#PAEquality: Lessons learned from a group Twitter Townhall

On Tuesday, I was joined by a dozen of my House colleagues for the first ever House Tweetup. The specific topic was LGBT rights. Using the hashtag #PAEquality, we spent 1:45 discussing LGBT rights, answering questions, giving advice and rallying the advocates. It was an incredible and very positive experience. According to data at the time (painful lesson learned: that info disappears quickly!), we had a tremendous reach, with over 70 participants and a combined reach of more than 250,000 people.  We were also trending topics in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and York.

It was the first time I had ever participated in a group Tweetup and we learned quite a bit. Here are some of the things we did well, and here are some of the areas we need to do better next time:

Strengths:

  • Advance Outreach:  Geoff in my office did a fantastic job of reaching out to LGBT advocacy groups ahead of time.  These groups helped promote the event and solicit questions for us.  As a result, they helped us do the hardest part: soliciting input, feedback, participation and questions.
  • Organization & Preplanning:  Again, this was all Geoff.  He came preloaded with questions we had gotten ahead of time.  There were more than enough: in other words, if NO ONE had submitted a question live, we would have had plenty to go on.
  • Have an advocate:  Rep. Brian Sims is one of Pennsylvania’s leading LGBT advocates – maybe one of the leading advocates in the nation.  He and I were the “co-hosts” of the event, and he leveraged his massive Social Media following to advertise it.  As a result, our audience grew significantly.  
  • Be nimble:  When the questions started to slow down we realized there were other areas related to LGBT issues that we wanted to discuss that no onehad brought up: specific tactics and some areas that were left untouched, like bullying of LGBT youth.  When those areas went untouched, I, as modertor, stopped tweeting questions and started tweeting “conversation starters” like:

Improvements:

  • Technical Assistance:  Some of the Representatives who took part weren’t as experienced with Twitter as others.  They were trying to learn how to do @ responses and use a hashtag in the middle of the event.  I should have checked with each member individually and make sure that they knew what they were doing.  This would have made for a stronger event.
  • Be prepared for chaos:  With 11 people in the room and another three at home, it got a little chaotic to track conversations.  With a group tweetup, conversations started breaking out all over the #PAEquality stream, making it difficult to track and monitor everything that was happening.  This was ok – in fact, it was great!  It meant that it was working.  I wish I had known that going in – I could have saved myself some anxiety!
  • Better use of Hootsuite:  We used Hootsuite to monitor the conversation.  Hootsuite is fantastic – you can set up specific columns to watch a variety of Twitter conversations, including hashtags.  We set up one to watch #PAEquality, but there was more that we should have done, including set up a column to monitor tweets that I sent; since I was the moderator, this would have made it easier for others in the room to see what question we were addressing.  I also should have set up a list, within Twitter, for all participants – then set up a Hootsuite column for that list.  Again, this would have made it easier for all of us to see what we were saying.  The hashtag alone wasn’t enough – participation was so hectic within the trend that we immediately lost whatever we were looking at! 

Any other thoughts or suggestions?  Let me know in the comments!

One Comment

  1. I appreciated the event, I was tweeting as my church-state separation group, @delvalau. DVAU works in coalition with the Philadelphia grassroots activist group The Summit. Several of us joined in and I saw some of my Facebook friends as well. It was very informative, I didn’t mind the chaos, I thought it was great to see you use Twitter to reach people and focus on LGBT equality.

    Reply

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