On May 18th, 2007 at 5:18pm I tweeted for the first time, saying “@Ruby… I vote teleporting.” I was at the 2007 Personal Democracy Forum, and if memory serves correctly, I was replying to a general question another attendee, Ruby Sinreich, was asking of other attendees. Twitter was a back-channel for conversation throughout the day’s activities, and I met many new colleagues and friends via this channel.
Now, 3 years later, I’m sending my 2,000th tweet… what have 2,000 tweets taught me?
1) Twitter is what you make of it.
After my first use of Twitter at PDF, I barely used again until NTEN‘s 2008 Non-Profit Technology Conference, where I again used it as a networking tool and conference back-channel. This use-at-tech-events and stop-back-home behavior is one I’ve seen repeated by others trying to figure out how Twitter fits in their lives. The takeaway? Twitter is what you make of it… some use it for personal “I’m doing this now” updates, others post poetry or haiku, for business or organizational marketing, and others for networking amongst like-minded individuals.
2) The question isn’t IF your org should tweet, but WHAT it should Tweet.
As twitter, and social media in general, have become mainstream, I believe that no non-profit should ignore these communication tools. The question to ask, however, is WHAT should you use it for:
- To communicate with volunteers?
- To drive constituents to take action on your cause?
- To update constituents on location-based services, such as a traveling library van?
- To answer questions about an issue or campaign?
- To introduce new individuals to your cause or mission?
The opportunities are endless, and still being discovered.
3) Quality Over Quantity
If you want 5,000 followers you simply need to download any number of Twitter list-building software on the market. They’ll follow others based on directories and keywords used in tweets, and eventually get your number of followers fairly high. However these aren’t necessarily people who really care about your organization, or are going to listen to your Tweets. So ask yourself, would you rather 5,000 followers of whom only 50 will read and act on your tweets? Or 500 followers of whom 250 will? Simply put: the quality of your relationship with followers is more important than the quantity.
4) I Hate Auto-DMs
I know, “hate” is such a strong word. Auto-DM’s are Direct Messages that are automatically sent to your followers, most often new followers, by 3rd party Twitter software. I find them to be impersonal, unrelated to the way I use twitter or the information I seek–and generally spam. It’s for this reason that 9 out of 10 auto-DMs I receive will result in me UN-following the person who sent it. Be careful that your relationship-building processes are not relationship-killing.
5) Social Media is About Relationships
If the last two points didn’t make it clear enough, Twitter–like most social networks–is about relationships. The users I find to be most successful with Twitter are those who develop relationships with followers and those they follow. This is done via RTs (re-tweeting another’s tweet), personal DMs (Direct Message) and using replies (@screenname and your message) to engage in conversations.
6) Lists Rule
I follow almost 2,000 people. I only follow people whose tweets I feel will be of interest, but even still, this is too many to truly read everything tweeted by. And this is one way in which Lists are helpful. Creating lists allows you to organize those you follow (and those you don’t, actually) by topics of interest. I have a “favorites” list that are those with whom I know best and communicate with the most, a “Client List” to keep up with those I work with and a Non-Profit list, to see how various non-profits are utilizing social media, among other topics. Lists can also be public, allowing others to view and follow, or private.
7) Twitter Directories
Usage of twitter directories is a great way to get started using Twitter by finding like-minded individuals whose topics will be of most interest to you–as well as allow you to add yourself to topics others should find you tweeting about. Some include WeFollow, Twellow, and JustTweetIt.
8 ) Hashtags for the Follow
Hashtags are keywords, or tags, you can assign your tweets using the hash symbol (#). Twitter links hashtags to allow for conversation viewing of topics, trends and other similar tweets. Some popular non-profit related hashtags include #nonprofit and #nptech (Nonprofit Technology), and many conferences utilize hashtags for conference and session related conversation, such as #bbcon (Blackbaud Conference for Nonprofits).
9) There’s An App For That
There are numerous applications to help you manage your Twitter network, and other social networks! TweetDeck has become my favorite, providing column views for easy management of my favorite users’ tweets, mentions, RTs, and topics–all while syncing columns between multiple computers, iPhone and iPad. Seesmic is another option.
Checkout Mashable’s 19 Twitter Apps Compared
10) Learning Never Stops
I’ve learned the things mentioned in this post over the last 2,000 tweets, and I’ll certainly learn plenty more over my next 2,000. Be sure you’re learning from others, by reading others blog posts, asking for feedback and opinions from your followers and don’t be afraid to try something new.
Photo by Daniel*1977