Why do people participate in Twitter chats? I’ve been thinking about that question a lot. I posed the question “what Twitter chats do you participate in and why?” on Twitter and Facebook. What came back was pretty consistent: people participate to get information, ideas, contribute to a community, and meet new people.
Ed Nicholson participates in #agchat because the discussion and participants are diverse and contribute insights. Both Ed and Gauri noted great planning and moderation as a reason for continuing to join the chat.
And me? I participate in the monthly #NPCons chat (nonprofit consultants). I keep coming back because it is thought-provoking, includes a very diverse group of smart people, introduces me to new tweeps, brings me into a community, and is incredibly well-moderated. I also consider it an important time for “professional development” every month – in other words, the content is strong.
I think people on twitter are craving community, not just individual engagement. Think about it: on Facebook you have Pages and Groups. On Linkedin there are Groups. On blogs, Buzz and YouTube we can follow conversations and watch them evolve. But on Twitter we are stuck with this clunky mechanism where we have to view conversations separately, and cannot even follow complete conversations. At 140 characters, most conversations die out after three exchanges – maximum.
Twitter chats fills our craving for community. In a chat, we meet like-minded people and sharing knowledge in community. Twitter chats are the Groups of Twitter.
If I were to create a “recipe” for a Twitter chat, I’d start with the great information my colleagues offered:
- Organize it around a conversation, with endless topical ideas. For example: small business, being a great consultant, pitching to the media, working with volunteers, mommy blogging, etc.
- Create community. You could invite people personally to the chat (like Hildy Gottlieb does before every #NPCons chats – it works), retweet great comments during the chat, connect people together afterwards, etc.
- Think about what insights people want to gain and design conversations around that. Have great guests that can converse about the insights people want.
- Be consistent. “Same bat time, same bat hashtag” every month.
- Planning and good moderation are critical. How many moderators do you need? How will you moderate?
- Recruit diverse participants. Encourage a diverse participant base who will bring others into the community and who represent many different viewpoints.
I’ll leave the last word to Leora Wenger:
If you participate in a twitter chat, what keeps you coming back? If you host one, what makes it successful? What have been the challenges?