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One year of #cfbloggers (and tips for hosting your own Twitter chat)

cfbloggers cruelty free twitter chat

I can't remember the exact date of very first #cfbloggers chat. But I remember chatting about it in February with Tilly and Charlotte, and we were going for a spring launch date (I looked back through my archives and it was the 20th of February, so not March). And this being #BeCrueltyFree week seems like the perfect time to chat about the past year and churn out some advice for anyone wishing to set up their own Twitter chat. 

The idea of hosting a Twitter chat had been in me for a while but the usual reasons held me back: time, would anyone take part, someone could do it better etc. But then I got chatting to Tilly and Charlotte and we decided to go at it as a three. It has grown a lot since then and I'm also the only original mod left, and I now run it with Louise and Lizzie. So lot's of twist and turns.

But I am really proud of how far the chat has come. I said in my 2014 wrap-up post, 2014 was a game-changing year for cruelty-free blogging. It's been so exciting to watch it become a niché within it's own right which is separate from beauty blogging. And along with some of the lovely people who are part of this community and the fantastic people I've met through the chat (some of who I have now met in real-life!). 

Whilst it's been busy, I'm glad I started the chat up. Twitter chats are already established as a great way to promote your blog and get involved in the blogging community. However hosting a Twitter chat has grown my blog's readership more than just taking part in Twitter chats has. So if you really enjoy a good old natter on Twitter then maybe hosting a Twitter chat is for you. Here's some of my tips. 

Be committed
First off, understand that hosting a Twitter chat takes commitment. Not raising a child or obtaining a degree commitment but you have to dedicate time to it and understand it won't magically take off. For example, I keep my Thursdays clear the best I can (no late night shopping for me!) as taking part isn't exactly optional for me...

Once I was going to a gig on a Thursday and I knew I had to host from my phone. Unfortunately the venue didn't get much signal so I had to go outside and host it from my phone (in December). 

Even in full hind-sight I'm glad I didn't start this myself, as running a chat is a lot of work. There's usually three mods but sometimes there's been two as some mods have moved on to do other things. Between us we split the work - someone organises who guest hosts, someone looks after the Facebook page, someone looks after the account on the night etc. 

It also helps when a moderator decides to move on. I'm still enjoying hosting the chat but I know the day will come when I choose to focus on other things and I want to know it will be left in good hands. 

Check out the other chats
It can sometimes feel as though there are hundreds of chats, and I sometimes log-on to Twitter in the evenings and find my timeline full of tweets relating to four different chats at the same time. When we started one of my worries that we were adding yet another chat to an already saturated Twitter timetable. However no chat closely resembled ours - and to my knowledge there still isn't - so it was something that was different. But with all the chats going on make sure you're idea isn't already taken (and ask about to see if there's a demand for it). 

Announce it ahead of time
We gave ourselves about three weeks of promotion before starting. This gave us enough time to promote, enough time to brainstorm topic ideas, enough time to set all technical aspects up, enough time to get the idea. It was also enough time to gage whether there was the demand for this kind of chat.

Get a Twitter client
I use Tweetdeck, and I have columns set up for notifications to my personal account and the #cfbloggers account, a column for all tweets with the tag #cfbloggers, a column for all tweets with the misspelled #cfblogger, a column to show all tweets tagged #crueltyfree, and one for messages from both my accounts (plus others for personal use). 

Keep track of what works, and act on it
When you have a great idea, it's really easy to become stubborn and ignore the signs its not working. The chat has evolved differently to how I originally envisioned it but we had to go with what was working. We were never planning to make it 100% guest-hosted  - we only did guest slots to give ourselves a breather, however these chats had a higher rate of participation and now the mods have only hosted once since the start of the year (from their personal account). 

It's community driven, not moderator driven
Similar to above. But it's important to remember that blogging has a strong community aspect and you should bare it in mind when building a chat or a blog. When we began to let go and hand more power back to the community (such as allowing guest slots) the engagement increased. 

Rome wasn't built in a day
At the start there would be chats where no one would show up. I once continued asking questions from the CF Twitter account and answering them from my personal Twitter, so essentially was having a conversation with myself (yeah). I felt stupid but people eventually began joining in and that chat went on until 11pm! Thankfully we haven't had an empty chat in some time now but be prepared in the beginning that it will happen. As with all projects be patient and persevere. 

It's been a lot of work and sometimes I've had a few tantrums but it's been heartwarming to watch it grow and it always feels wonderful when we have particularly good natter on a Thursday evening. And thank you to everyone who takes part, even if it's only now and then and also thank you to the people who had supported it (included IRL friends who has understood that Thursday nights are out for me). 100% love. 
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