On March 29, HOPWA celebrated our 6-month Twitter anniversary. We joined Twitter to share HIV housing resources and information. In our short time on Twitter, @HUD_HOPWA has grown to 273 followers and increased circulation of new publications and resources.
We recently hosted a Twitter Chat – a chat on Twitter which allows users to participate in real-time hashtag conversations – to promote our white paper, The Connection Between Housing and Improved Outcomes Along the HIV Care Continuum . We announced the #TalkHOPWA Twitter chat through a blog post on World AIDS Day 2014. Ready or not, we were determined to host a Twitter chat! We learned a lot both before and during the chat.
Things we learned about planning for the Twitter Chat
Ask for advice, and prep “off-line”: With no prior experience hosting a Twitter chat, we reached out to our Federal partners, including AIDS.gov, for advice, and discovered how much preparation was required. We had previously participated in chats without realizing that successful chats have a team operating behind the scenes to ensure there is “chatter.”
Find your core “tweeters”: We created a list of 5 HOPWA grantees and project sponsors active on Twitter to ensure engagement. We confirmed this core group 2 weeks before the chat, but recommend allowing more time if you have a larger group.
Develop content: We created six talking points based on the HOPWA white paper to encourage discussion. Our core participants helped us create a “chat script,” which contained handles for all participants, promotional tweets for the week leading up to the chat, and every tweet to be included in the chat. The script helped us determine the flow of the conversation and ensured there would be at least one response for every question we tweeted. This was also an opportunity to emphasize #TalkHOPWA and include links and graphics to support responses.
Lessons learned from #TalkHOPWA Twitter Chat
Stay connected: We organized a conference line for the core participants. This allowed us to make real-time changes and to ensure that tweets were sent out at the appropriate times.
Be flexible: As a first-time host, we were focused on the chat script, but we were lucky to have fun participants who surprised us with spontaneous tweets about our conference-line conversation.
Measure your success: Our first Twitter chat met our success metrics; we had 9 active participants and others retweeting our resources, including the white paper. This may not seem like a large number, but we were targeting a very specific audience with our new resource, HIV housing providers, particularly HOPWA grantees and project sponsors. The conversation raised awareness of the HOPWA white paper and connected HOPWA grantees, project sponsors, and other stakeholders. Check out #TalkHOPWA on our Storify page .
We were pleasantly surprised by the level of interaction and success the Twitter chat generated. We encourage the HIV community to learn and use social media as an important tool to share resources and conversations.