What is a tweetchat? In my view: a global online brainstorm: a fast paced collection of expert opinion, links, references, questioning, learning but above all sharing around the theme of the chat.
“A tweet chat is a pre-arranged chat that happens on Twitter through tweets that include a predefined hashtag to link those tweets together in a virtual conversation” Formal Twitter tweet chats are arranged in advance and occur at set times. They may include a formal agenda with a specific leader or “speaker”, or they might involve a free flowing discussion between all participants.
Dont attempt to make too much sense of it at the time, dive in, chat and share. Make sense of it later (which makes the output and transcripts very important). A brilliant use of twitter!
Having participated in a number of tweetchats over tha last few months #futrchat, #CSRchat and the more frivolous #sugarfreetweets for example, I recently took on the task of oragnising and facilitaing #GVisChat ‘Future of Energy in Buildings’ for Green Vision.
For an inaugural chat it worked well, with thought leaders and seasoned tweeters conversing and sharing with those who made their first tweet during the chat, which has to be a result.
Here then are my thoughts and observations:
- Choose a hashtag and check it hasnt been used for another chat.
- Most hashtags end ‘chat’ which has become a notation for tweetchat.Make the hashtag simple and memorable
- Get the word out there – through twitter but also through related groups, forums both online and real.
- Get the time and date agreed: Check there are no other big, subject related chats scheduled around the same time: Balance between working day time (9-5) and a global enthusiast though leader chat: It does seem the popular time is 7, 8 or 9 pm UK time for a global input. (and looking at a recent spreadsheet of existing scheduled chats, USA tweeters would appear to be more comfortable with the tweetchat format.)
- Have instructions you can point to in order to help participants, for eg: How to take part in a tweet chat and How to join up to twitter (you don’t want to exclude those not on twitter who may see the whole twitter thing a bit of a dark mystery)
- Agree roles – I think there are three, a facilitator, a subject driver and an amplifer See below (I did all three so it can be done but … wow – it gets busy)
- Agree Questions in advance, say 5 or 6 but be prepared to change and flex with the direction the chat may take.
Setting up to capture:
Register the hashtag with tweetchat.. Tweetchat provides a nice simple format that puts you in the ‘tweetchat room’ for the chosen hashtag and automatically adds the hashtag. Overall though I find tweetdeck easier to use during the chat.
‘Facilitating’ the chat:
- Introduce topic, and the first question. The start of the chat was probably the most ‘awkward’: unlike real meetings there are not many signals to pick up on that people are there and ready to go so you have to dive in. I had a sense of I was waiting for tweeters and they for me to kick off.
- Welcome – be sure to welcome people as they enter the chat, that is make their first hashtaged contribution
- Let twitter know the chat is running
- Feed in the questions – the skill would appear to be in introducing next question at the right time, not too soon or too late – keep the fast pace going…
- Amplify good points (ie RT and add to)
- Praise good points being made, thank people for links (as you would in a real world brainstorm)
- Challenge, question, throw in off the wall out there concepts to widen the discussion (eg future of energy chat led to possibility of building on the moon)
- Give time checks, especially towards the close – the 60mins flies past rather swiftly!
- Watch for contributions from people forgetting or not using the hashtag and RT them so they get into the mix. (and remind people to use the # and Q and A numbering)
During the chat I used tweetdeck so I could have a DM channel open for closed communication with other hosts and a timeline to watch for related tweets from friends who forgot the hashtag!
Use a service such as the brilliant Tweetbinder to capture the tweets as well as statistics on the tweetchat.
Drop the tweets into Storify to create a transcript
Use the tweets and links to craft an interview sytle article for publication on blogs or elsewhere
Thanks: These are my observations and lessons learnt from organising a tweetchat for the first time. I do hope they help and encourage you to get involved in a chat and to facilitate, they are great fun, generate a real buzz and to me prove the potential business and learning power of twitter is yet to be fully realised
I am indebted to Cindy @Urbanverse, a great friend and seasoned tweetchat expert for help and guidance