A few months ago, a colleague asked me to co-host a Twitter chat with him. Never having done so before, I began investigating why I would want to do that and what it entails to host a productive Twitter chat. Hosting a Twitter chat means that you act as the facilitator for others who join you with a specific hashtag at a specific time to discuss a specific topic. As the facilitator, you develop the parameters and questions for the chat, but do not have to be the “expert” on the topic; you just guide the discussion. It’s a great learning opportunity for a school district, a campus, or even a particular department to offer because it’s quick, doesn’t cost anything except a little time, and can result in improvements in teaching and learning. Below are some tips I discovered for hosting your own Twitter chat.
Tip #1: Participate in chats first and understand how they work.
Since I have been a participant in Twitter chats before, I really feel like I understand how they work. It is very important that you know how a Twitter chat works in order to successfully host your own. If you are looking for some chats to participate in, you can find some listed at the links below:
Tip #2: Make a plan.
When hosting a Twitter chat, some items need to be pre-planned. These items include the following:
- Choose a hashtag – When choosing a hashtag, it needs to be short and unique. It is also helpful if it is easy to remember and easy to type.
- Schedule a time and day – Choose a time and day that works best for you. You might also want to ensure that no other major Twitter chats about the same topic are occurring on the day and time you pick. When selecting a time, think about your audience. If the chat is for high school band directors, then immediately after school probably won’t work.
- Choose a topic and create questions – Once you decide upon a topic, come up with five to eight questions that will be used to guide the chat. It wouldn’t hurt to add a few additional questions just in case you need to increase interaction among the participants. The questions should be ones that can be answered with a short response, but not “yes” or “no” answers. Asking participants to share favorite resources, web tools, or ways to help a particular student are all great questions to pose.
- Consider inviting special guests – Bringing in guests on a particular topic is a great way to get first-hand knowledge and expertise for your chat participants. Make sure you clearly communicate the chat schedule with the “expert” and send him the questions in advance so that he may see and offer input on them.
Tip #3: Promote your chat.
Promote your chat using social media. In a Twitter chat, the more the merrier! In addition, creating an announcement web page, like a Google Site, to use as a reference point is always a good idea. This page can serve as a landing page that explains what the chat will be about and gives the details about the chat. In addition, it can contain things like how to participate in a chat, how chats work, etc. Some of your participants might find this very useful.
Tip #4: Conduct your chat.
When conducting your chat, think about including these items:
- Introductions – Welcome your participants to the chat and allow them to introduce themselves.
- Announce the topic – Announce what the topic is for the chat and tweet your own ideas about the topic.
- Ask questions – As you ask questions, label them as Q1, Q2, etc. Allow your participants at least five minutes per question to share their ideas.
- Encourage participation – Share some related resources or links and ask your participants to do the same.
- Announce the end of the chat – Warn the participants that the chat will be ending.
- Conclude the chat – Thank your participants for participating in the chat and tweet any final remarks or thoughts. Also, announce the next chat day, time, and topic.
Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are both great, free tools for conducting your chat.
Tip #5: Analyze and archive your chat.
After your chat is over, reflect on how the experience went. Perhaps write a blog entry about it. Also, you might want to create a transcript of your tweets. Storify is a great tool to use for this.
Have you hosted a Twitter chat before? How did it go and what tips would you offer? Share with us in the comments!