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I was asked by Tali Horowitz of Common Sense Media to co-moderate a Twitter chat, but I had never done that before. I’ve been on Twitter for about a year and a half and have participated in other chats, so I thought “Why not?” It turned out to be a lot of fun; if you ever have the opportunity, please do so. Since I want everyone to experience this nerd-thrill, I’ve documented how I approached this project. After it was all over, the stats say we were viewed over a million times. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that but while I work on that, here’s my tips and tricks for hosting a Killer Twitter Chat.
Before I go into what I did, you should really read Lisa Neilsen’s take on this subject. Since I’m the President of her fan club, I feel it’s my duty to recognize her genius before I chime in. http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2014/05/how-to-host-q-and-twitter-chat.html If you’re too lazy to click this link (really?) I’m going to repeat a lot of what she wrote.
Before the Chat
Promote the chat, then promote it again. The success of your chat depends on how many people are contributing. We all have busy lives; make it worth their while.
Tag your tribe in the tweets so they start dialogues. That’s what they’re there for.
Choose a theme that is specific to the audience, but easy for people to engage in the discussion.
Create a document that has the questions you plan on asking and share that document on Twitter beforehand. It gives people a heads up on what you will discuss. Choose open-ended questions, but not too elaborate. Remember they only have 140 characters to respond.
Create the graphics that will be used. I created graphics for each question, and I made some random graphics with quotes that were relevant to our discussion. Lisa says that’s how we raised the bar for Twitter Chats throughout the world. (I might be exaggerating there.)
A long hashtag for your chat will limit everyone’s responses. Keep it short and easy to type. I made mine a keyboard shortcut just to be more efficient while I was responding.
During the Chat
Don’t type in too much shorthand. It could be hard to understand you and deciphering the message will take too much time if the tweets are flying fast and furious.
Alert participants that the next question is coming, so they can wrap up the previous discussions.
Tweet the questions with a graphic too. Using graphics is huge. Twitter is mostly words, so a visual will really stand out. The great thing about visuals is that you can tag up to 10 people in the graphic. Tagging people in the graphics doesn’t take up your 140 characters, and you can really engage the participants in this way.
Drop the random graphics in sporadically as the conversations get deeper. I designed them to have a consistent look, but still be different from the actual questions.
Add comments to participant’s tweets to start multiple conversations going.
“Like” other people’s tweets, and retweet the significant thoughts, it makes you sound smart.
After the Chat
Catch up on conversations you missed; just because the hour is over doesn’t mean you have to stop the discussion. I’ve had discussions go on for days.
Follow the people that contributed, it’s the least you can do.
Thank the contributors, and let them know when the next chat will be.
I loved being the moderator. It was an hour-long adrenaline rush for a geek like me. I tell regular people about it, and they give me a half smile and nod, trying to act like they care. It doesn’t matter to me though. I care, and it matters to my nerd tribe. Connecting with fellow educators online in real time to make all of us better at what we do is something unheard of 10 years ago. We sometimes take for granted how cool technology is, and what we can do with it. This is the world wide web at it’s best, and not only can we take advantage of that, we can model it for our students. They’re the people we do this all for.