My Social Actions

Twitter Has Gone Mainstream. Should Your Nonprofit Jump on Board?

When Entertainment Tonight is on Twitter you know it has gone mainstream, but does that mean your organization should use this microblogging and social networking tool?

Below are 7 questions to ask yourself before setting up a Twitter account for your organization:

1. What organizational goal(s) do you hope to achieve by using Twitter?
No matter how bright and shiny they are, all social web tools are just that, tools to get you where you want to go. Before starting to use a new one, it is good to set some goals around how you want to use them. Twitter can be helpful for raising awareness about an issue, building community, communicating with a particular audience, drawing traffic to your website, getting quick, direct feedback from supporters and potential supporters, and some organizations have even raised money with it (See Twitter Users Raise Money for Charity: Water on the Charity Navigator Blog). What goals might having a Twitter feed help your organization achieve?

2. What audience are you trying to reach?

Are the advocates/donors/volunteers/clients you want to reach on Twitter? It never hurts to do a quick poll or survey of your present supporters to find out what social media tools they are already using. Why not ask them it they'd like to learn how to use Twitter? You could set up a quick, free webinar to teach them how to support your organization with their Twitter feeds. It would be an added value for them, and for your organization.

3. How much staff time can you put towards using Twitter to achieve your goal?
Social media is, well, social, and being social involves not only talking and "tweeting," but also listening. Who will the staff person or people be who will manage the organization's Twitter account? Their duties would include writing tweets, reading followers' tweets, retweeting, welcoming new followers, replying to followers' tweets, and tracking the impact of your Twitter feed.

4. Who will Tweet in your organization?
Organizational Twitter feeds can be great communication tools, but sometimes individuals' Twitter feeds can be even more powerful. Ask staff who already have Twitter accounts if they would be open to retweeting the organization's news on occasion. Twitter can also be a great tool for your Executive Director who is too busy to blog, but can shoot off quick tweets from their phone while on the road. Finally, you might want to have a staff Twitter policy to clarify what organizational news is ok to post on Twitter, and what isn't.

5. What are you going to write about?
What you write about will relate to the goal(s) you are trying to achieve. Whatever topics you choose, a good Twitter feed should first and foremost be authentic. Nothing is more boring than sanitized tweets. Ideally, the content should be a mix of organizational news, behind the scenes commentary, links to articles and resources that might interest your followers (these should not always link back to your site), replies to followers, and retweets of followers' posts, when appropriate.

6. How will you measure the impact of your Twitter feed?

Decide how often you want to track your Twitter feed's impact (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly). In her information-rich post, Nonprofits That Tweet: Roundup of lists, resources and examples, Beth Kanter shares a PowerPoint by Laura Lee Dooley, Why Twitter Matters. Some of the tools Dooley recommends for measuring impact are: http://xefer.com/twitter and Twitter Grader. You can also search for your organization's name, organization's Twitter name, and organization's site and blog URLs using Twitter Search to see when they are mentioned. Be sure to capture anecdotal evidence of your feed's impact as well, like if someone says, "I found out about you through a friend on Twitter."

7. Does it sound fun to you?
With a name like Twitter and a verb like "to tweet" you can't take using this tool to seriously. Think of it like going to virtual cocktail party each day. Should you hang out at a cocktail party all day long, probably not, but does it hurt to chat with old friends and make new ones each day, I doubt it. If you find yourself, or a staff person grumbling, "Aargh! Now I have to tweet," something is wrong. Twitter will work best for you if you enjoy it ( :

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Related Posts:
Get Started Right with Your Nonprofit on Twitter by Rebecca Leaman on Wild Apricot Blog.
15 Fascinating Ways to Track Twitter Trends by Ben Parr on Mashable.
Social Actions,Twitter and Questions by Allison Fine on A. Fine Blog.
HOW TO: Build Community on Twitter by Sarah Evans on Masable.
Twitter Best Practices by Robert Weiner on the TechSoup Blog.
14 tips for Twitter contests that build followers and brand visibility by Alexandra Samuel on Social Signal Blog

Britt Bravo also blogs for Have Fun * Do Good and BlogHer. She is a Communications Consultant for Social Actions.

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Tags: net2, nonprofit, nptech, twitter

Comment by Ivan Boothe on April 8, 2009 at 7:08pm
Among the things I love about your resource, Britt, is that it's first and last about the strategy, not the technology. I think techies like me are sometimes at fault for the nonprofit/activist focus on the shiny things ("We need to get on the Twitter!") when really, we should be talking about what sorts of objectives they CAN achieve on a given technology, and then help them strategize about whether they SHOULD be working toward those goals.

It's easy in social media and social networking to get caught up in metrics (number of friends, followers, retweets, etc.), partly because that's what people think you need in order to "sell" something to non-technical staffers. Instead, framing it around strategy -- here's how this technology will help us achieve our mission -- is not only more persuasive in the short-term, but it sets up the organization to use the technology strategically -- to understand why they're using it -- in the long-term.

Fantastic resource, and the links at the bottom point to even more wisdom. Thank you!
Comment by Britt Bravo on April 9, 2009 at 10:02am
Thanks, Ivan, and thanks for posting about it on Twitter yesterday to!

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