It seems like a dozen different social-media sites start up
every day, so it can be a challenge to know where to put your online outreach efforts.
Twitter is one real-time networking platform that’s clearly floated to the
top of the social-media pool, however, and it's a great place for any nonprofit to dive in.
If you’ve been using Twitter for a while, you’re likely
already aware of its value in spreading a message and making
connections between people who have a shared interest — and of the many
creative Twitter mashups and applications that exist to extend the functions of the website service. We’ve also talked here before about the many ways in which businesses and nonprofit organizations find value in using the micro-blogging platform to extend their online reach.
If you’re new to Twitter, however, there’s one vitally important
thing to remember. The key to success — as with all social media — is
to be authentic and human; to engage in real conversation rather than
just “toot your own horn” to a passive audience. Self-absorption just
doesn’t pay off.
You see, Twitter is a totally voluntary communications
channel. If people don’t find you interesting or useful, they simply
won’t “follow” you and won’t even see the messages that you “tweet.”
You’ll be talking to an empty room.
So, how can you make sure that your nonprofit gets started right with Twitter?
Nonprofit consultant John Haydon has just released an excellent
Twitter guide that speaks directly to the needs and interests of small
nonprofits. As well as the basic mechanics of setting up an account,
customizing your profile, and finding supporters of your cause (or
potential supporters) with whom to connect, Twitter Jump Start - The Twitter Guide for Small Non-Profits
covers topics of special interest to nonprofits who hope to use Twitter
as part of their fundraising strategy.
The guide is a free download for
subscribers to CorporateDollar.org, a useful resource in itself for any small nonprofit with a presence on the web.
But let’s just back up for a second. What if you’re dealing with an executive team that hasn’t fully
embraced the value of social media? How can you make the case to your
board members that posting 140-character messages on Twitter is a
useful investment of staff or volunteer time?
Laura Fitton (Pistachio Consulting) has tackled the topic of Selling Social Media “Up” to Management.
She’s speaking to business, here, but the advice applies equally to
nonprofits. “Case studies are good, ” she says. “So is mainstream media
coverage. That’s validation they trust. But if you really want to
dangle a carrot…” you can use Twitter itself to demonstrate the value:
For example: Twitter search
your company’s brand, products, keywords and product class, and show
them in real time precisely what your customers want and how they are
interacting around your products and the entire product class.
And I’d add this suggestion — show them who else from your world is
active on Twitter. After all, it’s human nature to be inclined to
follow where some well-respected peer has already laid a trail. Have a
look at the topic-sorted TwitterPacks list of uses as a starting point, or JustTweetIt’s Nonprofits Directory of Twitter users in the nonprofit sector.
What tips or resources would you share with a small nonprofit organization that wants to get started using Twitter?