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How to write questions for Twitter Chats

While the overall practice of running Twitter chats led to multiple blog posts, the art of writing good questions is not covered in detail.

This is my takeaway from my experience, advices given and observing many chats.

One has to take into account 2 difficulties:

– Tweeps rarely read the prereadings or framing posts. Not that they are reluctant but they just don’t have the time and attention to read in depth a detailled post on the topic. At some stage I realized that the prereading serves first to frame the questions. So one has to take into account that tweeps will have little awareness on the topic. Questions should really help them discover the topic more then trying to go one step further in deepening the topic. In my experience it happens often that I’m not sure I can dedicate time for a chat and I will not look into the prereadings before I’m pretty sure I will join. This could be as the chat is already started. In other case it happens that skimming the framing post or prereading convince me I should join (or it could as well convince me I’m now interested in the topic).

– Tweeps may not know each others. Before trust takes place and confidence to share grows, it is good that tweeps could have an outlook on others awareness on the topic and from where they got their experience.

Finally we, as participants, all want to leave a chat pumped with motivation to use the newly acquired knowledge and with some applicable tips, links or connections.

For theses reasons I found that it’s a good practice to have first and last questions as incentive to share.

Questions themselves fall into two categories:

– Real questions starting with the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, why, which, how). They end with a question mark (I insist because I often forget it).

– Incentives to share, comment, engage. They are usually in imperative mood with no question mark.

Real questions can be closed or open.

Questions are closed when they could be answered with yes, no or more generally with a short answer taken from a limited semantic field. They are good to warm up the chat and accelerate the rythm. Good candidates for Q2 or Q3.

Questions are open when they need a complete sentence as an answer. They could lead to a whole blog post. They are also the ones leading to the richer engagements and sub conversations taking place among chatters.

It’s important to modulate the time allocated to answers if and combination of closed and open questions are used.

A closed question maybe opened with a simple trailing why?, how?

Questions should stay short (like 92 chars including the hashtag). This is to make it easy to retweets them using a manual retweet. Your handle will be added together with "RT " and ":".The new practice of a copying the question inside a picture removes 21 chars more from the question itself. To fit in a picture a question must be even shorter.

Questions should also be short to be concise to read. I often add a few framing tweets if the question is complex.

Benefit of adopting commonly used pattern for questions is that chatters tend to recognize them, expect them and react quickly and predictively.

Typical questions.

What is your defintion of <notion> <central> topic of concept

Such very open questions are best positionned as first or second position for obvious reasons.

Share your experience/links/names on the topic

This one could be the first one to let user share what they know already and let new in the topic judge the level of experience of chatters.

Share Tips, examples to follow, blogs on the topic

This could be used at the end of the chat to share links to deepen the learning and go further.

"Where/Who/Which" are rarely used directly but in their share counterparts

"When" often leads to understanding the triggers, the situations when the topic and afferent knowledge is used. It could be used to motivate chatters to take a reflective moment and relate to framing post to answer. Am I the only one with the prereadings open in a window and skimming it as the chat starts ?

"Why" is rarely used but could bring interesting ideas to surface. Often combined with a yes/no closed question.

"How" to is very common and leads to many practical knowledge to be uncovered.

Do/Don’t <practice>

This is really two questions one after the other. usually toward the end of the chat

Share Tools to/Though leaders for/Best blogs for <topic> 
<practice>

All such questions help to hoard knowledge and share it instantly among partiicipants. because a chat is live it often sparks sub conversations because tweeps ask questions on recommendations or approve each others.

What will be your action to implement what we shared today

With variations this questions tends to be a call to action for chatters and to encourage them to share their plans. Shared goals tend to be more motivating and easier to achieve so it’s agreat question when applicable Knoweldge is shared.

Being inspired

I often keep inspiring or well thought questions in my notes. Either in their textual form or as generic expression. Here are two examples:

#OrganikChat

Q1) Which influencers (people) in <topic> inspire you?

Q2) What <topic> skills should a <topic> have?

Q3) Which <service> have been most beneficial?

Q4) What should you being doing to <>?

Q6) What tools/resources are invaluable to you?

#LUV4social

Q1. Why is <practice> important in <field>?

Q2. Should all <actors> use <practice> in their <job>? Why or why not.

Q3. What are some best practices for <practice>?

Q5. How do <org> when using <practice> in <job>?

Q6. What was your favorite <experience>? Why does/did it appeal to you?

Q7. What should <actors> avoid when using <practice> in <field>?

Q8. Everyone had <job> <practice> examples. Are their any <actors> that are consistently stellar?

Visit http://kneaverdemo.kneaver.com for a large repositiory of Twitter chats. Questions will be visible in the index post of each chats, the one with not part extension after the topic.

Each chat as an identity. The number of questions, the tone and where it’s dragging you will be a trademark of the chat. A good chat will let you discover a topic, gain first hand knowledge from a guest or give you the keys to develop a competency.

NB: This topic is maintained from Kneaver Project’s Kneaver base. It’s living and will be updated.