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10 Tips for NGOs on Twitter


Last year you couldn’t get on the bus without overhearing someone talking about Facebook. This year it’s Twitter’s turn to be centre of attention and not without good reason. Twitter is all about connecting with people and like any conversation you have those that dominate it, others that join in and many that just listen and grunt approval occasionally. The problem is, for a lot of people, it’s a bit like turning up to a party and not knowing anyone; you feel self-conscious and don’t know what to say.

So I’ve put together this little introductory guide to help you get into the Twitter mindset so you can, at least, give it a spin and see if it works for you and your organisation.

Later on we’ll be following this up with more detailed and specific guides to monitoring, engaging, utilising the data from Twitter but those are all for another set of posts.

Twitter takes time, but Twitter gains value over time. Using Twitter is a bit like being in love: no-one can tell you how to use it, you just have to find out for yourself. It would be wrong for me to suggest rules and you don’t have to abide by these recommendations, they are presented purely as a good kick-off to get you into the flow. From then on, just have fun.

1: Monitor discussions and relevant issues

Once you’ve signed up, Start out by doing a search. There’s tons of services for searching Twitter users and messages and these are just a few.

2: Identify and follow the most influential and interesting Twitter users in your sector.

Follow them and, while you’re at it, look up your friends and colleagues. You’ll probably be surprised who is on there.

3: Add a bio, a link, upload a pic and customise your page

You can’t expect people to follow you unless you tell them who you are and what you are talking about. There’s just enough room for a short description in your Twitter Bio so use it; explain what you’re doing or, if you’re representing an organisation or campaign, use it to describe your activities. You can also put some more text onto the background image if you really need the space or want to brand it.

Add a link to somewhere useful too.

4: Create a voice for your organisation that is relevant.

Perhaps you want to inspire debate by asking pertinent, open-ended questions or maybe you want to inform about issues. It’s up to you which tone of voice you use but avoid going into rants or being rude. A rough rule of thumb is: If you wouldn’t say it to your other-half’s mum, don’t say it on Twitter.

5: Be patient.

There are techniques to build loads of followers quickly but you really want quality not quantity. Having 50,000 people who aren’t listening to you is not as valuable as 100 advocates who will evangelise your cause.

Post often with relevant and interesting messages, respond and engage with friends/folowers and you’ll grow a stronger following.

6: Engage with your audience

If you post interesting stuff, people will want to talk to you about it. Twitter is two-way communication so don’t be surprised when people want to talk to you or ask questions. If you have a large following you won’t be able to keep up, but that’s OK as long as you explain that occasionally, especially when you notice the 100 messages you haven’t responded to.

7: Look in the Mirror

It’s not a pleasant experience but, every once in a while, check your profile page. There you can see all the tweets you’ve posted and can get an idea of just how funny, interesting or informative you have been. You may be surprised but you can assess, adjust and improve accordingly.

8: Get an App

The easier you make it for yourself, the more likely you will post messages more often. There are tons of tools for Twitter which mean you don;t have to to the website everytime. TweetDeck is one of the most popular desktop tools and there are apps for iPhone and Blackberry amongst others.

9: Don’t just repeat the same information

As a charity / NGO, the chances are that your followers are actually interested in what you have to say. They really want to hear from you, especially if they’re a donor.

It’s quite common for people to post the latest blog article or retweet (forward) an interesting titbit and there’s nothing wrong with that but if that’s ALL you’re doing, then you’re not adding any value to your followers and they’ll stop paying attention.

10. Checkout HashTags

You’ll often see words like #PRfail #uksun #earthday #apprentice

They are known as hashTags and you include one in your tweet to make it easier for others to follow that topic (try searching for one of the above hashTags on Twitter). They’re also used for fun and games and all kinds of stuff so look around and you’ll soon pick it up.

And Finally, Don’t obsess

A few years ago it was MySpace, then Facebook, now it’s Twitter. Next week it might be something else so if it doesn’t work out for you, don’t worry. There’ll be something else along shortly.

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