Guest Blog: Creating #IBDHour

Towards the end of last year I had to pleasure of being contacted by someone who had an idea, a thought and a passion…but needed to understand how to harness social to deliver it. Richard became a mentoring client of mine and over the course of 4 weeks we looked at goals, channels and approaches. What would be best to get him there; what could be dropped, parked or developed. One of the main things that came out of our initial meeting was the potential (and desire) for Richard to become a thought leader in the IBD / health sector. As a sufferer it was something he had begun blogging about and was actually directing some of his creative aspirations around spoken word poetry and performance.

A great way to position yourself as a thought leader in any sector is to take part in, and (better yet!) establish, twitter hours. By guiding Richard through etiquette of twitter hours, best practice, ideas and the tools that would help manage the content, his very first #IBDHour was a huge success and this month even see’s his first #IBDHour take over – hosted by a key influencer in the community. Go Richard!! Here’s how he did it:

“Hi, I’m Richard. I’m 35, a married father of 1 and I had to have my colon removed before it exploded. I’m one of the roughly 146,000 people in the UK with Ulcerative Colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

I was diagnosed in 2005, and had that first surgery just 4 months later. Since then I’ve had four more major surgeries and now have a permanent ileostomy (a type of stoma) and have to wear a bag to collect my waste.

There are lots of examples of IBD support groups and forums online, many of them on Facebook. However there wasn’t much on Twitter in the UK despite there being several active bloggers and patient advocates using the platform. And so, with Natalie’s help, I started #IBDHour.

What is #IBDHour?

#IBDHour is a monthly Twitter hour for people with inflammatory bowel disease – usually ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease. It runs on the third Thursday of the month at 8pm UK time, and started in September 2016. So far we have discussed diagnosis, where people access support, exercise and IBD, managing the festive party season and in January how to get the most from the NHS as a patient with a chronic condition. There have been steadily increasing numbers, and we get new participants every time. In February, we are having our first guest host, top IBD Blogger and influencer Thaila Skye 

Why a Twitter hour?

Having decided I wanted to move beyond my own blog and participation in other online activities to do with IBD, I thought about what I could add to what was already existing. There are plenty of existing Facebook groups and forums, and I also needed to do something that I could manage in the time available to me, so monthly was appealing. I also love Twitter – it is my favourite social media platform, and so the #IBDHour came into being. I then set up an account, and added some pages to my blog to give it a home. And for #IBDHour the point is to generate discussion, and create connections between patients.

How Does it Work?

I use Hootsuite to schedule tweets promoting the event in the run up – with a two week and one week countdown and theme reveal. I then do a three and two day reminder, and then several tweets on the day to build interest. I draft the Tweets and my own answers to the questions, and then use TweetDeck to follow the hashtag and RT all the responses. And a proper mouse plugged in to my laptop is a great help!

I’ve used Canva & WordSwag to generate graphics, and after each event I use Storify to record what happened – and then publish that link on my blog.

What have I learnt?

Since the first event I’ve been working to get the balance of questions and discussion time. I’ve found that a prompt start and finish is appreciated, and you need to keep a close eye on the mentions for late comers looking for questions (I don’t publish them in advance). Interacting with participants during and after is important too – thanking them for RT reminders for example. So although the event is only an hour a month, there is something to do each week.

It has been well received, and there is a small group of regular participants, as well as new tweeters each time – and a few lurkers.

What’s the point?

It’s hard to convey how isolating having a chronic condition can be, and anything that brings people together to support each other is a good thing. One of my favourite examples of the impact it had came from a lady called Stina, who had only recently had surgery, and she couldn’t imagine getting back to her old life. This tweet from her was a response to our ‘Exercise & IBD’ discussion:

@chicbeauty tweeting about IBD

Twitter Hours are quite easy to set up and run if you can manage the tools available to you which support them. You need to be consistent, pitch the frequency right for your audience and find the rhythm of the questions. It’s a frantic hour, but it can be a rewarding one!”

Richard Harris

http://gutlessdick.com

@doobarz – Twitter/ Instagram/ Snapchat

@IBDHour – Twitter

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