The #BCSM Twitter Chat

#BCSM— breast cancer social media  — is a vibrant, supportive community for women and men affected by breast cancer that has been created around a weekly chat that takes place every Monday evening for an hour beginning at 9 pm Eastern/8 pm Central and 6 pm Pacific on Twitter. #BCSM was the first cancer-related Twitter chat to be dedicated exclusively to breast cancer.

All anyone needs to participate in a #BCSM tweet chat is a twitter account . If you’ve never participated in a tweetchat before here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your #BCSM hour.

1)     Focus on the Chat Itself

Platforms like tweetchat.com,  tchat.io, tweetdeck or Hootsuite can help make participating in a chat much easier. These programs pull the BCSM tweets into one platform so all you’ll see is the conversation itself. Both tweetchat.com and tchat.io automatically add the #BCSM hashtag to each tweet — one less thing you have to think about. Tchat.io also provides you with the ability to turn off retweets, or RT’s, to lower the volume of tweets you’ll be reading.

The biggest mistake newcomers make is using the regular Twitter platform and forget to add the #BCSM hashtag. That’s like trying to have a phone conversation with the mute button on.  No one will hear you!

2) Lurk and Listen

Many #BCSM participants started by lurking, or reading the chat stream without ever identifying themselves or jumping into the conversation. It’s one way to see how the chat is organized, how people interact and who they are. That said we hope you will participate. #BCSM attracts survivors from across the treatment spectrum as well as breast surgeons, oncologists, researchers and other healthcare providers. On any given chat it’s not unusual to see physicians and patients

From the beginning we’ve strived to create a warm, supportive, yet professional  environment for breast-cancer issues to be discussed. Each individual’s perspective is respected and encouraged.  There are no “right” answers but a shared experience that can help another in the same situation.

3) Organized Chaos — Q1, Q2, Q3

Tweetchats can incredibly energizing. It’s not every day where you can connect with so many breast cancer survivors in one place, at one time. Each chat has a predetermined topic and evolves around one to three questions addressed to the group or to that evening’s guest — Q1, Q2, Q3, for question one, question two, etc. What helps enormously is when each person prefaces their answering tweet with the question number. This not only makes the chat easier to follow while it is taking place but also helps focus the resulting chat transcript. With a very well-attended chat 25 or more tweets in a row that aren’t anchored with the question number seem disjointed. Using the appropriate question number has the extra advantage keep the chat revolving around that evening’s topic.

4) Quantity or Quality?

There’s a tendency during chats for the volume of RT’s to increase as the evening’s topic takes hold.

Use the RT more sparingly in a tweet chat than you might in regular Twitter. Keep in mind that during a chat there can be up to 100 other people participating at the same time. When each person hits the RT button it’s like adding a few more cars to the end of the train. By the time you get to the end of the chat it takes longer for the train to clear the intersection. It’s easy to miss a lot of excellent content in the process.

Strive for quality, not quantity of tweets. The objective is not the greatest number of RT’s per tweet but how the collective experience is improved by your contribution. When you take the time to really listen to what others are saying before automatically RT’ing the overall quality of the chat improves for everyone.

What have you found helped you get the most out of the weekly #BCSM chats on Twitter?  We welcome your suggestions!