How to: Host a successful higher ed. twitter chat

By now most of your schools and/or admissions offices should have a fully functioning Twitter account. If you’ve grown tired of the daily tweets and are looking for a way to spice it up and engage your followers, a live Twitter chat (otherwise known as tweet chat) may be the perfect solution. Prospective students are able to connect with one another and gain important information from admissions reps in real-time.

Twitter chats are gatherings of people on the site to discuss anything and everything by using a #hashtag to follow the conversation. They’re also usually moderated and focused on a specific topic. To participate, all you have to do is tweet during the set time and hashtag the end of all your tweets. If the student chooses not to participate and simply wants to watch the conversation, they just search for the chosen hashtag and refresh the page as needed.

Here are a few tips on how to utilize live tweet chats in your admissions office:

1. Choose a Topic, Time, and #Hashtag.

The topic could center around anything from ‘admissions questions’ to ‘campus life’ or ‘being a student athlete.’ Start with a more general topic, and as you become more experienced with chats and hosting them you can discuss different topics each week or so. Choose a time when all students are out of class and parents are generally not working, that doesn’t conflict with any of your admissions events. Don’t forget to leave yourself enough time to promote the topic!

Choosing a hashtag may be the most difficult part. Pick something that’s short, simple, and explanatory. Remember, each tweet can online contain 140 characters, so the shorter the hashtag, the more room they have for their actual question. Search Twitter before picking one to ensure it hasn’t already been used. Each school will be different, but you may find it’s best to stick with the same hashtag for each admissions live chat you host.

Here are some examples we came up with:

2. Pick a Format.

There are a few different formats live chats can take. The easiest and best for this type of conversation would be using a single topic and allow your audience to ask questions within a certain time period. You and your team can pick 15 or so questions to answer during the time frame and respond from your account. You could also base the conversation around a single topic, but let the conversation freeflow and take up a life of its own.

3. Promote the Chat & Launch.

Hopefully you picked a date far enough away so you can promote the chat, but close enough so that it’s still relevant. You can promote the chat by tweeting about it and posting on other various social media sites. You can also send out emails (remember, keep the emails minimal to avoid email overload and opt-outs) promoting the topic and teaching students and or parents how to participate in the chat.

Here’s an example of how University of New England, who hosted their chat on August 19th, promoted the chat through their admissions website.

Now you’re ready for the launch! Remember, it may not go as smoothly the first time around, but eventually you will learn the formats and tactics that work best. Be open to change! This will be an exciting opportunity to bring prospective students together and you will be rewarded in the end.

4. Capture the Good Stuff.

The conversations typically move pretty fast, and chances are if one student has a question, many others are thinking the same thing. Take screen grabs to capture the good questions and post them later on or share the whole conversation on your schools website.

Live chats are a great way to reach students and encourage communication in a easy, convenient way, on a platform that they’re super familiar with. Let us know if your school has participated or is thinking about participating in a live chat and has tips to share!

If you’re looking for more information on hosting a successful twitter chat, Social Media Examiner has a great page that thoroughly examines each aspect of the topic and can be found here.