HOPWA joined Twitter last October, and we were keen to increase our engagement within the first six months. We don’t have a lot of social media resources, so we decided that hosting a Twitter chat would be a good way of meeting our engagement goals.
Lessons learned from #TalkHOPWA
Prep early. We didn’t realize how much planning it would take to host a chat! So we didn’t start talking with our “core participants”—partners who were helping us lead the chat – until two weeks before our chat date. That meant we were unable to provide them much time when asking for feedback on the “chat script”— a list of questions that helps to prompt and structure the conversation. For our next chat, we plan to give our core participants two weeks to craft responses and to give them the chat script earlier. This will also encourage more pre-chat promotion.
Use “mentions.” We had nine participants—a small but encouraging start for our first chat. They did an amazing job of encouraging their partners to join us by “mentioning” them during the chat. A “mention” means you refer to another Twitter user in a tweet by using the “@” sign before their Twitter name (for example “Thanks, @AIDSgov”). Twitter sends a notification of the mention to that user, who then has a choice to respond and/or join the conversation.
We learned an important lesson about the timing of mentions. When they come at the middle or the end of a chat, they aren’t as effective in encouraging involvement as they would be if we mentioned them at the beginning of the chat. Next time, we will encourage our core participants to mention their partners early on. And to boost engagement for the next chat, we plan to use promotional and introductory tweets and will encourage our core group participants to do the same.
Have a time-keeper. We included a schedule within the chat script but the chat itself required a lot of attention. While conducting that chat, our main concern with the schedule became whether all the prepared tweets were sent out for each talking point. Instead of following the exact schedule on the script, we simply moved on when everyone from our core group had sent out their planned tweets. We moved through a few of the talking points very quickly, making it difficult for participants jumping into the conversation to craft their tweets. For the next chat, we will have one person responsible for time so all participants have an adequate opportunity to send out their tweets.
Create a “Storify” page. Because of the the fast pace of the conversation and the responsibility of hosting, we overlooked several tweets during the chat. So after it was over, we compiled all the #TalkHOPWA tweets on a Storify page. This allowed us to archive the conversation, and to share the content with those who could not join. It also let us to look back on the chat to appreciate the conversation. We recommend using Storify as a tool to help you organize information coming from multiple sources and to share your content easily.
#TalkHOPWA demonstrated that social media is a great way to have direct conversations about our work to create an AIDS-free generation. We’d encourage you to try a Twitter chat as a way to engage in real time with your audience.