@BCSM Chat: Come to dinner

If you think of Twitter as a giant cocktail party then the #BCSM chat is a sit-down dinner where everyone attending has been affected by breast cancer. But it can be a noisy one. #BCSM in and of itself is an extraordinary community.

That is the fundamental difference between Twitter and the the weekly #BCCM tweetchat, or @BCSMChat. Twitter is not a community. You don’t sign up for a Twitter account and immediately feel the love. During your first few days on Twitter you’ll probably wonder what all the fuss is about. You build community over time through the online relationships you establish with people you choose to follow and who in turn, follow you back. With your Twitter account you can pass on good content, shamelessly promote your own, chat it up with cancer rock stars, display your best ever one-liners or participate in conversations about anything from the Oscar awards to gun violence in America or the real Kim Kardarshian. You can dip in, and out, on and off, step away and return at any point in time. You pass on content you want to share through the RT, or retweet. But once you start using the #BCSM hashtag it’s our hope that any isolation you may feel related to your breast cancer treatment lessens considerably. Our goal is to help educate, empower and support women and men affected by this disease.

Here’s how it works:

If you are new to twitter, the first thing to do is set up an account! Log into twitter.com, pick a username, set up a profile, and GO! Try to keep your twitter “handle” as short as possible. Each letter you use in your Twitter name subtracts from your word count. You only have 140 characters in a tweet. For example, should you opt for @IHaveBrandNewBreasts as your Twitter name, you’ve already used up 20 characters. You can start following the moderators of @BCSMChat (@jodyms, @stales, and @drattai). You can also follow news and breast cancer organizations, as well as bloggers that you may know. Many hospitals and academic centers as well as breast cancer organizations have twitter accounts.

When you first get started, don’t be afraid to just snoop, or “lurk” around. We’ve all done this. See what people are talking about, and don’t be afraid to join in the conversation. Some use Twitter simply to take the pulse of what is happening – you can be as shy or outgoing as you like. Once you start following some people or organizations, you will have a “tweet stream”.

This includes the tweets of everyone that you are following. Some basic terminology and abbreviations:

ReTweet – RT: WIth the retweet you pass on articles, links or tweets you want to share with others. It’s a nod to the person who wrote that tweet but doesn’t necessarily mean that you endorse or support the material.

Hashtag or #: Hashtags create order on Twitter. They stand for a certain topic that individuals add to their tweets in order to participate in a certain conversation. Adding hashtag into your search feature is like changing a radio station. You’re immediately in a forum were everyone is discussing breast cancer for example, #BCSM, or #TheBachelor, which is also on Monday evening.

Modified Tweet – MT: In a modified tweet you alter or abbreviate the tweet’s original content so you can either fit the 140-character restriction or add your own comment to the material.

The #BCSM hashtag stands for breast cancer socialmedia. If you plug #BCSM into Twitter’s search feature then anyone who is talking about breast cancer at that moment sees your material even if they are not following you.  On the #bcsm stream people are sharing blogs and articles, chatting, and yes, some are even spam!

Making the most of The @BCSMChat 

The @BCSMChat is an hour-long conversation every Monday night beginning at 9 pm ET, 8 pm Central, 6 pm Pacific. Women and men from Singapore to Switzerland, Boston to Los Angeles tune in and talk about issues associated with breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and culture. For starters:

1) Lurk, listen and learn 

If you’re new to twitter in general and the @BCSMChat in particular try “lurking” on a few chats until you’ll feel comfortable. Some say the first few chats are somewhat confusing. It may seem like too many people are talking at once. Let’s just say #BCSM isn’t a shy, retiring crowd. Once you follow a few chats you’ll see women who attend regularly. Follow them on Twitter and tell them you’re new to the chat. You’ll quickly find a new friend. Also check out the archives to see some of the topics discussed.

2) Focus There are three of us co-moderating for a reason. We like to welcome each participant, especially new people. We also strive to keep the conversation on track, answer questions that come up during the conversation and move each evening’s theme forward in a positive way. We recommend that you use either Tweetchat.com (some prefer Hootsuite or Tweetdeck) for organizing your Tweets during the chat. Go to tchat.io ,sign in with your twitter account, then add BCSM in the search feature at the top of the page.

The conversation and tools you need to retweet (RT), adjust the type size, or reply to a particular person are all contained in one place. Try it out before the middle of a chat so you can see how it works.

A nice feature of tchat.io is the #bcsm hastag automatically gets added to each tweet. Remember, if you jump on a chat using regular Twitter and do NOT add the #BCSM hashtag to each tweet your comments won’t be seen by the community during the chat. If you get lost during a chat, just sit back and focus on the tweets coming from @BCSMChat, @jodyms, @stales or @drattai. They will be retweeting important information and it’s sometimes easier to key in on just a few participants to start.

3) Format 

We have two types of chats. On community chats we talk as a group about a particular topic. But we also continue to experiment with bringing on invited guests, which stretches the twitter format yet offers all of us the opportunity to hear from incredible physicians, advocates, and health care professionals about their work as it relates to the patient with breast cancer. Widening the scope of the standard tweetchat is one of the features that makes the @BCSMChat unique. But the format for both is the same:

* 5 – 10 minutes: Introduction and warm-up. Everyone is asked to introduce themselves with a brief description. Usually the moderators provide background material about the topic and greet those attending.

* 11 Minutes: Discussion begins. with the first question, either to the guest or the group. Questions are labeled Q1, Q2, Q3 for both guests and community. It helps enormously when you reply using the question number.

* 45 Minutes: During high-volume chats the time is called so everyone has a chance to organize their thoughts.

*50 – 59 Summary comments, parting thoughts and thanks

*60 Minutes Chat ends. <<<GroupHug>>>>>>>

*65 Minutes Transcript posted.

4) Protocol

If the @bcsmchat is like a sit-down dinner, consider the following as part of the table manners:

  • As the number of participants grow it’s important to try to keep your individual retweets (RT) volume down. That way more people can participate. We’ve actually had chats where the volume increased to the degree that tweetchat.com functioning slowed.  This is difficult for everyone.
  • Keep in mind that listening is as important as tweeting. You’ll see that leaders within the community rarely are promoting their own material; rather, it’s an opportunity for group conversation and peer-to-peer support.
  • If you’re late to the chat, and there’s a guest, by all means let us know you’ve arrived but try not to distract the overall flow of the conversation.
  • A tweet chat is organic; it ebbs and flows, like regular conversations. However, keep in mind that butting in, or having your own side conversations and not appearing to listen to a guest or each other is considered rude.
  • If you are seen as promoting your own project, that is considered “spamming the chat” and you WILL be called out for it! We try to keep the chats as focused as possible. We ask that any promotional items be tweeted either before or after the actual chat.
  • If the volume is too high and you’re finding the chat confusing, return to regular Twitter and follow the stream of one of the moderators or anyone in the chat that you know. That way the volume will diminish and it will be easier for you to follow the thread of the conversation from one angle.
  • The @BCSMCommunity is an eclectic, often electric, group. Our participants our passionate about advocacy, cancer, helping support and educate each other. Everyone comes to the table with a different experience, vantage point or outlook but all share the desire to learn, share and help guide each other through one of life’s most difficult experiences.We’re thrilled to have you participate and equally committed to learning from all of you.

You’ll honor us with your suggestions and ideas for making the @BCSMChat even better. Let us hear from you!