job and guide and facilitate the discussion.

4. Go tweet chat!
Once you get the hang of hashtags and learn to maneuver around your newfound twitter tool – even beginners will reap the value that Twitter chats have to offer.

Now to address our original questions, are Twitter chats valuable? Should the average Twitter user participate? Go find out yourself!