Written by Katie Carter, Associate for Research, Policy, and Information; Presbyterian Church (USA)
Want to share information and answer questions about a new program your agency is offering? Want to generate ideas for getting local entities interested in your organization? Want to provide a fun venue for connecting with your current followers and gain new ones? A tweet chat is a great, low-cost way to do this. All you need is a little prep work, a Twitter account and an hour in your day to make it happen.
A tweet chat is like a virtual meet-up connected by a common hashtag that happens during a specified time. For example, a group used to convene on Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. CST to discuss small business issues and network on Twitter. They used the hashtag #SmallBizChat.
If you decide to host a tweet chat, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t forget to include a hashtag. This is the way people will find your tweet chat. It is important you create a unique hashtag that is relevant to what you want to discuss. It should be simple, short, unique, and easy to remember.
- Know why you want to start a tweet chat and have a plan. There are as many different reasons for hosting a tweet chat as there are organizations and people hosting them. Think about your target audience – local agencies? Donors? Kids on social media? Policymakers? Then cater to that audience.
- Become familiar with tweet chats. Reading this is a good place to start. You might join in a tweet chat, or observe ones taking place. Get comfortable retweeting and using @mentions and @replies before hosting a chat.
- Promote, promote, promote. No one will participate in your tweet chat if they don’t know it’s happening. Make sure you promote it on Twitter and other social media platforms at least a week in advance so people can plan ahead and participate. If you have a listserve, you might share the information that way. This also requires nailing down a time that will work for your target audience. Want to target school-age kids? You might plan a chat in the summer or after school hours. Targeting working parents? Think about what hours they will be available.
- Actively manage the chat. It’s a good idea to do some planning ahead by preparing tweets in advance. Maybe you want to do a live question and answer session, in which case create a list of questions first that take into account the 140 character limit on Twitter and include the hashtag you are using. Be flexible in case you run out of time to ask or answer all of your questions. And respond to things other people ask.
- Measure your impact and tell your story. So you’ve hosted your first tweet chat, but what did you accomplish? It’s a good idea to go back and see how many followers you gained during the chat and how many people participated by either retweeting or posting new content. Also, using websites like Storify is an easy, free way to share a summary of your tweet chat, or turn it into a story to share with donors, board members, staff and your social media networks.
Best Practices Guide: http://www.hashtags.org/business/management/best-practices-guide-for-tweet-chats/
Best Practices: http://www.slideshare.net/WCGWorld/twitter-chat-best-practices
How Not to Host a Twitter Chat: http://socialmediatoday.com/laurenbubble/1954471/how-not-host-twitter-chat
5 Common Sense Tips: http://blog.wcgworld.com/2012/01/five-tips-for-a-successful-twitter-chat
The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Tweet Chat: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevecooper/2013/09/30/the-ultimate-guide-to-hosting-a-tweet-chat/