In what frequency should I host a Twitter chat?
The majority of our interviewees, Joe Peach of #citytalk, Alexa Mills of #citychat, and Sybil Barnes of #AIAchat all run a monthly chat. Along with being held on a monthly basis, they are also consistent in date and timing. “Generally, [This Big City] hosts #citytalk once a month, though depending on our collaborators [they] have hosted with more frequency.” MITCoLab hosts “#citychat once a month, on the third thursday of each month. The official chat lasts one hour, but people often keep talking.” And Sybil Barnes of #AIAChat points out how responsive they have been to their audience. “Since [the chat’s] launch in 2010, AIA Chat [has] consistently taken place on the first Wednesday of the month. [Sybil] thought it [would be] easier for participants to remember to take part if they offered it at a consistent time. The length of the chat has changed over time, though. [The chat was] originally hosted for one hour. Due to such a positive response, they increased the formal time for the chat to 90 minutes.” There was only one chat, conducted by Mathew Franklin at #ArchChat, where the chat is offered on a more than monthly basis. According to Mathew, “The service is available every Friday afternoon, but use varies depending on subject and followers.”
How do I choose a Twitter chat topic?
Aside from how often you should host a twitter chat, one of the hardest decisions you’ll have to make as a host is how to choose a twitter chat topic that appeals to a large audience. Joe Peach, of This Big City’s #citytalk, doesn’t go by a set of rules to choose their monthly topic. “Sometimes it’s based on current events - like [their] discussion on Accessible Cities which happened when the Paralympics began - and other times it’s a topic suggested by participants. [This Big City] works with different organisations creating #citytalk, so their suggestions often shape the discussion as well.” MITCoLab’s #citychat “will host a chat on any topic related to city and regional planning. That’s a broad range of topics!” While their first chat was hosted by happenstance, their second chat was formatted as an interview. Since then, Alexa Mills has ventured into hosting chats regarding religion and equity as a model for economic growth. “Now people have started to reach out to [MITCoLab] with their chat ideas. [MITCoLab] is open to new hosts, new topics, and new guests.” Feel free to tweet them your ideas! The American Institute of Architect’s chat, #AIAChat selects topics in a variety of ways: “suggestions from AIA participants are always considered and [they] do [their] best to incorporate them (it is, after all, their forum), trends/hot topics within the architecture profession (based on online listening, resource architects on staff at the AIA, and member feedback) and relevancy to AIA programs or services. Always, the goal is to have topics participants value and find interesting.” Mathew also follows the same principles, although his chats are less structured. While he doesn’t always set a topic, he might ask followers for suggestions, “leave it open to chat about anything or set a topic himself. If [he] sets a topic the choice can come from [his] work, twitter chats, and other industry media.” Overall, each of the twitter chats are produced in order to engage and entertain the audience. Remember, if you can’t keep your audience interested and involved then your following will drop. Choosing appropriate and relevant topics for your audience is essential.
How should I promote my Twitter chat?
So, how have these successful twitter chats promoted their chats? What methods have they used? Joe Peach of This Big City and #citytalk ensures that a “few days before each #citytalk [they] publish an article exploring the topics that will be covered during the tweetchat, including information about the time of the chat and how it all works. And of course, [they] use Twitter to let our followers know the next #citytalk is coming up. When [they] are co-hosting with a collaborator, they too promote the discussion, often bringing a new audience along with them. You can get more information about how it all works at thisbigcity.net/citytalk. There’s also links on that page to all our previous discussions, as well as updates on [their] upcoming chats.” MITCoLab’s #citychat also makes sure that they release “one blog post per chat: http://colabradio.mit.edu/category/citychat/, which [they also] publish one week before the chat occurs. [They] tweet about the chat. [They] search for twitterers who might be interested in that specific topic, and then reach out to them. [They] email appropriate networks. Sometimes another urbanist website will blog about #citychat, which is great.” Sybil explains that #AIAChat follows a similar outreach plan as #citytalk and #citychat in order to promote their monthly chat. In Sybil’s words, “what better place to promote AIA Chat than on Twitter?” We couldn’t agree more. “Twitter and word-of-mouth promotion are [their] primary promotional tools. In addition to Twitter, [they] also cross-promote the chats on [their] website, LinkedIn group, Facebook page, and relevant e-mail blasts to members.”
Now that you know how these successful twitter chats have chosen their chat frequency, topics, and how to promote, stay tuned to our next in the series. How do these experts follow-up from their chats, how do they chart the effectiveness of their Twitter chats, and what twitter chats, aside from their own, do they participate in? And last, but not least, what tips would they share for someone just starting a twitter chat in urban planning, architecture, or landscape architecture? Stay tuned for the last in our three-part interview series on Twitter Chats in environmental design. And don't forget to follows us on Twitter; @globalsiteplans.