Getting Started with Twitter | npENGAGE

Getting Started with Twitter

By on Jan 13, 2010


Twitter for NonprofitsTwitter can be hard to understand when you first begin using the service. It was for me. Once you figure it out and the initial excitement wears off you end up asking you self “what am I getting out of telling people what I had for lunch”? It’s a common problem (or misunderstanding). I stopped using the service about a month or so after I signed up for an account because I figured it was a waste of time. Now I’m using it almost daily and I can’t tell you how many of my friends, family and colleges struggle with understanding why.

The trick is figuring out how to find something that’s valuable to you from within all the information that’s being shared by millions of people daily.

Simply posting “Going to lunch at Subway” isn’t valuable to anyone except your mother. Or maybe Subway.

Reading “tweets” about what people had for lunch isn’t valuable either, unless you have some sort of obsession with a celebrity (there’s a lot of them around on Twitter).

No one would use the service if this was the extent of the information being shared. There’s got to be more to it, right?

Five things you can do to immediately find a use for Twitter

  1. Follow me: (@franswaa) … you knew that was coming, right?
  2. Learn how to use Twitter Lists and follow the two below (just got to the page and look for the “follow list” button on the top left. These will then show up in your right column when you are logged in to (Twitter lists will be pulled in by Seesmic Desktop).
  3. Learn how to use Twitter search (look in the right column when you are logged into Here are some nonprofit Twitter search examples to get you started. Once you have a good search save it so you can come back to it easily (The save button is at the top right of your search results when searching on
  4. Install Seesmic desktop and Seesmic mobile. All your saved searches and Twitter lists will be pulled in so you can access this info from where ever you are in the world (as long as you have access to the interwebs).
  5. Start sharing interesting resources that you’re finding online. Make sure to use a URL shortening services like (You can integrate your account into Seesmic).
  6. Bonus: Spend 15 mins a day interacting with people.
    • Thank folks if you find something they shared useful (i.e. you click on a link they tweeted/shared)
    • ReTweet a Tweet that you found interesting to help spread the word

Check John Haydon’s Twitter Resources or the Twitter for beginners guide (.pdf) for even more info.

Twitter 101 for Nonprofits

You can also check out this set of slides for more insight into Twitter and what you can do with the services.

Twitter 101 For Nonprofits — View more presentations from frank barry.

How’s Twitter helping you and/or your nonprofit?


Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

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