NPR Training
Storytelling tips and best practices

How to host a Twitter chat

Teresa Gorman is a former member of the NPR Training Team.

What is a Twitter chat?

A Twitter chat is a conversation about a specific topic, usually at a specific time using a planned hashtag. There are annual chats about everything from web journalism to agriculture. Organizations often use Twitter to hold one-time chats about specific topics, have Q&A’s, discuss news series, and much more.

Why do a Twitter chat?

Twitter chats can range from simple ways to answer questions to planned out events that involve a lot of preparation and promotion.

The many possibilities that the simplicity and ease of using Twitter offer for conversation with the audience make Twitter chats a good option for talking more about a series, topic or specialty.

Though a Twitter chat allows the host to field a humongous amount of replies from a large pool of users, the reply feature allows direct communication. Users can feel like they’re having a one-on-one exchange when a host replies to their tweet.

How to plan a Twitter chat

If you work at NPR, email the social media team at socialmediateam@npr.org with a description of what you want to do and why. They can help you promote it on the main social media accounts.

Define what type of chat you want to do and how much time you have.

There are easy things to do, such as holding a half-hour q+a like Bob Mondello did to talk about movies.

Or a chat can be tied to storytelling or have guests, which can take more planning and preparation, such as Davar Ardalan’s work on #NPRWIT, #NPRLatism and #NPRBlacksinTech or Jessica Pupovac’s experience with #NPReggfreeze.

Tips for hosting a Twitter chat with a guest answering questions

  1. Pick a hashtag. Make sure the hashtag is short, understandeable, and isn’t already being used by anyone else.
  2. Promote, promote, promote. Make sure to proactively promote the chat on social media, on-air and in a blog post on your site. The sooner you can do this the better- don’t wait until the day of.
  3. Reach out to individuals. If you want to make sure there are interesting questions and relevant questions, make a list of related people and influencers to reach out to before the chat starts. Let them know about it, and you can also
  4. Create a script. Include promotional tweets, introduction tweets and questions. Make sure all of your tweets are under 140 characters, including your chat hashtag, so you don’t have to edit much on the fly.
  5. Treat it like any event or show. Plan as much as you can, test the technology, prep the guest and be ready for things to go wrong.