Online chats have really evolved since the days when AOL was king. In this day and age of social media where our online conversations have been condensed down to bite-sized nuggets of 140 characters or less, chatting has moved from the IM chatrooms to Twitter. A natural progression, since Twitter is already being used by millions of people to converse with each other daily.
Enter Twitter Chats. While not a new concept (Twitter chats have been around for at least a few years), they’re still fantastic for connecting with people in much the same way the original chatrooms allowed.
There are Twitter chats that happen daily for a variety of topics, including chats like #4change and #npcons that focus on nonprofits and social change (check out this comprehensive list of Twitter chats to find one that interests you). To join the conversation, simply follow the assigned hashtag for the chat you want to participate in and include that hashtag in your chat-related tweets. Tweetchat is the foremost tool available for Twitter chats, allowing you to easily follow a specific hashtag in a dedicated “room” and automatically include that hashtag in your tweets (so you don’t have to type it yourself). Twitter chats usually take place at a certain scheduled time on a regular basis (check with the moderator of a particular chat for its schedule) and last for about 30 minutes to an hour.
It’s equally easy to create and moderate your own Twitter chat, and it can be used as a powerful community-building, networking and even fundraising tool for associations and nonprofits. Here are 7 ways Twitter chats can be used to help you connect with your members and base and increase awareness of your cause:
- Rallying your base and fundraising: Twitter chats can be used to generate excitement and discussion around a specific cause or platform and encourage people to donate or get involved. An example of this is #SOSFood, which was a series of Twitter chats for food bloggers to help raise money for our client, Share Our Strength. The chats themselves were about food-blogging topics, but participants were encouraged to donate to Share Our Strength during the chats.
- Thought-leadership: If you’re leading weekly Twitter chats about important topics within your niche, you’ll quickly establish yourself and your organization as a thought-leader. You might even consider engaging and partnering with other experts to share in leading your chats periodically.
- Pre-event mingling: If you’re organizing an event for your association or nonprofit, a Twitter chat can be a great way for attendees to mingle with each other before the event and get advice from both you and each other. An example of this is #nabchat, which is a Twitter chat we organized before the NAB Show (our client) for veteran and newbie attendees alike to connect with each other.
- Feedback: Why not hold a Twitter chat with your members or other interested in your cause to get their feedback? This also allows you to connect on a more personal level and build deeper relationships to your organization’s advantage.
- Crowdsourcing: Along the same lines as using a Twitter chat for feedback, it can also be used to crowdsource ideas – i.e. event sessions or fundraising ideas.
- Interviewing an industry expert or leader: Twitter chats can also be used to conduct “Twitterviews” with other thought leaders for your cause. These are usually much more tightly moderated, with discussions and Q&As happening during a specific time period.
- Getting to know you: At the heart of all Twitter chats is simply getting acquainted and networking with your fellow Tweeps over a topic in which you share an interest!
How have you used Twitter chats or seen them used successfully for nonprofits or associations? Leave a comment and tell us about it!
Kari Rippetoe is Social Media & Community Outreach Manager at Tuvel Communications, a Washington, DC-based online communications firm specializing in building relationships through social media, community-building and outreach. Tuvel's clientele include associations, nonprofits, events, government organizations and technology companies.