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Have you ever participated in a Twitter chat? If yes, then you already know how valuable they are. If you haven’t, then hopefully this post can provide some insights into what they offer and why you should get involved with one.

Twitter chats are one of the most underutilized, untapped resources in social media. This year saw the creation of some fantastic new chats and huge growth in others. As their popularity continues to grow, so does the value they offer to participants. Before we start talking individual chats, let's step back and discuss a few of the awesome benefits of joining a twitter chat.

Increase Your Network

If nothing else, twitter chats are a killer way of meeting fantastic new people. Fantastic new people who share similar interests to yourself. Fantastic new people who love nothing more than to chat about being an English teacher in Asia (yes, there’s a chat for that #AsiaELT). If 2011 was the year chats took flight, 2012 will be the year individuals and businesses begin leveraging chats for sales leads and increasing conversions.

Establishing Brand Expertise

There has been A LOT of talk about personal branding over the past few years. A great way to springboard your personal brand and begin establishing yourself as a leader in your industry is by participating in twitter chats. Sharing all of your industry expertise during these chats builds brand equity and credibility. Stick with these chats for a few months and you might find yourself speaking at your industriesnext big expo.

Now that we’ve qualified a few of the benefits of twitter chats its time to get involved. Each chat has its own personality and core group of participants. I’d suggest spending a week trying a new chat each day. Think of it like buying a new car. There are going to be chats similar in theme and topic so take the time to see which feels best to you. Here are 20 chats full of value and great people.

Monday

1. Us Guys Chat - 3:00pm ET - #usguyschat - If you’re active in the social media space on twitter I have no doubt you’ve already engaged with someone in the Us Guys community. The chat is only a small part of this vibrant group. I’ve made a handful of really special friendships with the Us Guys crew.

2. Marketer Monday Chat - 8:00pm ET - #mmchat - Talented group of marketing minds. Chat typically has a featured guest.

3. Money Chat - 8:00pm ET - #moneychat - Awesome place to get financial advice. Have a question about paying off debt or which investment platform to use, check this chat out.

4. Speaker Chat - 9:00pm ET - #speakchat - Discuss everything from learning principals to creating awesome PowerPoint presentations.

5. Social Chat - 9:00pm ET - #socialchat - One of the featured social media chats. Great way to start the week off.

Tuesday

6. Influence Chat - 12:00pm ET - #influencechat - One of my personal favorites. This chat is Moderated by Alan Berkson and Fred McClimans (two of the smartest guys I know). Everything from disruptive technology to klout’s algorithm are discussed.

7. Leadership Chat - 8:00pm ET - #leadershipchat - Like the name suggests, this chat touches on leadership tips, tricks, best practices and so much more.

8. Small Business Chat - 8:00pm ET - #smbiz - This hashtag is used for both the small business chat on Tuesday nights and a very popular reference to all things small business.

9. LinkedIn Chat - 8:00pm ET - #linkedinchat - If you want to learn how to really leverage LinkedIn and grow your business spend an hour in this chat. You’ll learn tons of “secret” features.

10. Get Real Chat - 9:00pm ET - #getrealchat - One of the most popular chats on twitter. Led by the amazing Pam Moore, this chat attracts the likes of fortune 500 companies to participate. Word on the street is Walgreens will be the featured guest this coming week.

11. Customer Service Chat - 9:00pm ET - #custserv - Similar to the small business hashtag above, the customer service hashtag serves for both the chat and customer service mentions on twitter. You can find fantastic case studies of social media used for customer service.

12. Social Media Manners - 10:00pm ET - #smmanners - Another great chat around social media best practices, social good and the latest trends in social media.

Wednesday

13. Klout Chat - 11:00am ET - #kloutchat (only first Wednesday of every month) - Looking to learn more about social influence and Klout’s ever-changing business model, check this chat out.

14. Small Business Chat - 8:00pm ET - #smallbizchat - Another featured small business chat with a strong community.

15. Business Chat - 8:00pm ET - #bizchat - A good resource for finding quality business articles. The chat has had some cool featured guests in the past.

Thursday

16. Harvard Business Review Chat - 1:00pm ET - #HBRChat - This chat is hosted by the editors of the HBR Magazine. Chats typically center around recent articles published on the website. Some very smart people run in this circle.

17. Empire Avenue Chat - 7:00pm ET - #eavchat - This chat was originally started by the founders of the stock exchange style social network. It has evolved into mainstream discussions around social media, influence, and more.

18. Business to Business Chat - 8:00pm ET - #b2bchat - Chat covers how social media can best be used in the business to business sector. You will find very informative and helpful posts shared by the members of this chat.

Friday

19. Pinterest Chat - 10:00pm ET - #pinchat - Pinterest, so hot right now. Pinterest.

Sunday

20. Blog Chat - 9:00pm ET - #blogchat - Cream of the crop. Week over week the most popular Twitter chat. Started and moderated by Mack Collier, the chat covers all the things you and your business need in order to create a successful blog. The last Sunday of every month is “open mic night,” where the community picks that weeks topic.

Resources

Things tend to move pretty quickly during a twitter chat and it’s easy to miss handfuls of comments at a time. Tweetchat is a very cool tool that allows you to see all updates in real-time. It also “smart-pauses” while you scroll down the stream, insuring you don’t miss anything.

The above list was just meant to be a starting point. To find more chats check out this awesome, crowdsourced google spreadsheet filled with hundreds of chats.

Let me know if I missed a popular chat or which twitter chats you’re finding beneficial in the comments.