Twitter chats, also called “tweetchats”, have increasingly become a way to discuss key topics and exchange knowledge and resources among experts and community members . Twitter chats can be excellent opportunities to network with those in your field, learn about new topics, and gain visibility for your work. Many HIV organizations host Twitter chats on health topics, during HIV awareness days relevant to their organization or community, and/or during HIV/AIDS conferences.
Perhaps, you’ve already participated in one of these tweetchats. However, unless you’re an avid tweeter, a Twitter chat can be a little intimidating. At AIDS.gov, Twitter is our busiest social media space with over 263,000 followers to date. We are always looking for ways to engage with our community through social media, including Twitter. Here are a few tips for you when leading or participating in a Twitter chat:
Initiate a Dialogue about HIV/AIDS:
The HIV community offers diverse expert opinions on a multitude of topics. A Twitter Chat can be a great way to network and see what others are saying about specific topics in the field .This is also a great opportunity to contribute your own valuable information and get your questions answered.
Jenna Gaarde , the Project Coordinator at YTH shares that, “While conversations about health resources and information are not limited to the Twittersphere, Twitter is an accessible and useful medium to raise many voices from all over, and create connections for future partnerships and collaborations. The #YTHHIV tweetchat garnered 350 unique tweets over the course of the hour, with over 30 experts working in the field of HIV, health, and education. The Tweetchat helped YTH engage its audiences with voices that provided a new perspective.”
Coordinate: How to Organize a Twitter Chat?
Organizing a Twitter Chat includes creating a roadmap for the discussion, inviting participants, and promoting the chat throughout the community.
Jenna from YTH, who helped organize the #YTHHIV chat , shared with us three tips that the HIV community can use when organizing a chat:
- Plan: It is useful to plan out the topics that you would like to have covered, as well as identify key questions that you would like to get answered. For example, in the #YTHHIV tweetchat participants were sent a set of questions and topics that would be covered to better help them prepare for the conversation.
- Diverse Expert Opinions: Inviting experts from diverse sectors in HIV is a great way to garner a wide-variety of perspectives.
- Parallel conversations: Discussions can be very fast-paced so it is useful to be prepared with more information to share than less, with the understanding that participants can look back through the hashtag to catch information that they may have missed.
In recognition of National HIV Testing Day 2014, we recently participated in the CDC NPIN Twitter Chat and the YTH HIV Prevention and Education chat . Participating in a Twitter Chat can mean asking questions, answering questions, or just listening in on the conversation by following the specified hashtag. A few important tips to keep in mind when participating are:
- Introduce yourself! Twitter chats are a great way to gain visibility as an organization or network with other people interested in the same topic. Sending an introductory tweet allows you to support the chat and let your network know that you will be participating.
- Use the hashtag: The specified twitter chat hashtag not only allows you to follow the different discussions happening in the chat, but also allows others to follow your input. You can follow the hashtag on a Twitter client such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite .
- Come prepared: Because the chat is moving so fast, coming prepared with answers and questions can be very helpful. Having messages that are formatted to 140 characters and include the chat hashtag can save you a lot of time when engaging in the chat.
What have been your experiences with twitter chats? Let us know in the comments!