Facilitating an Online Synchronous Discussion on Twitter

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As part of my coursework in my ILT Master’s program at the University of Colorado Denver and Professor Len Scrogen’s Facilitating Online and Blended Learning course, I have shared below my expertise in leading significant and engaging learning experiences– demonstrating ILT Competences 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6.  On May 4th, 2016, I planned for and facilitated: Outthink Ordinary at IBM Amplify 2016, a tweet chat tailored to an eCommerce and Merchandising audience and part of an overall social plan I’m spearheading for our annual conference next week, IBM Amplify (May 16-18).  

I have been conducting (and attending) tweet chats once a month– sometimes more– for about two years. Heavy planning, organization, and the ability to effectively facilitate are key drivers for success in this online environment. Tweet chats can offer a unique and memorable learning experience thus, why I’ve chosen to detail my process as my field project. In this paper, I’ve outlined:

  • The process I used for planning and leading the May 4th chat,
  • Challenges and roadblocks along the way,
  • A recap of the chat and results,
  • Takeaways and lessons learned, and
  • Plans for the future.

Planning Process

The goal of our monthly chat is to provide industry thought leadership, put our message in the marketplace, and drive social impressions and community engagement. With this in mind, I built the May 4th chat into my social plan for IBM Amplify and immediately following our April 6th chat, I began mapping out the process and key players using this tweet chat checklist I created. Elements included in the May 4th chat were:

  • 7-10 questions
  • A designated hashtag
  • Two influential, industry experts as guests
  • 1 Blog post (inclusive of chat questions and relevant reading material if applicable)
  • Chat script (for me, the facilitator)
  • 1 promotional social tile and social tiles for each question (examples below)



Additionally, I set-up and sent out two calendar invites to a.) share chat information (date, time, topic, questions, etc. with my colleagues and b.) host a call with guests and key stakeholders during the chat as a means of verbal, real-time communication in case questions or issues arose.

To further readiness for the May 4th tweet chat, I worked with a colleague to develop a chat guidance document for our guests to review before and refer to during the chat. The document was inclusive of the blog post, chat questions, relevant industry hashtags, and suggested responses. This was something I hadn’t done in the past but will continue to do in the future as it helped our guests fully understand the content and flow, which in turn, led to a smooth and successful chat. The guidance document can be found here.

Challenges and Roadblocks

Time is always a challenge. However, my biggest hurdle for this specific chat occurred during the planning phase. There were last minute changes to the hashtag, which snowballed into miscommunications via email threads, and ultimately created extra, unavoidable work for a lot of people on the team, including myself.

Tweet Chat Recap and Results

To date, our May 4th tweet chat was the 2nd most successful chat I’ve conducted. We achieved 35M impressions (we average around 3-5M) and our hashtag trended on Twitter at 40th in the U.S. during the chat. The discussion was also highly engaging and participants joined from all over the U.S.. To showcase and promote our success, a colleague of mine created a Storify to recap the chat. It can be viewed here.

Takeaways and Lessons Learned

My biggest takeaway from this chat was, you can never be too prepared. Putting in the extra work up front will pay off. The chat guidance document proved to be essential for our success and will become part of my standard process moving forward.  

Plans for the Future

As I reflect on my experience facilitating tweet chats and how it relates to our course learnings, I’ve come to the realization that preparation, organization, and above all, education on chat content and participation is crucial. That being said, my plans for the future include: updating my checklist to include the chat guidance steps / requirements and implementing the best practice for all upcoming chats. Furthermore, I will share chat guidance with my colleagues so they are as equally prepared as our featured guests and can participate / share answers relevant to our business and tweet chat goals during the live, online synchronous event.  



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