You may have heard that we recently hosted a Twitter chat with Nonprofit Tech for Good. These chats are a great way to share your knowledge and build relationships both with other influencers and with your audience of supporters on Twitter. And because we had so much fun hosting one of our own, we thought we’d spread the knowledge to any nonprofits interested in trying it out.
Twitter chats are best for nonprofits with a large, active following on Twitter. Are you setting your nonprofit up as an influencer and authority in your space? A Twitter chat can help with that.
Hosting a Twitter chat allows your nonprofit to directly engage with your audience and fellow influencers in an approachable, in-the-moment manner. When done right, it can work to build community among your supporters and position your organization as an authority on the topic. Twitter chats have the power to facilitate honest, lively and valuable conversations, and can lead to an overall increase in engagement on Twitter and elsewhere.
What is a Twitter Chat?
A Twitter chat, also called a tweet chat, is an organized conversation that groups together influencers in a specific industry and those interested in learning to discuss a particular topic.
The topic is specified ahead of time through your promotions, and Twitter users then use a custom hashtag to group the conversation together as it occurs. Each comment or question tweet uses the designated hashtag to allow people to follow along.
For example, our recent Tweet chat focused on nonprofit technology trends in 2019. We used the custom hashtag #nptech19 to coordinate the discussion on Twitter.
Deciding on a Topic
As you think about planning a Twitter chat for your nonprofit, the first step is to decide on a topic. Broad topics attract more participants, and are easier to facilitate questions for, since you can cover a wide range of topics that all fit under your broad umbrella topic.
Aside from making it broad, consider starting out with a hot topic in your space to encourage even more participation. For example, an elementary education nonprofit might cover “homework”. They could then get into questions like “Is homework helpful for elementary students? What does research say?”, “how much is appropriate?”, “how do parents feel?” or “how can we make homework more creative?”.
You know your Twitter following best. What are they most interested in learning about or discussing right now? What topic is likely to pique their interest and encourage participation?
Creating a Hashtag
You’re also going to need a custom hashtag to go along with that topic. Try to make it short, to the point and easy to remember. Aim for 15 characters or less. No one is going to remember (or want to type out) #TeachersTalkAboutTheProsAndConsOfHomework, but they probably will remember #HomeworkChat19.
Once you have your hashtag, do a quick search on Twitter to see if people are already using it for other purposes. If it’s already a popular hashtag, you may have some unrelated tweets and/or confusing nonsense tweets get grouped into your chat.
Promoting Your Nonprofit Twitter Chat
Plan ahead to get the most participation. Try to actively promote your Twitter chat for a minimum of one month in advance through emails, social media posts and your blog. Ideally, you’d start promoting it two months ahead of time. Consider crafting a communications plan using the following components:
- Write a blog post announcing the chat, topic and hashtag.
- Send an email to your whole list.
- Consistently promote your Twitter chat on social media, especially to your audience on Twitter. Promotional graphics are great to include here as well.
- Create a Facebook event for your chat.
To gain additional traction in your space, you could also invite influencers to participate or submit questions ahead of time. If you’re including one of their questions, they will be more likely to chime in for the actual chat.
Some of your audience may not know what a Twitter chat is or how to participate. Show them the way ahead of time so they can be more confident tuning in when the time comes. Feel free to pass along these tips.
- Use the custom hashtag to participate on Twitter during the designated time.
- Ask questions or share relevant information during the tweet chat by using the hashtag.
- Reply to comments and questions posted during the tweet chat to share your thoughts.
- Retweet what you’d like to share with your followers.
Each question you pose will also include a number, such as Q1. To make it easier to follow along, participants can include both A (answer) and the corresponding question number in their tweet or reply. This way, when folks answer questions out of order or after the next question has been asked, followers will be able to see which question they’re referencing.
For example, we might tweet “Q1: Fundraising on social media will continue to be an integral part of many nonprofit strategies in 2019. What’s worked for you? #nptech19”. And some of our #nptech19 participants could have replied:
- A1: This year, my nonprofit started training out social media ambassadors to fundraise on Facebook, and they’ve really taken to it #nptech19
- A1: We’ve been trying out SnapChat and haven’t seen much engagement from our audience. Don’t think we’ll continue on that platform in 2019. #nptech19
- A1: We’re thinking about using Twitter as part of our fundraising and awareness campaigns in 2019. Any advice? #nptech19
Planning for a Twitter Chat
To help your twitter chat run smoothly, there are some steps you can take ahead of time to ease stress in the moment and help move the chat along.
- Decide who will be moderating/hosting and reach out to other influencers in your space to join in. Having one or two people responsible for asking all of the questions keeps things simple. It’s also nice for the nerves to have a few influencers you can count on joining in.
- Pre-write your questions and create an image for each question you ask. Questions can be a mix of broad and more specific, but all should inspire participation from your audience.
- Have a few additional tweets with stats, quotes or resources to use during lulls in the chat.
- If you have a group of people from your organization participating with you, plan for responding to questions in the moment. You can communicate through DMs during the chat or have everyone on a video call
Tips for Running the Chat
The standard format is a one hour chat with a new question every six minutes.
- Use a social media tool like Buffer or TweetDeck to schedule all of the questions ahead of time. This gives you more time to focus on responding
- Include introduction and conclusion tweets to announce the beginning and end of the Twitter chat. You may also want to send out a high-volume warning tweet about 15 minutes prior to the chat.
- Have a scheduled break halfway through the chat so that participants can catch up.
If you’re curious about how a Twitter chat works or want to see one in action, try participating in one to get the hang of things before attempting to host one yourself. You can find all sorts of cool chats using tools like TweetReports. You can also check out the highlights from our recent chat or read through the whole archive on Twitter.
Are you thinking about running a Twitter chat for your nonprofit? How did you prepare? Any tips for relieving stress on the big day? We’d love to hear about your experience and answer any remaining questions in the comments below.