Why Do You Participate in Twitter Chats?

29 Comments 27 July 2010

Image courtesy of wharman

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.

Gauri Salokhe participates in the #KMers (knowledge management) to network and learn, and it is well-organized:

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.

Pamela Grow and Alison Rapping participate in the #NPCons chat for the people and insights:

Avi Kaplan loves the #4change chat because it is his community:

Leora Wenger participates in the #smallbizchat for the information and fellow contributors:

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?


The best compilation of Twitter chats is this Twitter chat schedule, compiled by Robert Swanwick.

How to Participate in a Twitter Chat, with tips and resources by Jeff Hurt.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Why Do You Participate in Twitter Chats? | Community Organizer 2.0 --

  • Heidi Massey

    I LOVE #NPCons. Hildy is masterful at moderating. I have profound learning (aha) moments during and after…and when you work from home, those conversations are not regular occurrences like perhaps in an office environment. It allows us all to connect “around the water cooler.”

    Great post about this Debra…hadn't thought a lot about it. But I think Twitter chats are more important than I realized.


  • Debra – One other thing is to create a landing Page for all the info about the chat. This way, newbies can quickly find out who the moderators are, what topics are discussed and when the next one is.

    Also see “How to create successful chats on Twitter”.


  • Of course, the flip side is I once told a friend excitedly about a Twitter chat, and she unfortunately found it unhelpful, dull, the same old cliches – sometimes it won't work for you.

    Thanks, Debra! I really want to try #seochat, which I think is at Tuesday 2 pm ET, but I can't do it today.


  • Wendy

    Debra –
    Wow! Thanks for using my funny Twitter bird.

    I dip in on #blogchat most Sundays.


  • Pamela Grow

    Awesome comments! Twitter chats provide an excellent example of the true power of Twitter – it's NOT just a broadcast medium. Folks who really *get* it are engaged and thoughtful and learning from others.


  • Debra:
    I'm smiling at Leora's comments (and blushing at Heidi's), because running a successful chat is a lot of work! Facilitation is just one piece of the puzzle (and with #NPCons that's like chasing 50 brilliant rabbits around a field with many holes!) Finding the threads that emerge, asking the next question, bringing people back to the topic (or letting them roam) – it requires actively facilitating the discussion.

    But that's just a small piece of it – the piece people see. The rest, as you suggest above and as John addresses in his comment, happens before and after the chat. Deciding on a topic, figuring out what questions will generate discussion, posting all of that beforehand so people are prepared, announcing the chat in various ways, inviting people – and the simple thing of having a regular time for the chat (which we do fairly well, but when we travel, that's another story!).

    For us, the bottom line is the same as for everything we teach: Aim for the highest potential of that endeavor – the “why” you're doing it. What do you want the chat to accomplish? For whom?

    The more audacious your reason for having the chat, the more it will be a chat people do not want to miss. (And the more work it will be to ensure it is successfully accomplishing those strategic objectives.)

    Thanks for making me think about all this, Debra! But then, your stuff always makes me think!!!!


  • Debra,

    Sorry I didn't get back to you last week on this topic. Life was a little crazy getting ready for the move and new job. I try to participate in a couple of different tweetchats a week – #blogchat, #journchat and #pr20chat. There are a couple of others that I look in on occassionally. I've found tweetchats to be an invaluable resource in building relationships on Twitter. I've met a lot of like-minded people who are interested in the same industry topics.

    When people ask me what's the best way to organically grow their followers list, I recommend that they participate in a couple of chats on a regular basis and not in a spammy way, but actively participate.


  • When a Twitter chat is well-organized and has the right mix of personalities in balance (sounds rather like a recipe for a good party, doesn't it?) – that is, Twitter chat at its very best – can give something of the experience of a “mastermind” conference call, or the open-question part at the end of a webinar. All it takes is that one insightful tweet to make your ideas flow! But of equal importance is the chance to “meet” new people who share your interests, of course: and for that reason alone, I'd say the more targeted and specific the topic of the chat, the better.


  • Leora- good point about your friends who didn't find the twitter chat helpful. I think the comments others are making here about good moderation and insights gained during the chat are important to making the experience real. Also, several commenters (in the blog post and the comments) talk about using the chats to find community – perhaps that is just not what your friend was interested in finding, either.


  • Profound learning moments are awesome! it's hard to have those sitting by yourself reading a tweet and going to the tiny URL to follow through on the tweet. I think that teasing out an idea or the impact of an idea in community (chats) brings us so many “aha” moments.


  • Exactly right, as always. I hate not being able to find out more about the chat, or the topic of the month, because there is no reference or landing page. I hyperlinked to the #kmchat, #4change, and #NPCons landing pages in the blog. Thanks for adding the link about creating successful chats on Twitter, too.


  • Love your advice to tweeters about how to organically grow a followers list through participating in chats. Also, some people have created Twitter lists of people who regularly participate in specific chats that they care about – and you can follow the whole list, too.


  • Mastermind conference call, wow. Great one. I've definitely experienced that in chats – but now I have a name for it!


  • Hi Debra – What a great collection of reflections, ideas and stories about twitter chats! Thanks for generating it.

    There's a lot going on about possible directions going forward with the #4change chats – using it as an umbrella, growing in different ways, connected/collaborating with Internet4Change – and hopefully there's some ideas and news to share on those conversations really soon.

    In other news, I have had quite a few requests for a monthly chat on community building and I'm ready to say “I hear you!” I just shared that same sentiment in a blog post and am excited to launch it in August – hopefully with a lot of input and feedback from all those who want to participate. I'd love to hear your thoughts as well:

    Oh, and one last thing, we are going to write up the story of how #4change started over a year ago and see what lessons and ideas we can surface in writing and sharing that story – I'll let you know when it's put together!


  • Pingback: Online Community Links Roundup 30/07/10 | Community Management | Blaise Grimes-Viort()

  • Debra – great article. For me, as co-host with @MarshaCollier and others of #custserv (Customer Service Dialogue), it’s mostly about building a village of great thinkers. The bonus is the gold-nuggets of wisdom.

    We started #custserv in Dec 09 with weekly changing topics on anything Customer Service. We now have participants from five continents, ranging from C-Levels of Fortune 500s to consumers. I just checked and we’re over 16,000 tweets, averaging a 1000 plus a week. I must admit, it’s very difficult during our main hour (Tuesdays at 9pm Eastern) to keep up as we usually have a couple hundred zinging away with brillance.

    Following that model, in a few weeks another co-host @ohitsclaire and I are launching #bakechat – a weekly topic changing dialogue on everything related to bakeshops and pastryshops. Claire is the Chef in charge of new pastry development at Bread Alone in the Hudson Valley, arguably one of the best bakeries in the USA. I’m excited to see how this one goes.

    I think cohosting two Twitter chats is enough for me. That takes two nights out of my week. As a cohost, it can be extremely fun, but takes time to manage.

    Some other tools: – a hashtag registry and you can autohashtag your tweets during a chat. – a vehicle for tweeting during a chat that autohashtags your tweets. – an archive generator and registry for chats.

    Jeffrey J Kingman, CEO Chalkboarder


  • Thx for the mention of the Twitter Chat Schedule. Every new visitor helps all the chats to thrive.

    BTW: the chat you mention as #KMchat actually runs on the #KMers hashtag every Tuesday at 12pm ET


  • There is a free application called twebevent that will allow you to easily build a landing page with no HTML experience. You can even embed live or recorded video alongside your chat.

    Just type and then the hashtag for your chat without the “#” to begin setting it up. eg. or


  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Why Do You Participate in Twitter Chats? | Community Organizer 2.0 --

  • When the same people participate in the same chat every week, that is not a chat; that is a clique.


  • Heidi Massey

    Oh Ari, I could NOT disagree more! Makes it seem that every time a group gets together and it is the same people it is a clique…

    Sometimes I am sure that is true…but I wouldn't dismiss the value out of hand.

    And, perhaps I am naive, but I do think most chats are pretty organic…you RARELY get the same group each time…maybe some overlap…but there is always a flow of new people coming in and others not participating.


  • Jeffrey:
    I LOVE your words “a village of great thinkers.” I can't wait to share that with the #NPCons folks, because that is so much what they are. Thank you for that wonderful image!!!


  • Lots of things going on at #4change and I can't wait to see how it unfolds. Also looking forward to the monthly chat on community building. I think there will be so much to talk about vis-a-vis community building; it's such a broad and deep topic. Looking forward to the #4change writeup. Personally, I'd be interested in hearing about whether or not you found any “must have ingredients” to making the chats successful, how you measure success, and what others can learn from it. Looking forward to reading it!


  • Thanks catching the hashtag error. Corrected it in the blog post now. Your twitter chat schedule is a real community resource. How do you find out about chats to add them or is it well known-enough now that people just add them to your google doc?


  • Very cool resource! Thanks for adding this.


  • Jeffrey, thanks so much for stopping by to offer your “nuggets of wisdom” here, too. I use Tweetchat, but find that sometimes it doesn't update as quickly as I'd like (even set to quickupdate times). That said, it IS a great tool. Great to know about Twapperkeeper for those of us who want to reveiw a chat.

    Some additional questions, if I may – what were the key factors to generating that kind of participation? How long did it take to grow to 500 participants a week? Was there ever a thought that weekly was too much? I think most chats are monthly – why did you move #custserv to weekly? Thanks for taking the time to answer these!


  • So true! I think “a village of great thinkers” is also the brass ring to strive for during any twitter chat. It's a great image, and a fantastic goal. I think that #NPCons definitely gathers these thinkers – I'm always blown away by the insights and help offered during the chats.


  • Pingback: Great reads from around the web on July 29th « Amy Sample Ward’s Version of NPTech()


Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

Follow Debra

Subscribe via email




© 2020 Social Media Strategy for Mission-Driven Organizations.

Site by Arrow Root Media