Secretary @ArneDuncan joins a lively Twitter chat

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is certainly no stranger to live Q&A sessions with his followers. It’s a popular way for politicians and officials to engage directly with Twitter users on the issues that matter to them.

This week, Secretary Duncan did something new. Instead of just asking for questions, he took part in a debate run by a group of education experts, igniting discussion on their home ground and receiving record-breaking personal mentions.

#edtechchat takes off
The group running the event hosts regular Q&A sessions on Twitter for education technology practitioners, using the same hashtag consistently so those interested can find the discussion. The latest session with @ArneDuncan added significant user participation and engagement in the debate, and exposed him to a new audience.

Cameron Brenchley (@chbrenchley), Director of Digital Strategy for the Department of Education, helped organize the event. “The #edtechchat was planned weeks in advance and we worked with the #edtechchat founders and our own Office of Educational Technology to develop the questions and plan the chat,” says Brenchley. “Going into the chat, the Secretary wanted to maintain the focus on connecting educators, rather than a Q&A session with the Secretary.”

@ArneDuncan asks the questions
Mr. Duncan took part in the debate by posing questions to the educators to learn what they thought — a variation from the Q&As he typically hosts on Twitter.

When questions came in to the Secretary, he responded directly:

Brenchley noted that, “The first thing we saw during the #edtechchat was how effective Twitter chats are in bringing educators together to share their successes and best practices.”

The result was that Duncan saw over 10% of his entire mentions over three months in one day — and #edtechchat benefited with record numbers of mentions too, according to analysis of Tweets via Topsy.

@ArneDuncan also gained 523 new followers, three times his daily average. And when the event was over, the debate wasn’t, as Duncan asked Twitter to keep it going.

By engaging on users’ home ground, the Secretary took the debate straight to them.

Have you seen other innovative uses of Twitter? Let us know at mediablog@twitter.com.