Twitter is one of the fastest growing social networks on the web right now. In fact, it is believed that in Australia alone, an average of 5,000 updates get posted per minute on Twitter, according to a study conducted in 2011. It is one of the most visited social networking sites at the moment, with about 1.8 million unique views in Australia within a month (see social media use in Australia infographic).
If you or your nonprofit organisation do/es not have a presence on Twitter yet, here are some tips and guidelines on how to get started and how to make the most out of this popular social media platform for your cause.
Why use Twitter for your nonprofit or charity organisation?
- Twitter is a great "listening tool", where you can follow a number of organisations and individuals who can point you to useful news and resources. Twitter can be a good way to find the latest information and news that are happening worldwide and within your spheres of interest.
- Twitter is a fantastic way to get engaged with your organisation's stakeholders. Being one of the most popular social networking sites on the web, there's a huge chance of connecting with your target audience in this platform. It's an effective way to build your community.
- Twitter is a quick, efficient way to share news and information that are happening in real time. That's why it's very useful for events, conferences, and other time-sensitive resources.
- Twitter enables your stakeholders to support you. If you have staff members, board advisors, volunteers, community champions, donors, and other supporters who follow you and you follow back on this platform, they know that they are able to help you and your organisation through this medium by engaging with you, sharing or reposting your content to their networks, and/or promoting your work (eg, fundraising, hiring, volunteer recruitment, etc).
Getting started with Twitter
- Go to twitter.com and sign up for an account. This is a simple process where you provide your name (or your organisation's name), email address, and selected password for your account on the sign-up page. When prompted to choose a user name, do remember to choose a username that would be a good reflection on your personal or organisation's brand. This is something that will stay with you for some time. Avoid long and confusing usernames.
- Once you're all signed up, go to your "Settings" section and update your profile. Make sure you upload an avatar or photo so that people can identify you in your account. Do this before anything else as people tend to be suspicious of people and accounts that simply use the standard avatar or photo. A more personalised photo that reflects who you are or what your organisation is about would be great. If you're using your organisation's logo, make sure it is easily viewed using the square format.
- Update other important information in your profile. Make sure you have a clear name in your profile. Also, try to use a real location instead of a made-up one like ("Everywhere" or "On the web"). A lot of people use location as a search term so it's an important part of your profile. For example, if you're targeting people in Australia, putting your location as Australia would help others who wish to connect with locals. You can make it even more localised by adding your state or city. If you have a website or other web presence, you can add a URL to your Twitter account's profile so people can find out more about you or your organisation. And finally, take time to fill out that box that asks for your bio. Just a short information about you or your organisation can make a big difference in attracting the right kind of followers and contacts.
So, now you've got a Twitter account. What's next?
- Start following and connecting with others on Twitter. In order to make the most out of Twitter, you need to have a community. And, the best way to let other people know that you're on that platform is to start following others who are already in that network. If you're not sure yet who to follow, start by visiting lists and directories. For example, we have a list of Australian Nonprofits on Twitter where you can connect with other nonprofits based in Australia. Other than other nonprofits, who else should you follow? Find out if any of your stakeholders are on Twitter - staff members, board members, donors, volunteers, and other supporters - and then follow them.
- Once you start following people and getting followed back, start the conversations. Say hello to those you just followed and let them know you're new on Twitter. Thank those who just followed you. To start these conversations, all you need to do is to click on the "Reply" link if someone sent you a message. Or, you can post an update with @TwitterUsername (change TwitterUsername to the right username of the person/organisation that you might be talking to) with your message. For example: @DonorTec Thank you for your follow! Looking forward to chatting with you.
- Check your @ replies or mentions. There's a tab that says "Replies" and those are messages that are sent to you. So, make sure you check it regularly and respond to those who talk to you.
- Remember to check your direct messages too. These messages are found in a private area of your Twitter account under "messages". Here, you can send and receive messages that are away from the public eyes. If someone asks you to DM them, it means to send them a private message.
- Share useful information about your organisation and/or your cause. But, please proceed with caution! Make sure you don't flood your Twitter stream with just information about yourself, as people tend to be wary of accounts that just talk about themselves. Make sure you balance out your posts (also known as 'Tweets') with @TwitterUsername replies and other ways of engaging.
Now you're Tweeting! Anything else you need to know?
- Become familiar with Twitter talk or terminology. You can check out Twitter's very own glossary of terms. Learn more about hashtags (#), Trending Topics, and other useful (and not-so-relevant) words that you would likely encounter while using Twitter.
- Get to know some useful Twitter tools. There are a number of tools that may prove to be handy for making your life on Twitter easier - from helping you track the people you follow and making updates easier to understanding your Twitter statistics better and improving your Twitter activities. Spend some time getting to know the best tools so that Tweeting becomes more integrated in to your work flow and regular web use.
- Make sure you promote your Twitter account! Add your Twitter URL to your website, email signatures, business cards, and other marketing collateral like flyers and brochures. The key is to integrate your Twitter use in your organisation's regular communications strategy.
Want to learn more about Twitter?
- The Twitter Guide Book - A comprehensive guide on the use of Twitter by Mashable, from the very basic tips to using Twitter more heavily.
- Twitter Primer - This is Beth Kanter's wiki page on the use of Twitter for nonprofits. It collates some useful introductory information about this platform, including a pointer to tips on "When is Twitter not right for your organisation".
Let's talk Twitter a bit more!
- Have a Twitter question? Ask away! - Share your questions about the use of Twitter for nonprofits and charity organisations in our Discussions section.
- Share a Twitter tip! - No questions but you have some special nuggets to share that can help other nonprofits and charities to use Twitter better? Then, please pass your wisdom along!
- Join the #npau TweetChat! - Every fortnight, nonprofits and charity organisations on Twitter in Australia (and the rest of the world) are invited to join a live chat that talks about a number of issues that deal with the sector. Currently, #npau TweetChats happen on a Wednesday, 3:30pm AEST.
There's always plenty to learn about making the most out of Twitter for personal and professional use. So, it's useful to follow blogs and Twitter accounts that share such information. Here at Connecting Up, we often share the latest and most useful resources and tips on the use of social media especially for nonprofits and charities on our blog and Twitter account (@ConnectingUp), so we hope that you will consider following us and/or subscribing to our free newsletter.