Archive for December, 2010

Building a Better Twitter Chat

Twitter chats allow people who want to learn more about a topic to get together and learn things from each other. Before you start diving into holding a chat… there are a few things you need to consider.

  1. Ask yourself is there enough to talk about? Consider the topic you wish to build the chat around. Is it broad and deep enough to generate a sustained discussion about? How many areas about this topic can you develop questions around?  I started my chat around the subject of Knitting (and fiber-related crafts). To the non-knitter it may seem that this is not a robust and broad topic, but just check out the activity in a social network site of over 1 million knitters called Ravelry, and you’ll understand that chatter about knitting can seem infinite.
  2. Never underestimate the power of previous connections on Twitter. Build a modest following first. If you’re just going to plan a chat and expect people to come, they won’t. Try to start posting relevant information on the topics you are interested in. Don’t over do it though, also make sure you sound human in  your post and not stiff and from a marketing department. Here’s a nice primer on how to plan out your use of Twitter.
  3. Expect that the first few sessions might have a limited following or number of participants. Unless you have a large and avid following already, the first few sessions may include only a handful of people who are actually chatting. This is okay. Provided that your topics generate enough interest, and you spend some time promoting the chat both in Twitter and other venues, you will be able to gradually achieve a larger base of participants.
  4. Training for participation is key. Try to define what the chat will looking like to your audience. I know the first time I heard of Twitter chats I was indeed mystified as to how they worked. I created a short post explaining the basics of the chat format to my audience to help explain how to participate.
  5. Great conversation facilitation is dependent on the quality of the prompts & questions crafted by the facilitator or other members of the chat’s community.  Coming up with questions that keep a conversation going can be a challenge. In the first two chat’s I’ve set up I loosely followed the format of the “#lrnchat” discussion. Introductions first then a set of 4-5 discussion related questions. Questions should be somewhat open ended and not have “Yes” or “No” responses only. A whole separate post or even series of blog posts could be devoted to “how to draft fabulously dynamic discussion questions.”
  6. Expect “lurkers” not “talkers” at first.  Not everyone feels comfortable diving into a conversation. They may have to observe and before the feel safe enough. They may also be struggling (as I did with the pasting the hashtag into every post).  It was not easy to do this in Twitter the first time I tried engaging in a chat a few months ago, that or I’d not figured out the tools yet.
  7. Don’t expect to “hog” the facilitator’s role.  Generate ideas for topics from the participants in the community that you’ve tapped. They after all, are the lifeblood of the conversation. Also, after hosting for several sessions, think about letting others who are interested host or facilitate the chat.

These are just some initial thoughts to consider before starting your own chat.  I’ll try to document the steps I took to getting my chat started in a future post.

You can build your chat stronger and better

Lessons learned from my Twitter activity in the past few months

I’m sure some sage individual in the past has noticed that humans are most excellent at making order out of chaos as well as vice versa.  For most people who first encounter Twitter, when they hear that it’s just about people barking statements in less than 140 characters about the goings on in their lives, they immediately decide that the tool amounts to nothing but horsefeathers and mindless chatter.  A little over two years ago I too was skeptical about using Twitter. Now I have a great appreciation of what a powerful tool it is for connecting with people who are interested in the same things you are. More than that it’s a great way to learn from others and find people in your field to learn from.

While others may lament the 140 character limit, I believe that the limit forces you to ‘prune your words’ or carefully think out what you will share.  The medium itself is, after all, only designed for short bursts of conversation. If you want a longer discussion that’s  less constricted go find a forum on the same subject.  The great thing about Twitter is it’s a large body of information sharing, but you can still make relative sense of it by using the search or accessing what YOU want to hear or learn about by using the hashtags (examples: #baseball, #knitting, #instructionaldesign). You don’t have to dig through individual communities and forums to find what people are saying about a topic.

Again it’s difficult to engage in a deeper conversation from just following the hashtags, but groups can hold guided discussion by centering the Twitter exchange around a set of guiding questions which people in the group respond to individually. In the next few posts I’ll be sharing more about my own attempt to learn how to use Twitter as a tool have an ‘actual conversation’ with like minds. I’ll review the preparation &  steps needed to hold a Twitter chat, and I’ll also take some time to analyze the benefits & drawbacks of this format of conversation. Finally, I would like to take a deeper look at some of the Twitter tools out there that help both faciliators and participants.

Using twitter as a conversation tool can still pose challenges and seem restrictive, but if you leverage it’s strengths and adopt a Zen approach to absorbing with wave of content and thoughts from others, it’s actually a great window into how others feel about the topics you care about.


Why?

My place outside of work to explore and make connections with the ideas and things (sometimes work-related) that I'm passionate about.

My Tweets

Blog Stats

  • 248,984 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 89 other followers