How to host a tweet chat on Twitter

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. hcsmeu40 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 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 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 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.

Good luck!

37 thoughts on “How to host a tweet chat on Twitter

  1. Thanks Andrew! It isnt easy for Newbies to join grown established things. We take a lot for granted others dont.

    One Question arises: Some chats are very lively and I saw that there is sometimes a need to discuss it afterwards, but in lack of a plattform/or agreement which to use the discussion and maybe further thinkings are away and gone. Maybe a topic for Brighton as well!

    • Hi Dinesh

      On the contrary! Thank you for the inspiration that prompted me to write this post.

      I wish hcsmin every success, and am glad to welcome you to the hcsmglobal family of health conversation on the social web. You are assured of my continuing support.

  2. This is really helpful and i have been a regular member in some twitter chats 🙂 you said it really well that it is not a marketing platform. but a platform to connect and share things. This will anyway lead to +ve word of mouth. I would add that blogging about the topics, discussion on blog will always help. thanks for the post.

    • Hi Prasant

      Good to see you here, and many thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I couldn’t agree more! Reinforcing the learnings forthcoming from a given tweet chat is a wonderful way of prolonging interest and extricating great ideas from a hailstorm of tweets.

      Storify is a great tool to do this with if you act immediately after the tweet chat – unfortunately, if you leave it for a day or two it’s not so easy to navigate back through the Storify interface to select the tweets you want to build an annotated post around.

  3. Managing & maintaining the knowledge generated during the Tweet Chats is very important. There is always a lively discussion and exchange of ideas and resources that help participants learn and view the topics from different angles. However, only archiving the transcripts might not be the best way to store and share the knowledge with all those interested. Not everyone will have the time to read through an entire hour’s transcript.

    Therefore, I would highly recommend that, as time allows, a summary of each chat should be written, preferably in bullet points, and storing such summaries in a central location.

  4. Hi Yaser

    I agree that everyone would benefit from an annotated account of each tweetchat’s discussion, foregrounding the key points made and identifying the learning that is forthcoming from the event.

    Time, as always, is an issue here. Also, I am not sure that it’s always healthy for a community’s intellectual autonomy for one individual (for example, the moderator) to be selecting what they consider to be the linchpin arguments. It is to be hoped that contrary views are exchanged during such discussions, and one person’s perspective on a subject may diverge significantly from another.

    A certain neutrality of tone is of course to be desired, but I also see value in annotators interrogating what the community may have agreed to be collective wisdom – not to the point where the discussion is misrepresented, but in order to infuse alternative viewpoints or supplemental information.

    Really, I suppose what I’m encouraging here is for multiple members of any given tweet chat to take it upon themselves to record the dialogue that emerged in some way or other; the more perspectives and the more volume around the discussion, the better for everyone involved, and everything discussed.

    • I would certainly agree. Time is always a factor but it is great if the discussion is written up.

      I have raised this before with the hcsmeu gang when I suggested that the person who puts forward a question for a tweet chat should do their best to write up or capture the conversation in some way subsequently.

      When I have done this, going back through the tweets, it is amazing all the extra information you pick up that you missed during the discussion. It also gives you time to read links that were shared.


      @aurorahealthpr ^NC

      • Hi Neil

        You led by example in this regard, and I appreciate your having taken the time to do this in the past. You’re right, it not only adds value, it also benefits the author in as much that it makes them take the time to consider the conversation in its totality; with tweet chats as busy as #hcsmeu, it just isn’t possible to follow all the conversation and explore all the links in real time.

        Whilst in a sense I consider this a fitting obligation on the part of the questioner for the privilege of getting the community’s insight regarding their question, I also appreciate that time is an issue.

        Suggesting that contributors who pose a question in a tweet chat compose a quick Storify immediately afterwards could be one way forward.

        Storify has several benefits in this regard as far as I can see: it’s quick (mostly dragging and dropping, with a few sentences to frame the discussion; it is a permanent record of an ephemeral event (every Storify has a URL, of course); it is easy to share (Storify has excellent embedding and sharing options to export and import posts into just about every social platform and CMS).

  5. Great advice. As the founder of the #socpharm tweetchat I agree that there is great value to be found in these conversations.Each week I typically learn one new thing and have at least one laugh. (Another suggestion: have fun!)

    One more idea: take advantage of guest moderators. There are some evenings that I just can’t be available for the chat, plus it’s great to get different perspectives leading the conversation.

    • Hi Eileen!

      How lovely of you to stop by.

      You’re too modest to note that you did an excellent ‘how to’ post along these lines a while back, so I’ll take the liberty of promoting it for you 🙂

      ‘Have fun’. I love that! Of course it’s important to have fun while we chat. I’ll be honest, hcsmeu has never had any trouble in that regard. We even seem to have developed some long-running jokes along the way 😀

      Guest moderators: so important. It’s something that we have tried to incorporate in the hcsmeu tweet chat, but never done on a systematic basis. For the reasons stated above, with the emphasis on the moderating account’s neutrality of tone this isn’t an issue from a balance-based persepctive (the @hcsmeu account literally only starts and stops the discussion, meets and greets, issues housekeeping announcements, and poses questions) but it is an issue in terms of time and availability, no doubt. In the case of hcsmeu, the onus is definitely upon me to do something about this – and I will.

  6. Hey Andrew. Excellent guide to the before, during and after of a tweet up. You do a great job on the hcsmeu front.

    Exciting news about hcsmin (much easier to say) and with the fabulous Dinesh at the helm I am sure it will fly.

    Neil : ))

    @aurorahealthpr ^NC

    • Hi Neil

      Meh, it’s all about the participants. All I do is show up 🙂

      Yes, it’s just *excellent* news about #hcsmin, isn’t it?

      It’s great to be connected with Dinesh, and so good to see the health conversation on the social web in India blossom under his stewardship.

  7. Andrew,
    This post is incredibly helpful. I’ve recently started a tweetchat for women with breast cancer. It is moving faster than I am at this point and your suggestions about organization, a welcoming web page and linking document for participants are excellent.

    This is an excellent reference and a keeper. Thanks so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us!


  8. Hello Andrew!
    Great post and great comments!
    Like Eileen says sometimes it is hard to make it to all tweet chats so in #hcsmla I have used guest moderators and they add incredible value. They bring new people to the discussion and they are always happy with the moderating experience. The @hcsmla always says hello, good bye and asks the questions but the moderator does the rest with his or her own account.
    Another thing we tried in #hcsmla and I named it #hcsmla reloaded was having a special guest for some special tweet chats. It´s given great results and the idea is to have at least one hcsmla reloaded every 6 weeks.
    The guests are people or organizations that use social media in healthcare and want to share what they do because it´s innovative. For example one day we had the authors of Salud 2.0 ( which is a great book on Health 2.0. The #hcsmla crowd asked questions to the authors and they answered and shared their experience. This has been a great experience for both the guests that get to share what they do and get more people involved and for the rest of the hcsmla community that learns new things every tweet chat.
    I just want to add that moderating a tweet chat has been a constant way of learning new stuff, a great way to meet new and amazing friends and a fantastic way to brainstorm and keep ideas flowing (off course with the objective of bringing does ideas to live ;-))

    Dinesh, good luck with hcsmin and welcome to the hcsmglobal community!

    • Hi Valentina

      What wonderful suggestions! I am definitely going to get the #hcsmeu moderator panel started, and I *love* the ‘reloaded’ idea. I will start a Gdoc for community-sourced suggestions.

      One Q on this, however: how do you stop ‘reloaded’ sessions becoming advertising slots, or have you found that the community self-governs in this regard?

      • Hi Andrew!
        Actually the community self-governs in this regard. Surprisingly the reloaded sessions are far from advertising slots. The guests share their ideas and what they do and the participants ask questions and drive the conversation away from the advertising part. They don´t want to hear the person talk about their product or service, they are interested on the experience so it´s the whole community that doesn´t let the reloaded sessions become advertising slots.
        I guess it has to do with what is really interesting which is the “behind the scenes” so until now it has worked great! 🙂

      • Hi Andrew,

        I have made the same experience as Valentina and #hcsmla with having special guests featured. They have never turned into advertising opportunities – neither openly or veiled.

        Denise Silber does this especially well on #health20fr. Guests have to be prepared for high-speed questioning. It’s quite informative for both the participants and the guest.

  9. Hi Andrew et al.,

    I’m a little late to the party, but profit from a lot of great input. I agree with everything that has been said so far and offer these observations and tips.

    You can get community input even before your first chat.
    When researching whether there was an appetite for #hcsmca (Canada), I reached out to my on and offline networks. Ensuring that I had people to come to the first chat helped set the tone and generate activity. They also helped me determine the optimal time and day for our chat.

    I also found it helpful to write a series of articles last year interviewing other healthcare tweetchat founders. Here are invaluable words of advice from Dana Lewis (hcsm), Andrew Spong, Silja Chouquet (hcsmeu), Alex Talbott (#nhssm), Phil Baumann (#MDchat RNchat), and Christian Sinclair (#hpm)

    Be prepared to commit.
    While moderators experience untold rewards, it takes time and effort to host a weekly chat. Eileen O’Brien warned me of this before I took the plunge and I was very grateful for her sage advice to introduce guest moderators right from the beginning. Valentina outlines the various benefits of guest moderators above. These benefits have been the experience of #hcsmca too. We also hold regular themed chats (chats dedicated to one topic), case studies and special guests (#health20fr hosts chats with special guests particularly well.)

    Include day and time of your chat to your tweets.
    Never assume that people know the time and day of your chat, even if you feel like you’ve said it often enough. Make it easy for them to remember and include the day and time on all tweets announcing the chat. Link to more info about the chat and topics.

    Summary posts nice to have.
    I completely agree with Yaser and Neil that summary posts would be great. Initially, I planned to write a summary post for every #hcsmca, but was able to do so only for a few weeks. Time is a precious commodity and it became clear that I could not uphold that commitment. But aside from the time factor, I also felt that my writing the summary offered only one subjective viewpoint. I’ve been very appreciative of others writing summary posts as Yaser did following the #hcsmca chat he guest moderated. Kudos to you Neil from contributing in this way as well. I hope we can encourage more people to follow suit.

    Finally, thank you Andrew for writing this post.

    Best of luck with #hcsmin Dinesh and welcome to the #hcsm family.

  10. Thanks for posting this. I wish I had time to blog about the #meded (medical education) tweetchats I moderate, but as some of your commenters state, time is the limiting factor here.

    A few pieces of advice for those people who may be interested in starting a tweetchat:
    1. Make sure there is a “critical mass” of people who are interested in participating. If you put a lot of energy into a tweetchat and no one participates, it will quickly fail.

    2. Once you have a critical mass of people interested, you may want to poll the key players on the hashtag whom you already know. Set up a Doodle and pose several options; then see what the more popular ones are.

    3. Be aware that Twitter is a 24-hour, worldwide medium. If the topic you select is not regional or national, you may run into problems coordinating times. For the #meded chat, we have 2 chats: one at 2000 GMT for European participants and one at 2000 Eastern time for North American participants. Both chats use the same hashtag, but the topics are specific to the regions.

    • Hi Ryan

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave these terrific insights.

      It seems we all rue the lack of time to turn discussions into outputs. Whether anyone would read them is another matter 😉

      The ‘critical mass’ issue is a fascinating one – a ‘chicken and egg’ paradox that it is hard to resolve. Honestly, I’m not sure how #hcsmeu sprang into life. I think our initial core membership simply saw the words ‘health care’, ‘social media’ and ‘Europe’ in conjunction, and took the plunge. I for one am glad that they did.

      The ‘cross time zone’ issue is a challenging one, and I am in awe of your approach! The hcsmeu chat is clearly focused on a single geography with little variance in time, so it’s less an issue for us. Your solution is ingenious; however, with two different sets of questions, is it akin to having two separate communities? How much cross-polination is there between the US and EU conversation?

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  12. Andrew,

    Thank you for this guide for hosting a Tweet Chat. I’ve continued to have a number of questions and I’m thankful you have answered them.

    One question I believe is central to each tweet chat is a simple one.

    How do we measure the success of a Tweet Chat?

    Is success measured by the number of Tweets, the number of Participants, the amount of Learning or Education that takes place, the number of Interdisciplinary Participants that are represented, the number of links to valuable documents that are posted,etc?

    I believe the manner in which success might best be measured is when the majority of the members had their needs met during the sixty minutes they chose to invest in a Tweet Chat. Another critical element of success should be if each person present for the chat was treated in a respectful and dignified manner.

    No matter how we chose to define success I know the knowledge, skill, ability and character of each moderator is what gives each discussion it’s flavor and if fact begins to mold a unique culture.

    Jody Schoger (@jodyms) showed leadership, connection and genteel grit when she posted comments strongly suggesting the community gathered remain quiet in order to give the women with metastatic breast cancer disease their chance to talk.

    I believe those who moderate Tweet Chats, just like professors in a classroom, have the responsibility to model respectful behavior, help guide the community in a thoughtful manner, help monitor the “talking and listening” and make sure the community stays true to
    their mission.

  13. Excellent guide – I am just starting a tweetchat on gluten free living (#celiacchat &or #glutenfreechat at 4pm edt). I am modelling it on #gardenchat (Monday 9pm) which now has guests each week but is somewhat a free for all. They log the chat and keep the chat room open all week. So my question is ‘how to log’ a chat so that folks that join later can see links etc from earlier in the chat.

    • Hi Kate

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, and best of luck with #celiacchat and #glutenfreechat. Archiving is an issue for tweet chat moderators at present, and this can be a disincentive. However, those of us lucky to be involved with health-related chats can call upon the services of the superb Healthcare Hashtag project at

      Scroll down to the bottom of the Healthcare Hashtag homepage to find a ‘submit a hashtag’ button.

      @foxepractice will then set you up with a homepage which you can not only direct participants to, but also derive transcript archives from. This is what hcsmeu’s homepage on Healthcare Hashtags looks like:

      After every hcsmeu, I create a date and time-delimited transcript and link it to the hcsmeu archive here:*Friday+tweet+chat+Q%26A+archive*

      Healthcare Hashtags is a terrific resource, and Fox ePractice are to be commended for the outstanding service they provide to the health conversation on Twitter.

      Hope this helps!

  14. Hello Andrew,
    Its now almost a month since you put up ‘How to host a tweet chat on Twitter’ and it has received an amazing response. Some of the comments were really unique and as the conversation went ahead it led to a lot of exchange of thoughts. Me and my team here in India really had a good learning out of this.
    A special THANKS to you from all of us here at #hcsmin.
    I would also like to say a big ‘Thank You’ to various hcsm community across the globe who welcomed us through this thread.

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