The Anatomy of a Healthcare Twitter Chat

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Healthcare Twitter Chats are invaluable to the social community. Twitter chats provide an opportunity to interact in open dialogue about a specific topic of interest, at a specific period of time, enabling active engagement. It's a great way to address questions, gain valuable feedback, and promote live discussion among a broad range of target audience groups all at once. 

Executing a successful healthcare Twitter Chat is not rocket-science, but it does require careful planning on multiple fronts. First and foremost, it's important to understand how a Twitter chat can be valuable to your top target audience groups:

  1. Consumers: Provides a live forum for which they can learn important information about their health, and learn critical information about the signs/symptoms of certain health conditions to which they should be aware
  2. Patients & Caregivers: Grants a welcomed opportunity for them to share their personal experiences, seek advice from health experts, and/or learn new information about their health conditions that may impact their treatment
  3. Healthcare practitioners: Enables an open forum through which they can share their expertise, learn new clinical information from colleagues and experts, and make important connections with patients/caregivers/advocacy groups
  4. Healthcare organizations: Provides a platform through which they can share information about their services, establish influence within a specific health category, and foster important connections that will ultimately grow their reach/influence
  5. Advocacy Groups: Creates a specific opportunity for them to promote awareness of their cause, drive growth of their social communities, and provide incremental value to the patients/caregivers they represent
  6. Investors: Demonstrates a healthcare/pharma company's commitment to supporting specific health/disease states and programs

So what comprises a Twitter Chat, and how does it work? First, let's identify the key players:

  1. Moderator: The person (or identified Twitter "handle") that will lead and organize the live discussion
  2. Influencers: Experts who will bring incremental value to the topic of discussion 
  3. Sponsors: Secondary groups, companies or associations who share a vested interest in supporting the live Twitter chat
  4. Participants: The social community who will organically participate in the live Twitter chat

Each key player has an essential role in ensuring the ultimate success of a Twitter Chat - so it's important to leverage strategic insights when determining who will fill each role. At the end of the day, the Twitter Chat must deliver on your campaign business objectives - thus no detail of the event should be overlooked or undervalued. As such, here are the primary elements of a Twitter Chat which require careful planning:

  1. The content
  2. The hashtag
  3. Date/time of the event
  4. Media buys
  5. Pre-chat promotion
  6. Setting the stage & establishing "rules" of the chat
  7. Posting questions 
  8. Active engagement (including "contingency responses" to address off-topic questions that may not be within compliance)
  9. Summarizing key points
  10. Closing the chat
  11. Post-chat follow-ups

While it may seem like a long list of items to consider, organizing this information well in advance of the event is an essential process towards ensuring a successful (and FDA compliant) Twitter chat. To check out a few great examples of successful Twitter chats, look up #abcDrBchat (weekly health chats hosted by ABC's Dr. Richard Besser) or #ObesityRisks (a Twitter Chat hosted earlier this year by @EisaiWeightLoss).