Inspiration: conversations

I don't know about you, but I often find that social media is something I can feel I 'must' do rather than 'want' to do. Facebook presents it's own challenges and it's not always a positive place. I felt that Twitter was the same. I have been part of it for years with various accounts and mostly used it to follow Greater Anglia train company when I had to commute.

As I've begun to find my feet in this world I wasn't expecting, I have joined a few Twitter chats. These are hour long events hosted by social media platform, Twitter and often based around a theme or place. I joined #Justacard to converse with craft and printer makers,  #ElyHour and #Cambshour to talk local trades. It's a easy way to network from your sofa and surprisingly very productive in engaging and sharing information, and great for snappy 140 character replies. Twitter chats can be found by searching (the hashtag is necessary to narrow down the results) or by looking at directories.

I set myself a challenge, to host a Twitter hour of my own to help raise awareness of involuntary childlessness and create a Twitter space which builds on the resources held by Walk In Our Shoes. Most importantly to get talking about this subject (often hidden away in private groups) on a public space.

What to call it? I am not aware of any chats on this subject so no dangers of two similar names. The key is that they have to be short or they take up to much of the 140 characters allowed. Childlessness or Involuntary Chidlessness were out. We maybe childfree but not on the way that the media have styled this into a 'by choice' term. Any acronyms need a campaign to be successful and become recognised - a key part of the success of any chat or marketing event is easy access, who would know what TCIC* means? So I settled with #Childlesshour. I dislike 'less' but it's the one that we have come to know. It also covers all genders in the way that 'nomo' does not, and it gives clarity about the subject to other Twitter users. 

I sent out invites to fellow infertility bloggers including Nicci at The Voice of Infertility, spoke to Jody and Marie at Gateway Women and sat, nervously waiting on Twitter three weeks ago certain I'd be on my own.

How wrong I was! I was delighted to see people from across the world, as far as New Zealand and USA making time in their day to chat for an hour (longer in fact, we overran!) about lots of themes, from advice, how to handle tough questions, inspirational blogs and lots of GIFs of roaring lions as we started to trend on Twitter.

It's been three weeks now and last night we were joined by Jody Day from Gateway Women, Dr Robin Hadley whose in-depth research into male infertility is giving a voice to men who would otherwise be unheard and Kelly da Silva from The Dovecote. We are regularly supported by Nicci from The Voice of Infertility and Steph from Childless Voice and Strength and Infertility too - all sharing their wise words. It's open to everyone, not just bloggers or established names. Absolutely anyone as what I have learned from my 4 years... yes 4 years of research, design and running Walk In Our Shoes... is that there is always room for more sites, shares and more conversation about involuntary childlessness. 

Most touching of all was one person telling me yesterday that the chats have enabled her to reach out and find support. That makes worthwhile. 

How do you join us? You'll need a Twitter account first of all. You do not have to use your real identity but it does help if you do run a website or blog that your accounts are linked, as it will help with online exposure, just as I do with Walk In Our Shoes. All website platforms (Squarespace, WordPress, Wix and blogging sites will have buttons that allow you to link your website with a Twitter account). This link is from Twitter and explains how to sign up to Twitter

Once you've verified your account you can start to follow accounts. This link here explains how. You can find this site by typing in @walkinourshoes1 and then clicking the icon like a head and shoulders shape or Follow depending on the device or browser you are using.  To pick up Childlesshour, just type in @childlesshour and the account will appear. 

To find other people to follow you can look at the followers for W@walkinourshoes1 or @childlesshour or search for interests. You can type in literally any subject and you'll find something. If you google 'how to find Twitter followers' you'll find heaps of advice, but I find that publishing interesting content often, sharing (or Retweeting, shortened to RT in Twitter land) is helpful and actually replying to conversations (it's amazing how few people do this but just use Twitter to advertise). This guide to Twitter is very useful. 

When you've send a few tweets, replied or RT'd then you are ready to join a Twitter Chat. By far the hardest thing is hosting them as I have to be the all seeing eye! But to take part is fun and there's no pressure. And you really do not have to be a Twitter expert but it can be useful to have a browse at Tweetdeck first.  Tweetdeck is completely free and it's owned by Twitter so your account and Tweetdeck work really well together. The site extends the view of Twitter so you can set up columns to show conversations, mentions and searches. This video guide is brilliant. 

Hootsuite is helpful app that does very similar thing with free and paid for accounts but I find that Tweetdeck is absolutely fine for taking part in a Twitter chat. 

A few helpful tips

  • You can click a heart icon (below a message) to show appreciation and a RT (retweet) is always welcome too. 
  • Respond to other people’s answers, ask questions just like a real conversation.
  • Take part and keep in mind an ethos of sharing not self promotion.
  • In almost all chats I've been part of, there's one account that's been set up with scheduled messages which repeat post an advertising message. This is a great way to be blocked!
  • Do share highlights from the chat or the question prompts to raise awareness for others and of the chat. 
  • It's okay if you don't see all the chat, you can go back later and search on the hashtag
  • Do ask any questions or shout if you can't find a reply, the host can help you!

So do join us, don't be shy. It's on Tuesdays 8-9pm BST, and you can put Great British Bake Off on catch up, I did! 

*TCIC Twitter Chat Involuntary Childlessness. Catchy eh?