How to Host the Ultimate Twitter Chat Week after Week!

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By Ritu Sharma, CEO & Co-Founder, Social Media for Nonprofits

There are numerous ways for nonprofits to leverage social media for optimal effect, but one of the best things you can add to your Twitter arsenal is tweet chats. TwitterChat

If you’re unfamiliar, tweet chats are live, scheduled conversations around a singular topic, using a specific hashtag to keep everyone organized and visible. Organizers ask questions and moderate the discussion, and anyone who wants to can follow along.

Tweet chats can help your organization by:

  • Increasing awareness in your area of expertise and positioning you as a thought leader
  • Building community as you interact with constituents and other thought leaders
  • Offering up ideas for blog content and continued thought leadership

Participate & Get a Feel

Before hosting your own tweet chats, it’s good to attend a few to understand how they work (and participation brings its own benefits, which I’ll speak to below).

Check out these regular social media and nonprofit related tweet chats to get a sense of things:

    • #Fundchat – A very well organized and vibrant fundraising focused chat, Wednesdays at noon EST
    • #Commbuild – Hosted by NTEN, this is for community building and management professionals, Tuesdays at 1pm EST
    • #npcons – This is for nonprofit and social impact focused consultants, takes place on third Tuesday of the month at 1 PM PST
    • #LinkedInChat – This is for all things LinkedIn and how to leverage that platform, takes place on Tuesdays at 8pm EST.
    • #smmeasure  – Social media measurement chat hosted by Sysomos takes place on Thursdays a 9am PST.

Make the most of tweet chats by reaching out to chat organizers, conveying your excitement, and asking about the upcoming topic. Even if it’s announced in advance (most are), reaching out gets the relationship ball rolling.

Here are some other tips for having a great tweet chat experience:

  • Arrive early and stay late so you get a full picture of how things run
  • Be prepared to offer thought leadership on the topic – you can even write out tweets ahead of time
  • Be patient and stay focused on the discussion (the pace will be FAST) – you can share resources later
  • Use one of these services to help filter tweets and eliminate other Twitter noise – TweetChat, TChat, Twubs, TwChat, Tweetdeck, and Nurph

As you explore other tweet chats, take note of topics you think should be covered but haven’t been. If you’re not ready to run a tweet chat of your own, collaborate so your idea doesn’t fall through the cracks. You could also volunteer to be a guest tweeter or to guest host an upcoming chat.

Running Your Own Tweet Chat

Preparation for hosting your own tweet chat extends beyond simply picking a topic and choosing a time. Having these items checked off your to-do list will keep you from scrambling in the moment:

  • Hashtag – keep it simple, and be sure it can’t be confused with other popular hashtags
  • Resources – have bullets, links and questions ready to go
  • Prepared answers – yes, you want to be organic, but things move fast, and you want to be focused on promoting thought leadership and interaction
  • Guests’ twitter handles and quick blurbs of introduction
  • Banners/graphics for promotion

Ask the Right Questions!

Getting the questions and the topic right are crucial for your success. Always start with who is your intended audience? Is that the decision makers or is it the folks that are more tactical and the ones that execute? If it is the decision makers you are interested in, don’t have questions or topic that are at the execution level or vice-versa. Also, don’t make your questions very open-ended. Try to identify your intended pain points of your intended audience, that leads to value and solutions for your community. Nothing beats providing ROI for your community’s time!

For example: “How can nonprofits collaborate with for-profit organizations?”, while it is a valid question, it is too broad for a 140 character succinct answer. Try to not make it broad and applicable to all, make it directed to each participant, so it appears you are engaging them directly. Examples of more narrowly targeted questions include:

  • What was the most successful nonprofit-corporate partnership that you helped create or participated in?
  • What are your organization’s barrier to entry for SMS adoption?
  • Does your nonprofit have an app? (instead of should nonprofits invest in an app?)
  • Your favorite social measurement tool?
  • How often do you post on Twitter?

Questions like above narrow the answer to the realm of your user’s experience instead of thinking far and wide about all the possibilities. Anytime you can make the question about the participants’ experience, you are more likely to get better engagement and that leads to more answers, more retweets and a more vibrant community.

Here’s a great template to emulate for getting organized.

Don’t be afraid to send questions out in advance, so those planning to attend can craft thoughtful responses. And warn followers who aren’t interested in the chat that you’ll be tweeting a ton during the specified time so you don’t lose them.

Schedule tweets in advance using services like Buffer, TweetDeck, and HootSuite to keep your chat on schedule and allow you to greet and interact with guests and followers throughout.

During the chat you want to be focused on moderating – greeting and introducing guests and interacting with participants. Keep everyone organized by reminding them to use your hashtag and respond to numbered questions (Q1, Q2, Q3) with numbers as well (A1, A2, A3). Make note of any ideas that jump out as topics for blogs, future chats, etc.

When the chat has ended, be sure to thank guests and participants, and then use these programs to do some follow-up work:

  • Create a summary – Storify makes this easy. You could also assemble highlights using SlideShare. Remember to post with your hashtag so your participants have access. Here is an example of excellent review of a twitter chat hosted by ZeroDivide on mobile impact.
  • Key into chat stats – Use Hashtracking (which will also record your chat) or Rowfeeder. Both offer free and paid versions.
  • For broader analytics, Twitter is now in the mix (sign into the Twitter ads interface first) or try Twitonomy. Both are free.

Once you get started with tweet chats, you’ll find yourself seeking them out, as they offer a chance for broader support and a more vibrant conversation for all nonprofits.

Supporting each other while gaining traction – that’s a definite win-win.

Our Favorite Twitter Chat Resources: 


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