Twitter Chats to build community - Community Health Councils

Twitter Chats are a great way to enhance organizing efforts and to activate a base of your supporters that might not currently engage offline, who prefer to show support online, and/or who are not in the immediate geographical area. 

They are also a fun way to drive conversation, connect members of your community with each other, learn about what your supporters care about, and to create awareness.

This training was organized with Community Health Councils and brought together partners in the food advocacy space, like Roots of Change, California Food Policy Advocates, California Center for Public Health Advocacy and other great partners. I'll take a quick opportunity to thank our host, Indie Desk, for opening up it's doors and allowing us to use the space. 

Along with this training, here are 8 tips on making the most out of a Twitter Chat and a case study on Community Health Council's #SugarCoatedFuture Twitter Chat

Our conversation and training focused on getting participants more comfortable with incorporating Twitter Chats into existing organizing efforts. 

We did this by breaking up our time together into 5 main parts and using a recent Twitter Chat they all participated in as a frame for the conversation.

Training outline:

- Twitter Chat basic criteria

- Sample model based on organizing best practices

- Preparing for a Twitter Chat

- Making the most on the "day of" the Twitter Chat

- Following up as a way to organize 

In discussing Twitter basics, we laid out some basic parameters all Twitter Chats should have. It's much like hosting a bunch of your family and friends over for a party. These basic parts are:

- Set date

- Time frame, ideally 1 hour

- A main host and facilitator

- Special guests to help spread the word and drive conversation (make sure to @mention them prior and after Chat to build buzz)

- Questions to guide conversation (sweet spot seems to be 5-7 questions spread out over 1 hour, with a few minutes at the beginning and ending for welcoming and thank you's)

- Unique hashtag for people to tap into the conversation


A good Twitter Chat model to follow is based on traditional organizing practices -  engage the right people directly in your community and empower them to engage more of the right people they are connected with. 


To prep for a Twitter Chat you'll want to identify important guests, gather your resources & info to ensure chat goes smoothly, and like any event - promote it (ideally 2-3 weeks prior to the chat). Some of the tools and materials you'll want to consider include:

- Followerwonk to help you analyze host's and special guests' Twitter, which will inform the pre-created Tweets and messaging to get people excited

- NationBuilder to import relevant accounts' Twitter followers to later hyper-segment them in an effort to connect with core, influential supporters that move the right communities 


- A workbook to house all the relevant links, accounts, pre-created tweets, questions, and goals - this is a free downloadable template I created specifically for Twitter Chats and another for Live Tweeting Events

- Event page allowing people to RSVP and to give you their email and relevant information 

- Shareable graphics sized for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (here is an article of optimal sizes for each)  

-  5-7 questions to guide the Twitter chat, publish these ahead of time so folks can get more context

- Send direct messages, emails, email blasts, and public tweets with pre-created messaging to guests and prospective guests asking to join and to share

- Make it easy for people to share content promoting the chat - use ClickToTweet for easy sharing

(*NOTE: the image below says "Followerwork" - that's a typo. It should read "Followerwonk")


The day of the Twitter chat you'll want to dedicate some extra time to:

- Promote it every 30 minutes (vary your language, include hashtag & @mention people who should know about it)

- 10 minutes before starting announce that there will be a lot of tweets and retweets coming from the account because the Twitter chat is starting soon

- @mention special guests and welcome everyone, ask people to introduce themselves 

- Give 5-10 minutes between questions, RT and reply generously but thoughtfully

- Be a host, network, connect people

- Thank guests and let people know that you will be sharing back a Storify summarizing the Twitter chat


Now, we're not going to do Twitter chats just because they are fun. We're going to use Twitter chats as a tool to organize, which means:

- Create a Storify using the best pieces of content to tell the story using your community members' voices (Storify best practices)  

- Embed the Storify in a landing page summarizing the Twitter chat, reasoning and goals for it, and ways people can take action  

- Send an email blast to your supporters and prospective supporters including a link to the landing page and asking them to donate, volunteer, etc. to help the organization do more great things like the Twitter chat


To close this, remember that Twitter Chats should be treated as an additional way to organize and are great resources to leverage during GOTV or any other sort of organizing efforts.

Let's connect on Twitter at @Juansvas.  

Below is the Storify for the Twitter chat #SugarCoatedFuture, which happened a few minutes prior to the training. 

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