Dinesh Chindarkar was kind enough to reach out to me recently to discuss best practice around the tweet chats that he is planning in support of the latest addition to the hcsmglobal family, Healthcare Social Media India (#hcsmin).
It was at that point that I wished I had something to send to him, and realized that I really needed to compile a checklist of some of the learnings that I have picked up since co-founding hcsmeu with Silja Chouquet in August 2009, and moderating the majority of the subsequent tweet chats, of which there have now been more than 100.
This post begins to speak to this need. Whilst my suggestions are contextualised within the health conversation on the social web, hopefully there will be sufficient value in this post’s contents for those thinking of organizing any sort of tweet chat to justify their taking a couple of minutes of their time to read it.
What’s a tweet chat?
A tweet chat affords Twitter users the opportunity to engage in conversation with each other.
A tweet chat can either emerge from a new community that coalesces around a particular subject or keyword, or serve to focus the conversation of an existing community. Rather than regress infinitely, I’ll take it that you’re aware of what a hashtag is, and have some familiarity with the common abbreviations, syntax and punctuation used on Twitter.
Why should I organize a tweet chat?
As with all things on the social web, the best possible reason you can have for creating a tweet chat is to help people out.
I mean this. There’s no subtext here.
Tweet chats are not marketing opportunities in disguise.
They are not an invitation for you as moderator to start spraying around promotional tweets about whatever it is you do for a living. You are there to moderate, facilitate, keep time, keep house, and meet and greet.
Tweet chats do not have business models. No-one should get paid to take part in them. Whilst tweet chats are not mere exercises in altruism, and you may hope to derive some sort of value from the regular time commitment founding a tweet chat requires, there is no guarantee that this will happen.
So, take a sensible gamble and only head off to the tweet chat races with as much goodwill as you have in your pocket and only the time in your bill clip that you can afford to spend. If you do a good enough job, you may derive some indirect benefit from the interest and attention the tweet chat that you establish generates.
How do tweet chats work?
The following constitutes a list of core activities undertaken in support of a tweet chat
- Grab a Twitter account. If the community you are building a tweet chat around has an acronym, there’s every opportunity that something appropriate may still be available. hcsmeu was still free when we were looking to create an account for Healthcare Social Media Europe. Over 1,000 community members now follow the account.
- Alight upon an appropriate hashtag. Ideally, you want your Twitter account to be the same as your hashtag. @hcsmeu uses #hcsmeu, for example. Do make sure that no-one else is using the hashtag before you start posting with it by conducting a search on your proposed term.
- Start posting content relevant via that account. Add the hashtag to each post in order to build visibility and interest, as well as to credential your fledgling community with relevance and eventually authority. Twitter is an ephemeral medium, and you may wish to confer some longevity upon the content that you choose to associate with the Twitter account and the tweet chat it will come to represent by posting your content through a curation service such as scoop.it. Expanding upon this further would take the current post away from the topic of tweet chat moderation and into community building, but suffice to say it can’t hurt to think about creating presences with the same title across other social platforms. Be sure to link them all to wherever you’ve decided to call ‘home’ for your tweet chat.
- Start advertising your inaugural tweet-up. It’s hard to hold people’s attention regarding forthcoming events on the social web for more than a couple of weeks, so plan on holding your initial tweet chat no more than a fortnight after you announce it.
- Choose a regular day and time. Select a time that is going to be convenient to you, and which you think will suit your community’s habits. However, be aware that this is not an exact science, and no time is going to suit everyone. Once you’ve chosen a time, stick with it. It is important to remain consistent, and you may want to keep the frequency relatively low to start with (say, 2nd Friday of each month) or go with a weekly event. It is entirely up to you. The important thing is that once you have raised visibility around your tweet chat, you need to ensure that its stays visible. Make sure you tell the community what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it. Remember that you’re doing it primarily for them, not for you.
- Set up home. To be honest, our wiki doesn’t quite fit the bill and hcsmeu.com isn’t a great example in this regard just now as our web presences have become a bit mixed up (main site with conference site – bear with us), but take a look at our sister community’s site hcsmglobal.com for an exemplar of what you might want to put on your tweet chat’s homepage.
- Establish how you are going to elicit questions. hcsmeu uses a self-service Gdoc to which members are invited to add questions. First come, first served, one question maximum per week. Other tweet chat moderators invite submissions in advance via their Twitter account; still others have no set agenda as such. Take your pick.
- Create a welcome page. A welcome page gives you somewhere you to set out your stall and describe what your tweet chat is about. Be sure to offer brief but clear instructions as to how, when and where would-be contributors can take part. You may like to link to a pre-prepared TweetChat room as a courtesy on this page to make it as easy as possible for wavering newcomers to get over the participation barrier and begin to contribute.
- Connect with Healthcare Hashtags for simple archiving. This part only really pertains if the tweet chat you are planning to establish is focused on health. However, if this is indeed the case, be sure to connect with Audun Utengen who will get you set up with a Healthcare Hashtags homepage for your tweet chat. With a tweet chat client, analytics and most importantly a transcript interface, Healthcare Hashtags is the industry standard for healthcare tweet chat analysis – and it won’t cost you a penny.
- Between meetings. As your community begins to discern value in your tweet chat, it may want to share more information and conversation between events using the hashtag. Make sure you’re listening to, participating in and amplifying the output from your hashtag’s conversation by opening a column in whichever tool you use to monitor your tweet stream. I favour Tweetdeck, but if you’re going to co-moderate you may like to use a platform such as Hootsuite.
I hope you’ve found this introduction to tweet chat organization helpful. Let me know if you’d like to hear more about any of the elements mentioned above, as well as if you disagree with or can see a way to improve on any of them.
It would also be great to hear about how you’ve gone about creating a tweet chat, and how it has prospered.