A Twitter chat happens when a group of users meet at a pre-determined time to discuss a topic, using the designated hashtag (#) in each tweet. The chat starts when the host posts a question to prompt responses from participants.
It is an effective way to build a community around your institution. Your regular Twitter chats will be a place where alumni, students and prospective students congregate and interact with each other on a regular basis.
How to host a Twitter chat
Hosting a Twitter chat involves more than coming up with a clever hashtag. There is a great deal of planning that goes into successful Twitter chats:
- Hashtag: Make it short and easy to relate back to your institution. Google the hashtag to make sure that it is unique and search for its meaning on urban dictionary to make sure that it is proper. It is important to have a good hashtag because you will use the same one for all your Twitter chats.
- Schedule: It is essential to schedule your chat ahead of time. When picking a day, consider where your audience is located and when they are most likely to be online; it is perfectly fine to query them if you are not sure. To avoid any confusion, in the invitation include your time zone (i.e. 12PM EST).
- Promote: Tell people about the discussion by posting the date, time and topic on your institution’s website, in your newsletter and on platforms that lists upcoming chats. They include Chat Salad, Tweet Reports and Twubs.
- Prepare: Brainstorm a list of possible topics in advance. Prepare 8 questions about the scheduled topic and a few more in case the conversation stirs in a different direction. We also suggest collecting resources such as infographics, links, videos and statistics that you can share if needed.
- Expert: Invite a guest to create a buzz around your Twitter chat. Ideally, they would be faculty from your institution to give them greater exposure. Just make sure that you send them the discussion’s topic and list of questions ahead of time to prepare.
- Lead: If everything is well prepared, the Twitter chat will be the easiest part. If it is a small talk, encourage participants to introduce themselves, if not, limit the introduction to yourself and your guest.
- Conversation: A Twitter chat is a conversation: make sure that everybody is included in the discussion. Ask open ended questions to give participant the opportunity to expand on their answers. Remember to take advantage on good comments and ask follow-up questions. When necessary, share the resources that you have collected.
- Follow-up: After the Twitter chat is over, post a summary of your discussion and actionable items on your institution’s page. Also remember to individually thank all participant and to send an invitation to future talks.
What to chat about
- Announcements: Have a Twitter chat to announce a major donation, with the donor as guest host, or with a faculty who recently received a prestigious award.
- Ask an expert: Have a weekly Twitter chat where a faculty answers questions about their work and their professional lives.
- Quarterly report: In addition to sending email newsletters, have a Twitter chat on the state of your institution. It can include conversations about financial data that must be made public, a summary of your accomplishments, and future strategies.
- Recruitment campaigns: Hold Twitter chats with prospective students where they can ask questions to professors about your institution. Because of the minimal set up required, each faculty or department can hold separate chats.
- Sports: College and university sports attract a big following. Broadcast play-by-play Twitter chats of sports that typically do not receive media attention.