Twitter is a great place to find outdoor inspiration, get advice and to meet like-minded outdoor adventurers. One of the best ways to get started is by participating in one of the many tweet-chats devoted to the outdoors. Most of these are weekly, online events that last about an hour. You participate in the conversation entirely via Twitter.
The best tweet-chats have a host and sometimes a co-host. They’ll select a topic and usually let you know in advance so you can be thinking about it. The chat starts at the designated time, and the hosts will kick things off with introductions, followed by a series of questions. The hosts ask the questions, prefixed by Q1, Q2, Q3… etc. You tweet your answers using A1, A2, A3… etc. And in between all of that, you can read the responses from others, retweeting and favoriting the ones you really like, and replying to others — starting a form of multi-threaded dialogue that makes tweet-chats truly unique. And sometimes hard to follow.
Here you can see an example of a tweet and a replies.
— SoCalHiker (@TheSoCalHiker) August 14, 2013
You can see that in this case, the co-host Katie prefixed her question with Q6 (the sixth question during the tweet-chat) and I prefixed my answer with A6 (so everyone knows which question I’m replying to). And both of us used the #ATQA hashtag.
Each tweet-chat has it’s own unique hashtag. It’s a word prefixed by the # symbol, and it is how people can search for, follow and join in the conversation.
You’ll also note that people can “follow” one another. When you follow someone on Twitter, it just means that you’ll see their tweets show up on your twitter stream.
What You Need to Join a Tweet-Chat
Joining a tweet-chat is free, and it gets easier with practice. Here’s what you need to get started:
- A computer, tablet or smartphone with Internet access
- A free Twitter account
- About an hour of free time during one of these chats (although you can come and go if you need to)
That’s all that’s absolutely required. You can join right from your web browser on your laptop or even on a phone, simply searching Twitter on the appropriate hashtag for the tweet-chat you want to join.
Some of the chats get really busy, and it can be a bit overwhelming. That’s where some additional tools come in handy. My personal favorite is TweetDeck. This is a free tool that you can run from either a web-interface or download a free application for your Mac or Windows PC.
Why do I like Tweetdeck? It allows me to create multiple columns dedicated to following a particular hashtag, making it easier to follow the discussion during a tweet chat.
And for really fast-paced chats where you could easily miss one of the questions, you can setup a separate column just for the questions. Here’s how I setup Tweetdeck for the #trailtime Tweet-Chat:
- The first column is simply a search column that returns all tweets tagged with the hashtag #trailtime
- The second column is a variant of the first, with some additional settings to only show tweets with the #trailtime hashtag AND Q1, Q2, Q3… etc. This way, this column shows only the questions, making it easier to spot them. Trust me on this.
- The Notifications column shows any tweets that mention me (@TheSoCalHiker). These are people who are essentially interacting with me. I like to pay special attention to these tweets. This is where discussions can really take off!
- The Home column shows my normal Twitter stream — tweets from any people that I’m following.
As you participate in a couple tweet chats, you’ll begin to see people’s personality emerge 140 characters at a time. Soon you’ll find and follow people who share your interests and your network of outdoor friends will grow.
Here are a few outdoor-related tweet chats. I’ve listed their times in the Pacific timezone (this is SoCalHiker, after all).
- #RamblrChat – Every Monday at 6pm Pacific. Hosted by Ramblr.com — a GPS app for tracking your travels.
- #campchat – Every Tuesday at 6pm Pacific and co-hosted by TETON Sports, CampStake and CampTrend — talking about (you guessed it) camping.
- #outfam – Wednesdays at 1:30pm Pacific, this is for outdoor-loving families and sponsored by Outdoor Families Magazine.
- #ATQA – Every Wednesday at 2pm Pacific. This is co-hosted by American Sahara. The hashtag stands for Adventure Travel Q&A.
- #parkchat – Each Wednesday at 6pm Pacific. Co-hosted by Flow397 and 59NationalParks, this chat focuses on our parks.
- #trailtime – Every Thursday at 10am Pacific. Sponsored by Sierra Trading Post, this chat covers hiking, backpacking, camping and much more. This is one of my favorites, and I’ve been fortunate to co-host several times.
- #hikerchat – Every Friday at 9am Pacific. As the name in the hashtag implies, this covers mainly hiking, but delves into a range of outdoor activities. Hosted by Teton Sports.
There are more, but these are a few that I’ve personally participated in.
That’s all you need to get started with at tweet-chat! The best advice I can offer is to pick one that fits your schedule and give it a try. But be sure that you participate. Answer questions. Like and retweet replies that you enjoy. And reply to others to get the conversation going. As you join in, you’ll grow your network and surround yourself with outdoor-loving friends that will inspire you. Many of the people that I “met” through Twitter I’ve ended up meeting and actually hiking with.
Got a question about tweet-chats? Or a great tip for doing tweet-chats even better? Leave me a comment below!