Harnessing Your Microblogging: Twitter Chats

Microblogging can be very helpful in driving traffic to your website, videos, and other content. But what exactly is microblogging? According to Webopedia, microblogging is a type of blog that lets users publish short updates. Twitter, Vine and Tumblr are a number of services that can be used to push out these short messages.

Twitter is used by 302 million monthly active users, who send 500 million tweets a day. As most of you know, each twitter message is limited to 140 characters, so every message needs to be concise and thought out. Public Health Talks (@PubHealthTalks) sponsors Twitter chat for #publichealth professionals on the first and third Monday of every month at 9pm ET. Why are there @ and # in that last sentence? Because that’s how you communicate on Twitter – check out the anatomy of a tweet and 8 Tips from #PubHT for using Twitter for health-related events:

Source: #mHealth13

Source: #mHealth13

Twitter chats are an easy and inexpensive way to communicate with the general public about public health issues. Many other groups, including the CDC (@CDCgov, #CDCchat) and ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser, use twitter chats to talk about a wide variety of subjects. Here’s Dr. Besser himself, teaching how to join a twitter chat:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/video/twitter-chat-dr-besser-18423099

Cross-promotion with similar partners can increase your ability to reach your target audience. When talking about emergency preparedness, for example, a local health department can involve their emergency services, city officials, and organizations like the Red Cross, to tweet with them.

Have at least one moderator to make sure things don’t go too far off topic. It helps to have your topics laid out in advance and then mark the beginning of each tweet with T (for topic) or Q (for question) and a number, i.e. ‘T1: How to run a twitter chat’. Then encourage responders to use the same nomenclature to mark their questions and responses.

Always include the hashtag in your tweets. This is how your Twitter chat will be tracked. If you don’t include the hashtag, the tweets won’t show up as part of the conversation.

When responding to a question, include the questioner’s Twitter handle. Because Twitter chats moves quickly, by including each person’s Twitter handle, it will be easier to track the conversation.

Include links to helpful websites and information. You’ve drawn your audience in, give them good information to take away, and hopefully retweet.

And when the chat is over? You can even publish a transcript or highlights using Storify.

Have you ever sponsored a Twitter chat or used microblogging to promote public health issues? Do you have tips and tricks to share? Add yours to the comments below.

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6 thoughts on “Harnessing Your Microblogging: Twitter Chats

  1. Rachel, this was such a helpful post! I really appreciate having the elements of Twitter get broken down, even as an everyday user. That infographic is really worth sharing. I liked the tips a lot, but I know I’ve observed some Twitter Q&As go really wrong (most recently like here ). Any tips you found about how to avoid or fix a worst-case-scenario?

    • Kristina, you are absolutely right! Twitter chats and AMAs (ask me anything) can go very wrong, very fast. I would make absolutely sure that your moderator is prepared to handle internet ‘trolls’ who may throw the discussion off topic. And it’s probably a good idea to stay away from topics that are potentially inflammatory.

  2. I agree with Kristina that this was a really helpful post! I have never seen or participated in a Twitter chat (and only heard about them in last week’s readings), so it was great to get some more information and tips about them here. I had some doubts about the utility of the chat because I can’t imagine having the time/flexibility to tune in to potentially interesting conversations live, so your tip about using Transcripts and Storify were REALLY helpful. Storify seems fantastic in general. The point about keeping the discussion on track is also interesting–as a high school teacher I find myself struggling with that issue quite a but, and in a virtual setting it must be so much more difficult. You’re right that the right person is definitely needed to be able to handle a live chat for your organization.

    Quick side note: make sure your links open in new tabs whenever they redirect from the blog.

    Overall great work here!

  3. Sweet post! You know I love infographics, and the one you found for this post is really great. It’s the perfect introduction for anyone new to Twitter (like me)

    I find these Twitter chats very interesting. I’ve never taken part in a reddit AMA before, but the layout is really clear so it’s easy to follow a discussion. I feel like for a Twitter chat, it would be really difficult to follow the order of events without the transcript provided at the end. Have you ever taken part in one of these chats? I’d love to hear what your experience was like if you have :]

  4. This is an excellent blog post! Great intro and the infographic that you chose is packed full of useful information! Nice use of bolding the take away messages for your audience. It really helps me as a reader! I really liked the end of your blog and how you ask your reader questions and then ask them to comment and share their perspectives and engage in a conversation around this topic. Well done!

  5. Being a new Twitter user, I was confused with the whole @ signs and hashtags, I didn’t really know what they all meant. After this part of the course I felt less clueless about my microblogging issues 🙂 Your infographic was very informative and helpful. I agree with Kristina above that the infographic is worth sharing 🙂

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