Case Study: Hosting the #MITAlum Twitter Chat
December 15, 2014
In October, the MIT Alumni Association hosted the #MITAlum Twitter chat “MIT Alumni and the Final Frontier.” This chat featured six alumni working in space exploration and tied in with AeroAstro’s Centennial celebration. This chat had big levels of engagement, high numbers of alumni taking part, and reached over 80,000 Twitter accounts.
What made this chat successful?
Planning for this chat began in July by identifying the featured guests, alumni who work in space exploration. The chat was planned for October to coincide with AeroAstro’s Centennial Symposium, and the three-month lead time allowed for scheduling, question preparation, and coordination.
I identify what topics do well with our Twitter audience with each tweet, and space is a topic that always performs well. Topics that coincide with current events allow us to build on excitement for that event. In this case, the AeroAstro Centennial was the coinciding event.
Social Media-Savvy Guests.
Each of the six featured guests is active on Twitter and tweets frequently about space exploration. This made it easier for the guests to be prepared for the chat in addition to bringing their own curated Twitter audience.
Each of the alumni guests work or have worked for NASA at some point. I reached out to the social media representatives at NASA to inform them of the chat and see if they would promote it on their channels. NASA promoted the chat from @NASAJPL, which was then retweeted by @NASA, generating interest in the chat and the hashtag #MITAlum.
I drafted the questions I would ask the guests and sent them two weeks before the chat. Thinking of an answer in 140 characters can be hard on the spot, so pre-drafted questions gave guests time to think about answers or draft them long before the chat.
Twitter is an increasingly visual medium. I included a supporting image in one tweet to break up the text. This tweet had the most engagement of the entire chat.
Social Media Dashboard.
Managing a chat is difficult to do through the Twitter web client. Prior to the chat, I created Twitter lists with guests and handles that were invited. I then created a stream for each of these as well as for the hashtag in Hootsuite—this allowed me to see all conversations going on in just one window.