How to Summarise a Twitter Chat

by | Jan 19, 2015

Twitter Chats can be extremely useful platforms to exchange ideas, debate issues and pick up new knowledge. But what happens after the chat has ended?


Over the last few years I have been acting as a facilitator and online host for a number of interactive Twitter chats. One of my tasks at the end of each chat is to create a readable summary that allows others to revisit and share the conversation.

My favourite tool to summarise a Twitter chat is Storify. I have been using Storify consistently since it emerged in 2012, when I considered how it could be used to Storif-y events. The tool has evolved in that time, as has my approach to summarising online conversations.

In this post, I share my step-by-step guide to creating a really useful summary of a Twitter chat that can be shared after the event. Depending on the format of your Twitter chat this can be a lengthy task, but the results make your Twitter chat far more accessible for those who could not take part, or want to refer back.


1. Create Your Storify Summary

Login to Storify and create a new Storify. Give this a title and a suitable description. Your description should explain the purpose of your Twitter Chat and include the date of the chat, so your audience can place the comments in context.
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I recommend opening your summary with a more detailed introduction to set the scene.

If you have guests speakers make sure you include a section introducing each, including a photograph, if possible. If there isn’t a picture of your guest speaker on Flickr, you may need to search online for a link to a suitable image and paste in the link directly to add a photo that is hosted elsewhere.
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2. Add Your Chat Tweets

Search for all of the tweets on your chat hashtag. Scroll right down until you reach the earliest tweets in the chat itself.

TIP: If you untick the “RTs” box on the Storify search bar you will have fewer tweets to wade through.
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It is tempting to use Storify’s “add them all link” at this stage. However, this might not always be the best option.

If your chat followed a simple, organiser-led Q&A structure (organiser asks “Q1: ….” and all participants respond with “A1:…” then adding all the tweets at once is fine. There may be a few tweets that got out of sequence and will need moving around so all of the answers to a specific question appear together, but this should be easy to do via drag-and-drop once the tweets have been added to your summary.

If your chat involved participants asking questions of an individual guest speaker or a group of guests speakers, then it is usually easier to add each tweet to the chat individually, so you can organise them by topic as you go along. I usually identify a topic, and add a text heading that describes this topic. If several people have asked similar, or related questions, then I add the tweets in the same place. This allows me to separate out both the different threads of the conversation and the common themes within the conversation.

Tip: Allow sufficient time to organise your tweets in one hit. If you close Storify and come back to it later, it will reload all of the tweets, including the ones you have already added to the summary. This makes it hard to work out where you got up to.

3. Organise Your Tweets

A free-for-all Twitter chat with a panel of guest speakers can result in multiple threads of conversation involving different combinations of people. If you have pulled your tweets in one at a time and arranged them by topic, then most of the work of separating out these threads is already done. However, you may find that there are tweets missing (usually because the author did not include the chat hash tag) or that several conversational threads cover similar ground.

To solve the first of these problems, I use Hootsuite to set up a stream for the hashtag. The advantage of this is that Hootsuite includes a ‘view conversation’ feature which is currently missing when you view hashtag search results in Storify. The Hootsuite stream allows me to work out which comments related to each other if it is not clear, and identifies any missing tweets. I can then use Storify’s “Twitter user search” facility to search the timeline of the author and pull in that missing tweet to complete the conversational thread.

To solve the second problem, separate out each conversational thread, but arrange threads that cover similar topics together. These can be separated by adding an image or a horizontal rule, so they appear under the same topic title.

4. Annotate Your Conversational Threads

Once you have the conversational threads separated, give each topic a title and a short sentence that provides some additional context.
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5. Add a Conclusion

The Twitter chat host probably spent several tweets wrapping up at the end of the chat, including details about where to find more information. I would usually summarise the contents of these tweets into a single paragraph of text at the end of the Storify summary, complete with all the relevant links. This allows me to remove any logistical information/instructions about the chat itself that may not be relevant/of interest to future readers.

I always ensure that the concluding section of the summary includes contact details for the organiser of the chat so readers can follow up if they have any further questions.
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6. Add Pictures

Where possible, add pictures that illustrate the points made in your chat. These can be from Flickr, or pictures shared by your participants/guest speakers. Use these judiciously to break up the summary.

The Art of the Twitter Chat Summary

A useful Twitter Chat summary creates a smooth, logical reading experience for the reader out of the overlapping chaos of a live Twitter Chat.

There are lots of tools that allow you to archive Twitter Chats in strict tweet-by-tweet order if you want to preserve the chat as it happened in transcript form. However, Storify offers the opportunity to organise and present the chat as a more readable resource that can be easily accessed and scanned by time-poor readers.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite examples as an illustration. This is the Storify summary of the AHRC New Generation Thinkers 2015 Twitter chat, where previous New Generation Thinkers award-holders answered questions from those considering applying in 2015. The summary generated over 1,000 views in just one month, and covered many of the frequently asked questions received by the award committee.


Need Help?

If you would like help hosting a Twitter chat, or need someone to create a summary of your chat, please contact [email protected] to discuss your needs and get a quote.
Featured Image Credit: Tony Deifell

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