STEMwire hosted a Twitter party in the fall, and learned a lot about interaction on social media. When participating in the U.S. News @STEMsolutions Twitter chat yesterday, I tried to take those lessons and flip them around to understand how best to be an active participant.
1. Introduce yourself. Tweet that you are joining the chat, using the appropriate hashtag, or retweet the opening statement. This way, the organizers know that you’re around and will engage with you.
2. Pick up on the format. Pay attention to any conventions that develop throughout the chat. For example, in this chat, participants started numbering their responses: The answer to ‘Q7’, as presented by the moderator, would start with ‘A7.’ Not only did this help everyone keep track of the conversation, it seemed to increase my chances of getting retweeted or replied to.
3. Don’t just talk, listen. Rather than always replying as soon as a question is posted, wait a few out. I tried to reply immediately only to the questions that seemed very relevant to STEMwire, mostly ones that were about teachers in some way. For the others, I would wait to see some of the other responses before deciding which ones to retweet, engage with and ask questions about. You don’t need to be that kid that’s always the first to raise their hand and wave it around obnoxiously – it won’t get the teacher’s attention.
4. Spread the love. You don’t want to find yourself constantly retweeting one participant’s contributions: Take the time to read what everyone is saying and note who you’re responding to. I tried to engage with a different participant on each question. This also lets you know which participants are more likely to engage back – you can then focus some more attention on them as the chat goes on.
5. Interact as much as possible. With the above caveat, take full advantage of the fabulous tool that Twitter can be! Add appropriate hashtags, tweet at anyone that you think would be relevant to an answer – maybe you’ll draw new people into a conversation. One of my more “successful” tweets was the answer to a question about efforts to engage women in STEM. Anna had come across plenty of people doing women in STEM work during research for another article, so I just tagged them all – this tweet got picked up several times by other participants, I think because it was so information-heavy.
6. Be prepared. I wish I had thought to pull up the STEMwire website and look through the archives ahead of time – for a few questions, I wanted to reply with an article that we had written, but it would take time for me to open my browser, find the article, and format the tweet. By the time I got it out there, sometimes the conversation had moved on.
More than anything else, have fun. It’s a cool, cool feeling to be interacting with people all over the country – perhaps the world – who are interested in something just like you are. I’m definitely on the lookout for another Twitter chat that STEMwire can participate in soon.