How I Survived My First Tweetchat

Until yesterday, I didn’t really know what a tweetchat was. Then AWP announced they would be holding a tweetchat today using the hashtag #MFAchat. Since we have a new program and can use the exposure, I said “sure, I’ll join in!” Then i searched to find out what to expect in a tweetchat.

Essentially, it is a somewhat organized conversation on Twitter. The organizer announces the times of the chat and the hashtag. And I believe there’s a service that helps you schedule yours or at least check to see when others have scheduled theirs so you don’t have too much competition. I didn’t set this one up, so I didn’t have to worry about scheduling. AWP does this every month or so with a new topic.

To get ready for the chat, I wrote and saved about 10 tweets in advance. Since the topic was MFA programs, I wrote the main points I might want someone to know about ours. I included links to more information, and when possible a picture, though that cut into the number of characters I could use.

Doing this helped me in two ways. It was like an outline of what I might want to talk about, and it provided me with a stash of tweets to release whenever I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of tweets that were being sent on the topic, as people from all over the country wrote in questions or tweeted about their programs. Having these ready allowed me to find tweets that I wanted to respond to and actually reply or quote and address people’s actual questions. That made it feel like I was tweeting with them, not at them. But when I needed to, I had a tweet ready to send into the twittersphere on the topic, while I scrolled through to see what else had been said.

I was using the Mac Twitter App for most of this, which worked relatively well. There are other apps that may be more suited to chatting on twitter, and I may explore some of these if I decide to try this again. Given that I had some good conversations, generated a lot of favorites and retweets, and learned from other programs, I probably will try again.

As the hour-long chat wore on, I had used up my cache of tweets in the first half hour and responded to several people. I composed new tweets on specific topics, but didn’t feel like I had to worry as much about linking back to my program or describing it, because those tweets were out there. I could focus on the conversation more and just try to keep up. It was intense.

Once the official hour of chatting was over, I scrolled back through the conversation and responded to a number of tweets that I’d missed at first. I wrote a thank you to the organizers, too, and was glad to see the conversation they’d started was trending (at least others reported that it was — I didn’t have time to check. I had a few extended conversations with people and didn’t worry so much whether I kept including the hashtag. And I kept checking back in with the conversation that kept going for over an hour.

In the end, i had to leave after nearly two and a half hours of solid tweeting. I’ve checked back a few times, and I still get a few favorites and retweets on the posts I made. I’m glad I was prepared, both mentally and with some prewritten tweets. It made the experience much more enjoyable and rewarding, and i hope it made my contributions more valuable to the conversation.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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