Last month, I moderated the June #4Change chat with the topic of “community building”. There were some excellent ideas and tips, and generally great conversation. The problem for me with the chat was twofold:

1. Twitter fail. It has become a regular occurrence for our monthly #4change chats to find Twitter not even working. This has meant some chats haven’t happened, some have stopped early or operated on a very slow conversation, and others (like last month’s chat) have moved off twitter and onto another platform all together. What this says to me is that the chats aren’t successful because of Twitter, but because of the people engaged.

2. One time. The #4change chats are once a month events that have taken place over the last year.  Each month there’s a new topic. We’ve covered some really interesting areas and engaged with a diverse network. We also have a great core of participants that contribute to every chat (you know who you are, rockstars!). The problem for me is that I’m far more invested and interested in certain topics than others (naturally) and I don’t have an outlet to discuss regularly in the same way. In the last chat, there was a lot of mention and enthusiasm for a monthly chat specifically on community building. And I’m here to say I’ll make it happen – if you’re with me!

Launching Monthly Community Builder Chats

Next Steps:

I can’t do this without you 🙂 So, I’d love to hear from you about how we can design this together to be most successful, and then we can get started!

Please take just a few minutes to share your responses to the questions below in the comments.

I’m asking that you use the comments (instead of a survey or something) because I want responses to be public (if you want a response to be private for any reason, you can always email me) and provide opportunity for discussion and response.

  • Why do you want to participate in a chat about community building, community management, and community driven projects?
  • What kind of chat is most valuable to you: presenter w/ q/a, moderated chat but no “presenter,” open conversation space?
  • Is once a month good?
  • Where should these conversations take place? (Twitter despite the fails? CoverItLive? Other platforms?)
  • Anything else you want to add!

I’m really looking forward to your responses and hoping that we can launch the first monthly chat in August! Thanks for all your contributions and ideas in advance 🙂

Monthly Chats about Community Building: Are you with me?
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  • Monthly Chats about Community Building: Are you with me? –

  • Amy – Personally I find it a challenge to keep up with all of the Twitter-generated chats I’m interested in (along with ‘other’ work and the rest of life 🙂 so even when I’m interested in a topic, I find it hard to make any one chat on a monthly basis. So for me I would be more apt to make it on a bimonthly or quarterly basis.

    I’m interested in discussions around community building (as you know) as we still have so much to learn to work ‘effectively’, and on-to-go learning from colleagues is priceless. Open convo or moderated is fine, with some structure around a topic or two helpful.

    The platform doesn’t matter: I leave that up to the experts, but would certainly be willing to go off-Twitter. Hope this is somewhat helpful.

    • Hi Bonnie-

      Thanks so much for the feedback! I totally agree with you on the high number of events/chats going on. But, I’m wondering if it would be better to have a chat each month that was at a lower expectation so if people could make it, great, but otherwise it wasn’t the end of the world – than having a chat quarterly with the expectations much higher as the next one wouldn’t come around again for a while. Just a thought…

      I’m glad to hear that a softly moderated conversation works for you – I’m happy to share some questions or a starter topic ahead of time (especially if others want to share topical/timely issues or questions they have) so that we know where we are starting. I’m also always fine taking on the role as the “let’s stay on topic” person 🙂

      Thanks also for input around platform preferences. What’s important to me is that we have people in an online space that affords real-time conversation, and that it is also somewhere that people need to be intentional about participation. Now, that doesn’t mean it is a private community, but that I know there’s often spam or off topic content when a chat is held only in Twitter as content is streaming through via the hashtag. I’ll explore CoverItLive and other options like that more.


      • Yes, agree with you and Jeff that monthly probably works best for scheduling. It may be a slightly different group each time but easier to keep track of when it will happen.

  • I would participate for purely selfish reasons – I have so many questions about community management related to the specific challenges of our community. Hopefully I could also offer a bit of insight to others, also, but no guarantees!

    An occasional presenter might be nice, but not necessary. A specific topic or series of questions each month to focus the chat might be helpful.

    Once a month seems about right.

    I agree that Twitter is not always reliable. Better is a chat solution that easily captures the chat. I’m not sure if that’s meebo or coveritlive or what.

    • Hi Laura –

      I think all of us in the nonprofit/social impact sector who have ever tried to write a compelling call to action know that tapping self interest often pays off – so I’m happy if this chat topic does that for you! 🙂

      Glad to hear that there’s some consistent feedback about chats with a topic or questions for focus but otherwise a conversation – I was personally not too thrilled with the idea of a “presenter” but thought it was still valuable to put out the option.

      I really like your concern about capturing the chat and think that’s a great focus I can use in measuring various options for tools – thanks!

  • I agree with Bonnie that it’s challenging to keep up with the twitter chat schedules even if they’re monthly. But in spite of that, I’d suggest doing them monthly. It’ll be confusing otherwise trying to remember when the next one’s happening. Plus, the month I can’t make it, others will and vice versa. Not everyone will attend all.

    The two topics that piqued my interest were community building and management. I like twitter chats to share ideas and build connections with folks with common interests.

    For format, I always preferred the moderator and guest speaker[s] with specific topics for that chat. I think it helps guide the convos a bit and takes away the wild-wild west feeling that makes some of the chats overwhelming [at least for me].

    And personally, i prefer these on twitter even with the potential fails.

    Hope that helps!

    • Hi Jeff-

      Thanks so much for the feedback! I totally agree about having the chats take place each month and not creating a you-must-attend-each-chat feeling about them. I’d rather have a chat that is viewed as a consistent opportunity for sharing and learning, than a chat that has a confusing schedule.

      My goal is definitely to have these chats be spaces for participants to share their examples and ask questions. I’ll certainly offer questions ahead of time to help create a focus for the conversation, but that doesn’t mean I’m the only one with questions to ask nor am I the only one with responses. At least I hope not!

      It’s good to hear that you do prefer twitter. I’ll want to play with the twitter integration in coveritlive but I know that last time we were able to use the hashtag to go between coveritlive and twitter into one stream – so I’ll see how dynamic that is.

      Thanks so much and looking forward to having you in the chats!

  • I think once a month is a good frequency, realizing that most people will really join more like once every two months or so.

    I would want to participate to learn and share stories of how communities can be moved to action. I’m primarily in the fundraising business, but I know an empowered community has a value all its own.

    I think having a presenter works, but I don’t think you need significant moderation technology. If folks are informed who is supposed to be talking, I think they will be respectful.

    As for platform, Campfire from 37Signals is a good, simple chat application. It lets you drop in photos, tweets other goodies. It also logs the chat automatically and makes it easy to export that for folks who couldn’t join.

    Cost is an issue there, since the free version only lets in four chatters. Perhaps there is a group already using Campfire out there that would open up a chat room for this purpose. Or perhaps some orgs could chip in to the monthly fee?

    • Hey Jacob-

      Thanks so much for weighing in – and I look forward to having you participate! I think that an opportunities to share/hear stories is probably one of the most compelling reasons to participate, even for me. And the actions that we put out to our communities are always going to be different – even between fundraising appeals really – so I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

      Thanks for the recommendation of Campfire – I’ll check it out and see if there’s any leads there.

  • @j8ke thanks for your comment, and look forward to having you join the Monthly Chats about Community Building –

    • j8ke

      @amyrsward looking forward to it. You might regret inviting the guy that is always asking, “How do we make it financially sustainable?”

      • @j8ke that’s a way better question to hear all the time than “how to i monetize my blog” 😉

  • Yay for crowdsourcing a community-building chat 🙂

    I have the same preferences as Bonnie, Laura and Jeff – a moderated chat is my preference. With guests, it can get to be too much about the guest and I love the wisdom that comes from vested participants learning from each other and also supporting each other.

    I also like your response to Bonnie’s comment about sharing questions and a starter topic ahead of time. I’ve seen that work well at #NPCons. Taking it a step forward, it might be interesting to mix it up and ask others to suggest the questions related to a certain topic. That way, you find out ahead of time everyone’s self-interest, which is good information for a moderator.

    As for me, I’m interested in thinking about the intersection of community and technology, community and fundraising, and creating vested, engaged communities of interest online.

    Platform doesn’t matter – it might be interesting to try something other than Twitter chat – I’m open.

    SO looking forward to this chat. Let me know if I can help in any way.

    • Thanks for all of this wonderful feedback, Debra – wow!

      I definitely feel most comfortable with a moderated chat as well – not intense, but just a light touch to be sure we are making the most with our time. I also never intended to say that I would create all the topics and questions, so let me make that part more explicit here! Would love to have questions posed by those who want to participate – for sure!

      Really great to know what topics are of most interest to you and I imagine that the topics of conversation will reflect not just what we are all interested in overall but also topics that come up as the landscape continues to evolve.

      Thanks so much for your offer to help; I’ll definitely use it!

      Looking forward to this

  • I agree with Debra. I would love a monthly comm building chat because I think this space is constantly changing and there are a lot of innovations happening between individuals that’s worth spreading. I don’t really mind the platforms, but I have to say the time of #4change chat meant that its either 6am or 7am in Australia which, as a teenager, I’d still be in bed.

    PS: I know I’m not a teen anymore, but you know its the virtual world!

    • Hey Ehon-

      You’ve tapped a topic that I’ve been spinning around in my head without much of an answer: what time DOES work for a real time conversation with folks from around the world? Have you participated on any other chats that really had a global reach? I know there are folks from all over who have expressed interest and I would love to make something happen to bring us all together – you know, build community 🙂


  • Chiming in on @Ehon’s comment: you obviously have to evaluate where most of your constituency is. My max participation time was until 11pm when I was GMT+2. That does make it challenging. I wonder if there couldn’t be two chats? Would there be enough interest in two a month one for the North American folks and one for the ROW?

    • Thanks, Debra – I was thinking about splitting it up as well, perhaps rotating each month instead of doing two each month. We’ll see how the first one goes and perhaps can spend an extra few minutes after the chat officially closes to talk about people’s thoughts on timing…

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