Twitter and NonProfits

September 24, 2008 at 11:41 am 5 comments

Put simply: Twitter is a microblogging network that allows you to make a post of 140 characters of text or less. While it asks you to answer “What are you doing?”, most use it for a variety of other mini-posts (some including links). Twitter has its own terminology: the quick posts are known as “tweets”, people are “twittering” when they post, someone is “following you” they are merely subscribing to your posts (no need to fear) and they become your “followers” (sounds cult-like, but it’s not…generally. For instance, you can’t get your followers to clean your apartment. Trust me, I’ve tried). Another interesting element is that Twitter can also be used via mobile devices.

The constant pulse can be a benefit to those who feel isolated – the distance that may exist in busy lives is virtually eradicated by the hyper-connectivity of Twitter. Like all good social media tools, Twitter is engaging, connecting – and can be a big time-suck (er, commitment, I mean). Twitter involves communication – but Twitter communication is brief and its life-span is short. That same immediacy that can be a drawback in some cases, is a great asset in others. Twitter’s immediacy has been highlighted in life-saving cases: a man posts a suicidal message, but realizes how much people care when they reach out to him and Twitter was credited with saving a man from Egyptian Justice. The site may even soon be used to find missing children.

So, how can you, as nonprofit, benefit from using Twitter?

  • Find out what people are talking about (Use Twitter Search or Twemes (if people are hashtagging (i.e. using a tag/keyword with a # in front of it, e.g. #LPV5)
  • Build your relationship with supporters and community
  • Post new information, blog posts (via Twitterfeed or manually to an engaging message with the link), press releases etc. “Several groups like GreenPeace, the Obama Campaign, NetSquared, MobileActive, etc use Twitter to call out press releases, links to new pages on their blog or website, and sometimes asks to donate” – mg131
  • Encourage Action/Tell Story. For instance – frustration with Government. Note: I worked for years in a field where government action was necessary – but slow in coming – this might be an experience your nonprofit is happening. Difficulties with getting a response (or satisfying) response from government can be aided (and exposed) by Twittering. You can show what is happening – like a public log. (E.g. Sept 12th- “Sent this letter [perhaps link to letter] to Premier, hopping for response soon.” Then, say, 2 weeks later – I’m an optimistic gal – you tweet again: “Response received from Premier, he has forwarded my letter to X”. Then, 2 weeks later: “No response yet from X”. And later, perhaps “Response received from X, he refuses to get involved”.) Perhaps there can be an action followup – for instance: “Please email him with your thoughts”.
  • Mobilize people to do things with urgency – donate, encourage signing of petition, Diggs etc. (See Social Media for Real World Social Change)
  • Find out information/Ask questions of your supporters (E.g. Advice, Recommendations, Contacts – “What’s a good site for X?”, Know a good consultant re: X?”, “Does anyone know someone at company X that I could contact?”)

What can your supporters do?

  • Re-tweet important tweets from your nonprofits & other supporters. This will get eyeballs from their network/followers.
  • Mention upcoming meetings
  • Submit and make popular stories on social news sites, like Digg. (E.g. They submit to Digg & encourage others to on Twitter to Digg as well.)
  • Post tweets summarizing important points (See #cdninst) and a conference (something a nonprofit could do at a related conference). If several people are twittering, you can get an good picture of the conference highlights.
  • Respond to advice and make suggestions of their own.
  • Point you to related information/posts/articles
  • Talk about issues/build community
  • Twitter is being used in countless other ways (see Twitter Collaboration Stories)

Examples of NonProfit Twitter Feeds

Highly Effective Twittering

Some Tips

  • Peek in before you dive in (sound advice for most social sites), so you can see how it works.
  • Wondering who to follow? – Check out the appropriately named: Who do I follow? Wiki
  • The Creation of Twitter Best Practices: Round 1 recommends that you BE INTERESTING & INVOLVED in the conversation, among other useful suggestions. Don’t use twitter as a bullhorn. It’s not a platform – it’s a communication tool.
  • Remember if you’re going to allow your Tweets to be public (the best way to get new people involved in your message) remember that you’re tweets are public. Anyone can see them and they will likely exist for awhile (potentially forever). So, don’t post anything you don’t want most knowing/sensitive information. (See Rob Cottingham brilliant cartoon.)
  • You need to participate in the conversation rather than
  • Hashtags can be very useful.

More Excellent Resources

My Related Posts

Nonprofits and Social Media – Getting Your Fans to Help You

Flickr and Nonprofits

YouTube and Nonprofits

Facebook, MySpace and Nonprofits

More NonProfit Social Media Ideas

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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