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Brief Description

Twitter (see the section Microblogging) can be used for real-time public conversation ("chat"), with some groups scheduling regular chats on specific topics. This can be done directly using the Twitter interface, or with third party applications like Tweetchat (http://tweetchat.com) that interfaces with Twitter specifically for this purpose.


(if applicable)

When to use

When you want to a have a quick, lively public discussion on a particular topic within a short fixed time frame, which is open to any participant (including people you don't know).
When you want to engage people who are geographically dispersed, and may have very low bandwidth (Internet/mobile network) connections.
It can also be a good way to find other people who share common interests and experiences.

How to use

1. Choose a topic to discuss.
2. Choose a hashtag to identify your discussion to participants. A hashtag is a short identifier preceded by the # character e.g. #km4dev. Keep the hashtag as short as possible (remember tweets are limited to 140 characters including the hashtag!), but also unique enough that your chat can be found in all the conversation of the Twitter stream.
3. Select a time to discuss.
4. Announce/promote your chat through Twitter, and also other appropriate channels.
5. Have your chat!
6. Save your chat transcript and post online.

Tips and Lessons Learnt

1. It's good to promote you chat in advance both via Twitter and through other means such as on related websites and communities.
2. It's good to have a moderator who identifies some key questions and keeps the chat on track.
3. Allow 5-10 minutes at the beginning of the chat for people to introduce themselves.

Examples & Stories

A weekly tweetchat on knowledge management takes place every Tuesday at 12:00 EST. The hashtag is #KMers. Each week the discussion is on a different KM related topic and moderated by a different participant. The participants are a mixture of private sector, public sector and NGO KM practitioners. The group also maintains a separate website (http://kmers.org) where people can suggest topics and where the schedule of future chats is announced, as well as the transcripts of past chats.

AgChat is a conversation held on Tuesdays (8-10pm EST). The conversations are facilitated by a member of the AgChat community, and are identified by the use of the hashtag #agchat. (AgChat’s purpose is to “insight, inform, and inspire action around the food space”. The community's leaders note that having a purpose is critical for the successful use of technology and social media.) Each conversation has a specific topic. Typically 10-15 questions are posed around this topic to drive the discussion, with participation from 100-150 people in each session. The discussion topics, like the community, are kept objective.

Key points shared by AgChat:
  • Consistency and community feeling lead to engagement and participation. Through engagement, empower people to seek the info they need.
  • Leverage an existing community/network in beginning. Connect across existing communities (typically not virtual communities). Position yourself as a resource.
  • Target early adopters.
  • Engage people in a way that feels personal.
  • Have a framework.
  • Create a consistent process, including the identification/introduction of individuals being required at the beginning of each chat. “Twitter is a fishbowl” says Michele Payn-Knoper (founder of AgChat). A consistent process/structure to the discussion helps moderate this exposure, makes conversations more constructive even when the topics are controversial.

Who can tell me more?

  • Ian Thorpe (ithorpe [at] unicef.org)

Related Methods / Tools / Practices

Tools used to run an AgChat:



Page Authors

Ian Thorpe
Michael Riggs