They do take a bit of coordination though – and I am a perpetual newbie at it:
- What needs to happen before a chat to prepare?
- What happens if no one attends?
- How do you find questions to ask?
- How do you keep the conversation going?
Thankfully, our core #4change team has some great collective experience on running Twitter chats.
Here are my formatted and remixed versions of their responses:
What needs to happen before a chat to prepare?
Amy : “blog posts, tweets, share on facebook, etc.”
Tom : I think it’s preparation that makes a good chat:
- having questions prepared
- reaching out to relevant people to participate
- strong general publicity/buzz building
Tash : For me, preparation is similar to an offline discussion environment:
- preparing links and resources
- thinking about discussion questions(and running them past people who are experts in the area)
- thinking about how the conversation might flow from one topic to another and so on
Hot tip: I’ve also found it helps to do a mixture of general tweets about the event to all my followers, and specific invites to people who would add expertise and particular points of view to the conversation.
Eddie: Identify influencers and invite through multi channels; perhaps email is more personal/ one-on-one.
Hot tip: Vary each chat with people – early adopters, newbies, specialized knowledge brokers: adds value to the chat.
What happens if no one attends?
Amy: Well, you should at least have the 4change crew attending! and hopefully it wouldn’t take long for us to have a conversation that’s interesting that pulls in others.
Hot tip: As part of the item above, it’s helpful I found to invite people directly via twitter the day or so before to be sure it’s on their radar.
Morgan: It seems this can be a problem with offline events too! I’d venture that it goes back to having a strong ‘core’ of people to work with + marketing (a week in advance, a day before, the day of). Would love to hear from other Twitter convo leaders on this…#journchat? What say you?
How do you find questions to ask?
Amy: With the January topic for example, I thought about all of the issues and valuable conversations that could come from a discussion on the topic and then boiled those down to the open-ended questions that would invite such issues or conversations to emerge.
- Hot tip: I posted the questions the morning-of in the original blog post so that I had them to refer to.
How do you keep the conversation going?
Amy: I tried to pace questions about every 15-30 min, depending on how the tweet stream was going. I also never, I don’t think, actually answered a question myself…
Hot tip: …(ask) people to dive deeper into their comments or further explain their thoughts – that…(means)…a one tweet answer would become 4 tweets of explanation that others…(can)…comment on.
Tom: With good questions and some good guests conversation seems to flow pretty naturally. You’ll know when it’s time to move to the next question based on the volume and quality of the conversation going on, but once you do I think moving clearly on to the next question is critical, otherwise the conversation bleeds too much (it will always do this a bit) and becomes confusing.
Hot tip: monitor the volume and quality of the conversation constantly. That way, you’ll know when it’s time to move on to the next question.
Tash: Once the conversation starts, I think it’s a matter of watching the discussion level and adapting the question flow to that. As Amy says, asking people to expand on particular points or provide case studies can also be a way to draw out conversation rather than going on to the next question.
Eddie: moderate talking through backchannels (Skype, GChat) – to anticipate/coordinate should any problems arise. Identify two or three key learning outcomes/action points. Parapharsing and reflecting conversation – ensure ppl understand tweets. (through RTs and questions).
- Hot tip: have a back channel set up with your core staff to anticipate/coordinate should the need arise. Twitter has been known to fail…
I’d also like to add a note about follow up. It’s good to say thank you to all participants (you are still demanding peoples’ ideas and attention). It should also go without saying that a ‘recap’ should be written by the moderator highlighting some key take-aways from the conversation.
Hot tip: as a final question, ask what key ‘take aways’ participant had from the conversation – it’ll make writing that recap much easier!
As these are global conversations, you’ll be chatting with people in different time zones. Try to be sensitive to their needs as they may need to go offline after a long day (or perhaps still need more sleep!). For reference, our Twitter chats run the 2nd Thursday of the month at 2pm PST which corresponds to:
- 5-7pm US Eastern Time (GMT-4)
- 10pm-12am UK
- 7-9am Australian EST (on the second Friday of the month)
What kinds of tips or suggestions might you have to add? Anything you might change or subtract?
*Big thanks to Amy Sample Ward for originally writing about Using Twitter for a Global Conversation too!