The statistics of Twitter’s growth since 2006 are staggering, and Twitter has every right to brag about the numbers. Although research shows that most people use Twitter to follow, not to post, that statistic should be encouraging, not discouraging, nonprofits to sharpen their skills and beef up their presence on the social-media platform. Let us suggest a few things to help. Perhaps the first thing to appreciate if you are a neophyte to Twitter is that no one tweet is likely to break your reputation (Well, there are exceptions). Many folks are learning the medium, and the atmosphere is pretty cordial. In fact, the bigger danger might be playing things so safely that your voice simply gets lost among the millions of daily tweets.
That said, if you are new to the platform, feel free to lie low with the majority for a while. Search for groups, causes, and individuals related in any way to the work your nonprofit does and click the ‘Follow’ button. Listen to what others are saying, and how they say it. Maybe start by retweeting some of their tweets. Soon, consider adding comments or further encouragement. Often, the originator of the tweet will thank you publicly (see below), which might bring new followers to your site.
Though one’s incoming messages is usually called a ‘tweet stream,’ it can feel more like a tsunami. One way people sort through the Twitterverse is with hashtag terms (#terms). If you receive a tweet with one and click on it, you get a list of all the tweets that have used that term. Which means your tweets should include them as well. SocialBrite has drawn up a great list of ‘‘ to get you started. We have also suggested ways to be .
As your organization ups its use of Twitter, find one or two topics or links that you post every day. It could be a daily focus on a different project or a photo from the field taken by a volunteer. Be sure to include your organization’s website link too. Some consistency can also help make memorable your nonprofit’s stream in your followers’ minds. Just don’t copy the same words every day!
On that note, feel free to tweet often about the same subject or event.allow you to schedule tweets, which is a really handy way to send out various invitations to a fundraiser over a couple of weeks, for example. But again, do not send the exact same tweet every time.
As you grow with your retweets and with producing your own tweets (with hashtags and links and images and calls-to-action and…), be ready to be retweeted. As you were thanked, so should you thank. The tradition has become known as ‘‘ (#followfriday), and it has its own protocols of spreading Twitter goodwill.
And finally (if rather stereotypically), be yourself. Your other means of outreach should be tailored, polished, and in-depth. But Twitter gives you 140 characters, and the opportunity to be quick and personal (which is not meant as ‘sloppy’). Quick, in fact, encourages spontaneity. Sometimes a heart-felt reaction to a success or setback at your charity can create a great deal of goodwill among your followers. They might not respond to a tweet, but they’ll remember you and your organization when the well-crafted appeal comes.
We’ll offer more advice in the future, but don’t be afraid to hop out of the nest.