How to participate in a Live Twitter Chat – Tips for Social Workers

TwitterChatLive Twitter chats (a scheduled event when Twitter users communicate via tweets in real time) can be a great way for social workers and students to stay informed about all types of issues and interests relevant to the profession. For example, medical experts from the Mayo Clinic frequently host chats to share and discuss new treatment options in healthcare. Professionals can also use this tool to meet and talk (for free) with new colleagues from just around the corner to the other side the world. A good example is the #SPSM chat which hosts a weekly forum for mental health professionals interested in using social media to prevent suicide. During a chat like this one, a social worker might engage with influential thought leaders in their field and make their own contributions to the professional conversations that influence and shape social work practice. The Political Social Worker suggests that Twitter can be a powerful networking tool for social workers in her blog post The Benefits of Live Twitter Chats.

But participating in a live Twitter chat requires preparation. Live chats move fast and have guidelines to set the parameters of the conversation. More obvious is the need to be familiar with Twitter (a microblogging platform) before participating in a chat. Understanding what a tweet is and how to write one is a must to chat on Twitter. Being able to communicate and network with professionals in online environments is considered an important digital media skill for any 21st century professional including social workers (Rheingold, 2012).

Here are some practical tips for social work students, educators and practitioners interested in being part of a live Twitter chat:

Find a chat

1. You might locate a chat through a simple internet search with your favorite web browser. Include the key words that you are interested in along with the words “Twitter Chat”, and see what you find. Several chats have a website that hosts information and archives about the chat.

2. Browse a list of regularly scheduled Twitter chats here on Google DocsYou can find chat hashtags that interest you on such websites or Symplur for a list of health-related hashtags.

3. Here are some popular social work chats:

Before the Chat

1. You will need to know the date, time, hashtag and the moderator’s username for the chat.  For the time, always check the time zone and make sure you calculate the correct time zone for your location.

2. Make sure your Twitter profile is complete and includes a picture and information about yourself. Chats are networking opportunities and you want to present your best professional side.

3. Good etiquette suggests you let your followers know you will be participating in a chat and always introduce yourself at the beginning of a chat.

4. Consider using TweetChat or another platform that will give a better view than just using Twitter. During the chat, these types of programs will filter out all other tweets except those with the chat hashtag.

During the Chat

1. At the date and time of the chat, log on to Twitter and type the chat hashtag into the search box and wait for the chat to start. You will know the chat has started when the moderator begins tweeting. If you are using another platform besides Twitter, you will still use the chat hashtag to monitor the chat.

2. Moderator will post a series of questions during the chat, usually one to five questions. The questions will be labelled Q1, Q2, etc. You should respond to each question by starting off your tweet with A1, A2, etc (respectively).

3. Always include the chat hashtag in your response tweet as well. In some cases you have to write the hashtag (#) of the chat you are following each time that you tweet during a chat.  Again, using TweetChat and other similar platforms will automatically insert the hashtag into your tweet for you.

4. If you like what someone has tweeted, you can RT (retweet) that statement.  You can also reply directly to the individual. It is okay to have sidebar conversations with other participants during a chat.

5. Keep it professional and polite.  See the Netiquette guidelines: It is perfectly acceptable to respectfully disagree with someone during the chat.

6. Twitter chats are often fast paced and require concentration to follow. Just do the best you can.  Even most seasoned Tweeters have a hard time keeping up.

After the chat

1. At the end of the chat, thank the moderator for his or her efforts.

2. Find out how to get a copy of the archived chat and review it. As a student, you might be able to use the transcript or your tweets to document a skill or content you learned for a class.

3. Consider following other people who participated in the chat. You could have conversations with them outside of the chat or create a public list of social workers you are following.

Have you participated in a live Twitter chat before? Do you have any other tips? Please post a comment if you have other suggestions or thoughts for students and other social workers planning to engage in online conversations.


Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.

Author: Laurel Hitchcock

Share This Post On