Hi there, I’ve changed my Twitter handle since writing this. It used to be @SelfishMom, now it’s @AmyOztan.
At this point I’ve hosted, co-hosted and been a panelist on dozens of Twitter Parties. I’ve learned a few things along the way that are valuable even when I’m just there as a participant.
If you’re a more advanced Hootsuite user and don’t need a basic tutorial, skip down to here for some advanced Hootsuite column tricks – not just for Twitter Parties, but for every day.
What Is A Twitter Party?
Just to cover the basics, a Twitter Party is a discussion that happens on Twitter, with each post containing the same hashtag (those spaceless, punctuationless phrases that start with what we used to call the pound key on our phones, #). So if I were hosting a Twitter Party all about baking delicious bread from scratch (I really should do that!) I might use the hashtag #HomemadeBread. That way, a bunch of people who don’t follow each other on Twitter could all come together, by following the hashtag, and talk about baking bread.
How To Follow A Hashtag On Twitter
So how do you follow a hashtag? You can go right to Twitter and search for one. Just put any hashtag into the search box at the top of the page on Twitter.com (I’m using #STEMchat as an example) and click on the magnifying glass, then go to the “Live” tab. You can also go to the “More Options” dropdown and filter the results by location, accounts you follow, or other criteria.
The page will not automatically load new tweets (at least it doesn’t in my browsers), but it will say something like “7 new results” every minute or so, which I think is actually better because you can load new tweets when you’re ready for them. It’s a good system if you just want to see what everyone is talking about.
How To Follow A Hashtag On Hootsuite
However, that method is very basic and leaves a lot to be desired. Twitter parties move FAST, and the more organized you are the more you’ll get out of them. You might want to focus more on what the actual hosts of the party are saying, and not just see the hosts’ tweets mixed in with everybody else’s. You might want to see who is writing to you or mentioning you during the party. That’s where Hootsuite comes in.
Hootsuite is what’s called a third-party application. It takes the information from Twitter and uses it in its own way. Hootsuite is great because it lets you divide what you’re seeing into different columns, so that everything is easier to follow.
When I’m participating in a Twitter Party my Hootsuite columns (or streams, as Hootsuite calls them) look like this:
You can see that this is my special Twitter Party tab. The search information within three of the tabs changes for each party, but the tabs stay the same.
Let’s look at each tab separately.
The Mentions Column
The first column is my mentions column. It shows all of the messages that have my Twitter handle in them (SelfishMom). To set this column up you click on “Add Stream” and then click on “Mentions.”
The Mentions column is essential during Twitter parties because whether you’re participating or leading one, you don’t want to just broadcast. You want to be in conversations, so you need to see when people are talking to you.
The Hashtag Column
The second column is the hashtag. That column shows me everything that’s posted that contains the hashtag (in this case, the last Twitter party I was a panelist on, #STEMchat). When setting that column up, after clicking on “Add Stream” you go to the Search tab and enter the hashtag.
I can scan that column for interesting tweets to answer or re-tweet. That column is basically what we were seeing when we searched for the hashtag on the Twitter website.
The Host/Panelist Columns
The third and fourth columns have all of the tweets sent out by the two hosts (third column) and the other panelists (fourth column). Sometimes there’s a blog post that tells you which Twitter accounts will be leading the party. Other times you can figure it out by looking at who is asking the questions for the party. Those accounts will usually get retweeted a lot, and if you look back in that account’s tweets, the host will most likely have announced who the co-hosts and panelists are. But it’s better if you can find out ahead of time and set everything up.
To set those columns up, you click on “Add Stream” and in the Search tab type in “from:TwitterHandle” (substituting the actual Twitter handle, obviously) for each account you want to follow in that column. Make sure to put “OR” between each account. Then, after the last account, you add “ -RT” – otherwise, that column will just get filled with everyone else who is retweeting the hosts.
Take a look at the example below:
By typing in “from:ThinkFun OR from:KimMoldofsky –RT” that column will only show things tweeted by the Twitter accounts @ThinkFun and @KimMoldofsky.
The fourth column is similar. I typed in the following in order to see the tweets from my fellow panelists: “from:teachmama OR from:venspired OR from:thienkim –RT”
Once you’ve set those columns up, you can change what’s in them at any time by clicking on the three little dots at the top of each column and going to “Preferences.”
And now that you’ve got your Twitter Party tab set up, you can join in a Twitter Party and have fun! The hosts will usually tweet out questions starting with “Q1” or “Q2” and so on, and you can answer by starting your tweet with “A1” or “A2” etc., making sure to include the hashtag in the tweet.
Have fun! And be sure to follow me on Twitter so that you’ll know when I’m hosting a Twitter party.
Advanced Hootsuite Column Tricks
So you’ve been using Hootsuite for a while and don’t need my hand holding? Here are some shortcuts for making Twitter your bee-yotch – not just during Twitter Parties.
To And From
So you want to see everything tweeted to a certain person. Or from a certain person. Or between two people. (Are you a stalker? You have to tell me if you’re a stalker – I don’t really want to teach you if you’re a stalker.)
All you have to do is enter into a column’s search “from:TwitterHandle” or “to:TwitterHandle” substituting in the Twitter handles (duh). Also, notice there is no space after the colon.
Get Rid Of Retweets
When you have columns set up to follow a person or people, you probably don’t want to see all of the retweets that people do of those tweets. No matter now many people you’re following in a column, just add “ –RT” at the end (make sure to leave that space first!) and you’ll only get the tweets you’re looking for, not the RTs.
Follow Words And Phrases
You can set up columns to follow certain words. Let’s say you’re really into pasta (yay!), you can do a column that just searches for “pasta.” If you want any mention of popular kinds of pasta, you can do a search for “pasta OR spaghetti OR angel hair OR penne OR linguine OR fettuccine.” Don’t want to talk about sauce (boo!)? Just add “ –sauce” at the end of your list.
Don’t like it when people say bad things about pasta? Add “ :-)” at the end of the search. In a cynical mood about pasta? Add “ :-(” at the end instead.
Looking for links about pasta? Search “pasta filter:links” and get only tweets that contain the word “pasta” along with a url.
If you have a blog, you should have a column that searches for mentions of your blog. Sometimes people will link to your blog without tagging your Twitter handle in the tweet, and if you’re not searching for your url you’ll never know. They’re probably linking to you for good reasons, and you may want to thank them. But I’ve also caught a bunch of people talking smack about me over the years, thinking they were being slick by not tagging me.
Just put your url in the search box for that column. In my case, “SelfishMom.com” without the “http://” or anything else. This will catch not just links to your homepage, but links to any page or post on your site, even if the tweeter has used a bit.ly-type shortener.