Twitter Chats Explained!
‘Twitter’ chats are a way to interact with colleagues and students (and everyone else), allowing you to facilitate understanding and share resources about a topic of your choice.
Like a normal meeting or face to face teaching session, it takes place over a fixed time however the ‘place’ is optional! People can come and go from the chat as they need and can participate at a level with which they feel comfortable, making it a more flexible approach.
It is a public ‘conversation’ that takes place on the Twitter social media platform, based on a specific hashtag. (see what is a Hashtag). The hashtag acts as a thread, tying all the related messages from the chat together- for this reason it is important to include the hashtag with every tweet. It’s different from a normal conversation or chat as there can be multiple conversations going on within it, as people are able to ‘mention’ each other in tweets. (see what is a Mention).
There are many benefits of hosting a meeting or discussion via Twitter chat, some of which include:
- It allows other interested people to join in with the conversation via the hashtag
- You are hosting your conversation in an environment conducive to sharing resources and ideas
- You can easily create a record of the event, meaning you don’t have to ‘take minutes’ as you might in a normal meeting.
- There are free services that can categorise and summarise your Twitter chat.
It is best not to think of a Twitter chat as a ‘closed’ discussion; the interactive nature of the platform means that users can click on shared links, explore resources, and otherwise navigate the web as they see fit while keeping their attention focussed on the main themes of the chat. Because of this, it is useful to have facilitators to lead discussion in a structured way, asking questions to stimulate discussion along predetermined topics and seeing how conversation evolves.
Create a supporting blog or web site that allows you to write some preamble about your chat beforehand, and publish information about the tone/ground rules. This can also act as a place to summarise and further analyse the discussion afterwards.
Your hashtag needs to be memorable, unique, and hard to hijack. It should be kept as short as possible, and easy to type, as it will be used in every message!
Facilitators should: Welcome new members, keep discussion focused, briefly summarise any different sections of the discussion.
During the chat:
- Tweet some introductory messages
- Announce the topic of the chat
- Tweet the first thought/question
- Give a few minutes for discussion to start
- Summarise key points as you go, retweeting best answers
- Ask useful questions and chat with participants
- Share useful related links
- Tweet a concluding statement and close the chat
- Announce where people can go to follow up (i.e. the blog for summary) and do a useful recap afterwards
Try spicing up the chat by introducing ‘guest speakers’ to participate and add new perspectives. Use a range of multimedia (images, video content) to break up the text-based discussion.
Tweetdeck: allows you to create custom timelines, keep track of searches (i.e. your hashtag), activity and more within one interface.
Check out this video of someone successfully running a twitter chat!