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Who gives a tweet? A not-for-profit’s guide to using Twitter

3 min read

Understanding the ins and outs of Twitter, or ‘the twittersphere’ as it’s also known, can be mind-boggling. If it isn’t difficult enough getting your head around what hashtags are and who to follow, you also have the more daunting task of working out what to tweet and how to phrase it.

Twitter is often described as ‘the SMS of the Internet’ and sending a tweet on behalf of your not-for-profit (NFP) out to over 300 million Twitter users can be daunting. Your tweets need to resonate with your followers, attract new followers (to hopefully convert to members) and avoid anything that might cause people to unfollow you or think poorly of your organisation. In other words, knowing how to use the 140 characters of a tweet involves more than just correct punctuation and grammar.

Twitter is a common choice for NFPs embracing social networking and online marketing. However using Twitter and using it effectively are very different. Here are things that every NFP should know to be an effective Twitter user.

Tweets followers like

New research, titled Who Gives a Tweet: Evaluating Microblog Content Value, conducted on 43,000 responses to tweets found that tweets that offer useful information are most valued. For example, an effective tweet for an association could be a policy update or a recent development on an issue relevant to its members. Industry associations tweets should cover industry news and information that will be useful to its followers.

The research found that ‘informative’ was the most common value of a tweet that people liked.

Focus on your niche

Twitter is increasingly being used as a real-time news feed that users can customise according to their interests. The people who follow you on Twitter are interested in your NFP because they are interested in the industry or case you represent. They expect you to deliver timely updates in relation to this niche, and this is what you must deliver.

Avoid personal information

Although you may have control over your NFP Twitter account it doesn’t give you free rein to tweet whatever you like. Remember that you are representing your NFP, and perhaps even an industry and its workers. No matter how delicious your lunch is or what a great day you’re having keep it to yourself. Not only is it unprofessional to tweet about your personal life but Twitter users rank it number one for the most annoying content.

Have personality

People want to be educated but they also want to be entertained. Tweets that are light hearted and fun, in addition to being informative, have been shown to elicit the best responses. One way to do this is by adding an opinion or extra fact before retweeting or tweeting about something that others have already covered. ‘Boring’ tweets are the main disappointment of 35,000 Twitter users, so don’t let your NFP fall into this statistic.

Don’t be afraid to be self-promotional

Twitter users have a similar reaction to tweets that contain useful information, regardless of whether or not the tweet was self-promotional. Therefore a healthy mix of informative and promotional tweets is in your NFP’s interest.

Keep it short

Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters, but followers still appreciate conciseness. The shorter your tweet the more likely it will be read.

Don’t overuse Twitter lingo

Too many #hashtags, @mentions and abbreviations makes tweets hard to read, so make sure the ones you do use are carefully selected and serve a purpose.

Please explain

Never tweet a website or image without providing an explanation about what it is or giving followers a reason to click on it.

Be objective

If there is a new regulation that your NFP doesn’t approve of be careful how to phrase it. Research shows complaints are disliked and seen as whiney by Twitter users. Achieving the perfect tone in 140 characters can be a challenge, however ‘Fears new policy will….’ or ‘Controversial new industry laws may…’ is a tactful and professional way of communicating your concerns. Remember, your NFP may attract many different professionals and individuals who may not feel the same way as you, and you don’t want to turn away potential members or donors.

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