Organising a tweetchat: getting it right

Physiotalk has been running tweetchats for 6 years now, and in social media terms change happens fast. We’ve seen more and more tweetchats launch, develop, and go from strength to strength, while others falter.  Here at physiotalk we are continuously developing our approaches and we’re still learning, but when done well we think tweetchats can help people to:

  • discuss innovation, evidence and current challenges
  • share experience and best practice
  • network with others
  • engage with and influence the work of health and care organisations.

Ultimately helping to develop the knowledge, values and behaviours of people taking part, support service improvement and the provision of great care.

However, this takes a lot of work behind scenes. Here’s what we think are critical success factors for organising and hosting healthcare tweetchats:

  1. Planning

Tweetchats take planning, there’s a lot to think about – here are a few suggestions:

  • Hashtag – your tweetchat needs its own hashtag, keep it short and simple and make sure no one else is using it. Register it with Symplur, this is free and easy to do and means you can generate analytics and a transcript from the chat.
  • Audience– think about who is the tweetchat aimed at, this will help with focus and content. As Twitter is the public domain, we’d suggest that all chats should be open and inclusive and you should expect and encourage patients and the public to join in.
  • Aims – for each chat think about and clearly state the aims – this will help you structure the pre-chat information and tweetchat, and add value in terms of engagement and CPD.
  • Focus – tweetchats need to be broad enough to appeal to range of participants, but focused enough to enable meaningful discussions.
  • Stakeholders – who is interested or influential in the topic area? Who do you need to reach out to and actively involve in the chat?
  • Timing – if timed wrong few people will take part. In the UK the majority of NHS staff are blocked from accessing twitter at work, and use of personal handheld devices can also be restricted. A tweetchat between 9am to 5pm may therefore limit participation.

2 Pre and post chat information

A key feature of successful tweetchats is clear, concise, web-based pre-chat information. It should have its own URL/hyperlink to enable sharing via social media and email. It should set out the who/what/where/how/why, areas to be discussed, and some links to relevant supporting evidence and resources. This not only enables potential participants to decide if the chat is relevant for them, it means people can come prepared, and helps to meet standards around planning CPD activities.

If people are unable to take part at the time of the chat then a package of pre-chat information, along with the transcript and summary, can still add value in terms of engagement, learning and development. For many of our physiotalk chats we see continued activity on pre-chat information pages for months after the chat.

3 Active promotion

For people to take part the chat needs to be promoted widely, and with plenty of notice: at least 2 weeks, more if during daytime or not a regular tweetchat. Use different channels and formats and signpost to the pre-chat information. You can schedule tweets using Tweetdeck, Hootsuite of Buffer to help with this.

4 Facilitation 

Tweetchats need to be structured enough to steer the conversation, but freedom to let unexpected conversations evolve – and this is about facilitating not chairing.  You may find it helpful to have key tweets prepared to copy and paste as you need them. As a rule we would caution against scheduling the questions, and they should be responsive to the ebb and flow of the conversation not the clock.

We would also recommend using Tweetdeck, with a column for the tweetchat hashtag. This will make it easier for you to keep track of the conversation whilst tweeting and monitoring notifications etc. After the chat produce and share a transcript and summary or Storify.

5 Continuous improvement

Tweetchats across health and care continue to innovate and evolve. Easy access to analytics and transcripts mean you can review each chat and be responsive:

  • Use a PDSA approach to your tweetchats – plan, do, study and act after each chat.
  • Ask for feedback, reflect on the chat and the data to think about what went well, what could have been better and changes for next time.
  • Think about numbers taking part as well as key themes, debate, and potential future discussions.

The future? Who knows – social media platforms evolve and some will fail – maybe even Twitter. But social media is here to stay, and the skills we need to lead and engage will stay with us.