From Hashtags To Hootsuite, Here’s How To Host An Engaging Twitter Chat

Hosting a Twitter chat is no small feat. We asked a veteran to share her best tips with the GlobalGiving community.


A Twitter chat can be a great opportunity to connect with your nonprofit’s community and raise awareness of your cause. But planning, preparing, and executing a Twitter chat is no small feat. We sat down with Samantha Bossalini, communications and development associate at Kupona Foundation and the brains behind Kupona’s #HerWords chat held on International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, to find out how to host a great Twitter chat.

But first, the basics: What is a Twitter chat, and how do you know if one is a good fit for you?

A Twitter chat is a conversation about a designated topic at a predetermined time that uses a unique hashtag. Typically, one user will ask questions while participants tweet out their answers, using the hashtag so everyone can follow along. Twitter chats are usually 6 to 8 questions and last for 45 minutes to an hour.

The good news is that anyone can host a Twitter chat! Many nonprofits host or participate in one on a cause awareness day that relates to their organization. In this instance, Kupona Foundation, which provides holistic support to women recovering from obstetric fistula in Tanzania, hosted one on International Day to End Obstetric Fistula to raise awareness of their organization and facilitate a conversation about respectful storytelling and fistula. If you already have an active Twitter following, a chat can be a great way to engage with your community. If not, it can be an effective tool to grow your following by engaging users interested in your cause.

Samantha outlined some key tips to planning, executing, and evaluating the success of an amazing Twitter chat. Don’t miss our checklist at the end of the article, which will help you plan your own Twitter chat.

    Q: How do you begin to plan a Twitter chat?

    A: We start to plan about five weeks ahead of time. First, we come up with a date, the theme, and who could be interested. Then, we reach out to some core partners to be co-hosts to help promote the chat and jump on a call to make sure we’re all on the same page. Our core partners for the #HerWords chat were Johnson & Johnson, our sister organization CCBRT in Tanzania, and Fistula Foundation. After that, Kupona and our partners reached out to potential participants through our contacts.

    Q: What kind of goals do you set?

    A: Our biggest goal is engagement. We are a pretty small nonprofit and our social media reach isn’t as high as we would like. So that’s why it’s important to pull in partners that can amplify our message. We don’t ever go into a Twitter chat with the goal of fundraising. You might get the odd donation here or there, but our goal is to facilitate a conversation about our cause and get people to participate.

    Q: When preparing, what kind of materials do you send to partners ahead of time?

    A: About two weeks in advance, we send participants promo tweets so even if they can’t join the chat, they can share with their network. After that, we usually send a toolkit which has a concept note of why we’re doing this, what’s involved, who’s involved, and some more promo tweets. We also send people the exact questions we’ll be asking, which is really critical. It’s important for participants to be able to formulate their thoughts in advance and create social media cards with photos if they want. We usually ask six to eight questions and aim to have a 45-minute chat. Any longer than that, and I’ve found that participation drops.

    Q: What do you do on the day of the chat?

    A: The day of the chat is usually pretty calm compared to the preparation. All of the co-hosts hop on a conference call so we can all be on the same page. I keep the execution pretty low tech. I prefer to have the Word document next to me while I’m working and just copy and paste the tweets in. That seems to be the easiest way to execute it. We use Hootsuite, which helps us keep track of the hashtag. I haven’t used anything really beyond that, and I think keeping it simple is key.

    Q: How do you gauge if the chat was a success?

    A: Because we are such a small organization, and our audience is only about 800 people on Twitter, we can only really gauge our success against ourselves. I think we had 3,000 organic impressions on our Twitter account the day of the chat. For us, that’s huge. For Fistula Foundation, one of our partners, that’s a normal Tuesday. We usually gauge it by our own statistics and our own trends. I am looking at more technical options for tracking this kind of data, and it’s not always easy. Sometimes you actually have to pay for services to track those numbers for you, but we’re just not really there yet. Keeping things to your own standards in your organization is key.

    Q: So to sum up, what are the key elements of a Twitter chat?

    A: I think there are three main elements to any nonprofit’s Twitter chat. First, you should have a really good sense of where the conversation should be going and leave questions open ended to foster a conversation. We received answers back during the chat and thought, “I’d never thought of that.” Second, logistically speaking, it’s important to have things prepared for people to copy and paste. Including compelling and beautiful images and videos can make a Twitter chat really powerful. You want to have visuals and things people can engage with, like case studies and interviews, even if they can’t engage with it in the moment. They can go to back to it. Finally, it’s important to have people on board who share your vision and can amplify your message. We didn’t have that much of an audience to begin with but knew that everyone we were co-hosting with are committed to the same things we are committed to and they could push the ripple effect even further. Sometimes it’s individuals, but most of the time it’s organizations. But anyone who’s willing to speak up with you and carry your message is critical.

    Q: Any final takeaways?

    A: With any Twitter chat, you have to approach the issue with a sense of humility and know you’re going to learn something.

We’ve got you covered! We boiled down all of this advice into a one-page checklist.

Download our Twitter Chat Checklist now.

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Featured Photo by Sailabilty Belgium
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