Tips on running a Tweet-chat

Last week I was involved in the second iteration / cohort / running of the BYOD4L short course. Along with a number of colleagues we ran a series of tweet-chats each evening along the course themes – timed between 8-9pm the tweet-chats involved facilitators posing questions and ‘facilitating’ the responses and direction the chat took.

Taking is back to the beginning … what is a tweet-chat?

“A TweetChat is a virtual meeting or gathering on Twitter to discuss a common topic. The chat usually lasts one hour and will include some questions to stimulate discussion.” – BYOD4L Tweet-chat

“A Twitter chat is a public Twitter conversation around one unique hashtag. This hashtag allows you to follow the discussion and participate in it. Twitter chats are usually recurring and on specific topics to regularly connect people with these interests.” Social Media Examiner

I thought I’d write up my experiences of running three tweet-chats now: two for BYOD4L, and one for the Leicester Forensic Science FutureLearn MOOC. Each uses a different approach, but both very valid and engaging for the students / participants as well as the course team(s).

Generic Tips:
Irrespective of the approach you take (question or ask-an-expert, see below) there are some generic tips you should be aware of, both to help you run the tweet-chat and for the participants to understand what to expect. You should also post these somewhere for the participants to view – here are the one’s for the BYOD4L course.

These include:

  • Explain: make sure you explain a little about Twitter and a tweet-chat, how it works, and why you’re doing it. Not everyone will understand it they way you might.
  • Hasthag: advertise the hashtag well in advance. Remind participants they can save the hashtag after they’ve searched for it on Twitter, it’s easier to find on multiple devices when they need it. Keep the hashtag as short and as unique as you can (remember the 140 character limit!) so as to leave as much room in your own tweet and your participant tweets for the actual content.
  • Account: Consider having a course-specific account to use for posing the questions rather than your own personal one. This is good if you will have multiple facilitators engaging the participants, but is not necessary if it’s you on your own (see support below).
  • Support: If you know the engagement level will be low you can probably handle it on your own. If you think there may be more people engaging (there is not figure here but my experience is that more than 10-20 participants will make it hard to handle on your own) then get support from colleagues.
  • Participants: participants will need an account to engage and join in the tweet-chat, but not if they just want to watch the tweets. Highlight this as not everyone has, or wants, a Twitter account.
  • Time: Try and arrange for a time suitable to your audience, remembering the differences in time zones if your audience is international. You wont find a time to suit everyone but if you show willingness to take this into account when you set it up it’ll reflect well on you.


  • Reminders: Use the accounts that will be used during the tweet- chat (your own and / or the course account) to remind those watching and using the hashtag about the event, time, etc. I like to use a few tweets in the days leading up to the event, the morning before it, one hour before and the minutes leading up to it.


  • Announce: Begin the tweet-chat with a welcome message.
  • Close: Close / end your tweet-chat with a closing message, statement, or call to complete a tweet-chat survey. If you are running these regularly then remember to highlight the next one. Don’t forget to link to or tweet about the archive.


Oh, and don’t forget .. make sure every device you are intending to use has all updates applied, is fully charged (plugged in even), and that you even have a back-up to hand in case one fails! I have used a laptop, iPad, and iPhone on all the tweet-chats I’ve facilitated and at least one has caused a problem (usually laptop) which meant I’ve had to use a back-up device.


Team-led Tips (BYOD4L)
In this approach the team develops and delivers the questions on the agreed and advertised hashtag, in this case #BYODLchat.

  • Delivery: It’s up to you if you advertise the questions in advance or use the hashtag to build up the excitement. I prefer to release the questions one at a time, leaving between 10-15 minutes for answers and engagement.


  • Questions: I have found it really useful to use a Google Doc in collaboration with the people I facilitate the tweet-chat with to generate the questions. In a one hour tweet-chat consider 4 or 5 questions, leaving about 10 minutes for each. This will enable the question to filter through the Twitter timeline (not everyone’s devices updates quickly) and for participants to engage with the question, you, and each other. Agree on who will run the official account (if you use one) and who will tweet the questions first. Get this wrong and it could be very confusing for participants.



  • Answers: In your question remind participants to start their answers with A1, A2, etc. (not forgetting the hashtag). Without either of these it’ll be difficult for you or them to keep track of the conversation.


  • Conversation: If you want to continue a conversation with an individual you can continue to use the hashtag of it’s relevant to the whole cohort of participants. If it’s not then carry on, but without the hashtag.
  • Distraction: It’s probably worth making sure everything else on your device is closed down (Facebook, email, etc.) unless you need it.
  • Links: Keep a browser open with your website and / sources already loaded. During the tweet-chat you may want to put a link in to a tweet so by having it already to hand makes it easier (and quicker).
  • Noise: Don’t try and read and reply to every tweet, you wont be able to. In one hour there can be many hundred’s of of tweets and you will end up a wreck if you try and do everything. This is why you may need to engage fellow facilitators to help the session run smoothly.

Participant-led Tips (MOOC) 
This approach is the complete opposite of the above – here the participants pose the questions in an ‘ask the expert‘ type of approach, much like a Reddit ‘ask me anything’ (AMA), in this case #FLForensicsLeic.

  • Begin: Use your own Twitter account for the answers as this is an opportunity for you to show your own ‘expert’ status. It will help build your profile and network and show your experience and expertise in the area. Make sure, in the documentation introducing the tweet-chat, you mention the names and accounts that will be used, and that the Twitter profile it up to date with both professional photo and biography.


  • Questions: The questions will come from the participants, so there is nothing here to prepare. But you do need to be prepared for anything, from any direction. You can easily manage this by ignoring tweets that are not related to the topic you’ve advertised.


  • Resources: Be ready with resources (or have someone else on hand to deal with this for you). In the case of the tweet above (ref. Jeremy Bamber) a link to background details or information will help everyone else using the tweet-chat.


  • Conversation: Considering the number of individual questions coming at you in this style approach of tweet-chat it may be worth advertising before the event that continuing discussion will only happen after the timed event has closed. This will free you up to concentrate on the event and questions, and remove any bad feeling a participant may have that you didn’t reply immediately.
  • Hashtag: The hashtag is all the more important on this approach as activity can be very difficult to follow – the more participants asking questions, the harder it will be to follow changes.
  • Team: You will definitely need a team to help you here. The more people you have asking the questions, the more cluttered the hashtag will become and the more difficult it will be to identify a conversation or continuation of a tweet. If you think you will have a lot of questions then it may be worth considering alternative technologies (e.g. Google Hangout) and not a tweet-chat.
  • Archive: Using one of the archive tools (e.g. FLForensicsLeic Storify) you can arrange the tweets in collected form, therefore question and responses (and extended conversations if appropriate) collated.

Other formats
It is possible to run other formats for your tweet-chat (open, free-for-all, etc.) but I have not run any of these. I have, however, been involved in a generic free-for-all when the community directed the questions to each other and answered them. Needless to say it was bedlam – difficult to see the questions, difficult to work out responses or answers, nye on impossible to follow a topic or conversation.

If you’ve experience in any of these please share it below, positive or negative.

Image source: mkhmarketing (CC BY 2.0)

#BYOD4L Day 5: Creating and engaging

The final day for the short BYOD4L framework is here – creating! With the guidance and preparation of the below, we knew we were in for an interesting time:

“We want to encourage you to explore learning through ‘making’ – meaning how you can use smart devices and applications to develop original and meaningful outputs as an individual or within groups. An opportunity to find ways to express yourself creatively and develop personal learning activities that are relevant and meaningful to your needs.”

The first thing I saw on the final day of BYLD4L was Chrissi Nerantzi saying we needed to check we could tweet pictures. So I did. 8:31 this picture was tweeted as I waited for my day to start (a rare peaceful moment before the students arrived and made some noise): 

BYOD4L - CreatingIt seemed the Twitter chat was going to be a case of sharing both thoughts and locations … how mobile are we when we engage in it?

When asked during the chat (the Storify archive is here) what I was going to take away from the learning experience I was admittedly in the middle of getting children ready for bed, so my immediate thoughts included the difficulty of allocating enough time to really do the course and my involvement justice. I was amazed at the dedication and creativity of participants (and slightly in awe of them too) and enjoyed just reading the tweets for a while, not wanting to spoil the flow.

But, thinking creatively about BYOD4L I thought I’d represent my experience as an ‘avatar, something  could share and that others could enjoy too. After sitting looking at a blank screen for an age, trying to think how I’d do this, I turned to my Apps and decided on Foldify, where you can use the templates to draw, colour, and personalise a character or shape.

So, here’s my contribution – download the printable PDF (BYOD4L – Foldify Character / @hopkinsdavid), print it, cut it out, then stick together to make a little #BYOD4L character!

BYOD4L Avatar / @hopkinsdavid

Updated: here he is, in all his glory (my printer needs some new ink, so he’s a little pale):

BYOD4L - Foldify Character / @hopkinsdavid

If you have the Foldify App you can search ‘BYOD4L’ and find the avatar and download / modify your own! If you do please upload your own example back to Foldify, make sure it’s searchable with the BYOD4L name/tag, and leave a comment / image / link below to share it.

#BYOD4L Day 4: Collaboration, sharing, and ownership

Day four is upon us (going quickly, isn’t it!) and we’re looking at collaborating.

“We all need to work with other people and this is an opportunity to explore how smart devices can enable you to work with individuals and groups in a number of versatile ways so that you can maximise engagement and effectiveness when collaborating.”

For me collaboration starts with my network, my personal learning network, my learning environment … and here is how the tools I used) back in 2010:

DavidHopkins - Personal Learning Environment (PLE)The tweet chat was, as before, frenzied and alive, and so very much fun. If you missed it check out the Storify archive.

Collaboration has been big in assessment terms in recent years with projects and research on and around the use of Wikis in student-to-students work groups. But what of collaboration between us, educators, and students, or even between ourselves? Every time I tweet or email or phone or meet someone (student, professor, colleague, etc.) I am collaborating. It doesn’t matter that we’re talking about bikes, films, Twitter, etc. The fact is we’re sharing views and helping to form or reform new opinions or views in others. This is reflected in the 1st question last night … “Q1 Who can we collaborate with?”. The beauty of the Internet and BYOD is that we are no longer constrained to those in the same office or company or geographic location.

When asked how we can collaborate (Q2) the answers, again, showed that we are free and able to use any and all means possible. With the availability of Google Docs, Dropbox, FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc. we can define our own boundaries and set the expectations on what, when, who, how, and where it happens. I collaborated through Twitter last year on what it means to be a Learning Technologist in both HE and FE.

Getting people together to collaborate is easier, in my experience, than getting teams to do so. Individuals are more open or receptive to sharing ideas and working together than ‘teams’: is this because of the management, time, and politics that comes with inter-team collaboration? If you know please drop me a line so I can understand this better?

Where can we collaborate (Q3) seemed a little redundant as a question as we’d already kind of answered this in Q2 .. everywhere,  anywhere, and anytime we like. The trend towards mobile computing devices means this can easily be on the train or bus home, sat in a coffee shop or conference venue, at home or at work. We are only limited by the time and effort we dedicate to the project (Q4).

So, the final day of BYOD4L is here … this could be good!