What could be easier than writing a message in a mere 140 characters? Something grabs your attention, you copy the link, say something pretty relevant about the story/image/file linked, and hit ‘Tweet’. If you’re an occasional dabbler, such a process can be fine and you might indeed occasionally strike a chord with followers who respond or retweet. But for a nonprofit or small business, the odd hit won’t cut it and you should be having higher expectations. Twitter is about outreach, conversation, and engagement. Your organization should be striving to expand on all three counts. And suddenly, tapping out some 140 characters seems a bit more challenging. What can you do to make a bigger splash in the tweetstream?
At a broader ‘theoretical’ level, find a couple of topics or themes that your organization wants to concentrate on when it tweets. If you have connected your nonprofit’s blog and Facebook pages to your Twitter account, you might already have something of a theme going. And there’s nothing wrong with periodically throwing out some wildcards on topics at least somewhat related to your mission − especially if those topics pertain to peer groups or communities who might do the same for you. You could generate some much-desired conversational synergy that way. But if you tweet all things to all people, your audience might find ample reason to ignore your messages. Let’s face it: most of us follow many dozens of people/sources, and few of us have organized those sources into. What better way to sort out the deluge than ignoring the twitterer trying to be a jack-of-all-trades (and master of none)?
But practical considerations to engage followers exist as well. Dave Copeland recently offered a three-ingredient recipe to bake into each tweet:
- One @ mention: Mentioning at least one Twitter user in each tweet insures that at least someone will read it and, hopefully, share it with their followers.
- One hash tag: Hash tags make your tweets more searchable, which increases the chances they’ll be found by someone not currently following you.
- One link: Links are love. Whether its an embedded photo or video, or the url of the article you’re sharing, a link is a way to give your followers something useful.
Sure, those links will sometimes be to your own content − and they should be! But don’t allow your tweetstream to devolve into a silo of self-promotion. Link to peers and to stories related to your enterprise. Andwithin your messages can help keep you under the 140-character limit and still make your materials searchable.
And even though you have 140 characters, you don’t have to use them all. Indeed, you shouldn’t use them all. If you want to inspire a conversation, you need to leave room for respondents. Jill Duffy encourages us all to keep messages closer to 100 characters so that when someone retweets your fine idea, that person has room to comment.
Finally, Friday has become the widely-recognized day of retweeting, so take some time that afternoon to look tweets you want to retweet, and to thank those who have retweeted your materials. A little thanks goes a long way on a platform that can seem a bit impersonal until you invest some thought into what your organization is saying.