Everyone—including Richir Outreach—loves to talk about how important social media is to nonprofits and political organizations. You can build your base of supporters, spread the word about your mission or issue, even launch fundraising campaigns. That is all well and good, but if you do not know what you are doing, social media can be a huge time-waster. We've been working on our own Twitter best practices for organizations, here's a peek at what we've got:
Consider your target audience; is your key demographic likely to be active on Twitter?
If your answer is "No," that does not mean you should rule out Twitter immediately, aside from communicating with your supporters and raising money, Twitter is a powerful tool for the everyday activities of an organization. You can connect with other nonprofit or political professionals, get advice on just about everything, and learn how to make your organization the best it can be. By using your time and resources wisely, you can get everything you need out of Twitter without wasting any time.
Listen, Respond, Connect
Whether you are tabling an event or at a meeting, you know that the most effective use of your time is to engage someone in a conversation. Certainly you could monologue all day about your cause or issue, but it is much more effective when you can answer questions, ask questions, and listen to what your audience has to say. Twitter is no different. While occasional announcements and press-releases are perfectly suited to the 140 character minimum, the real goal is to strike up a conversation and get people involved. If someone "retweets" your tweet (that is, they re-post it), send them a thank you message and try to engage them in a dialogue. Follow people who follow you, who retweet you, who mention you in their tweets—especially if they are saying nice things!
In Twitterverse, Karma Rules
The feeling of having someone mention you on Twitter or retweet you is great, especially for an important cause or event. Likewise, be sure you are spreading the love. Do not just post your own content, but retweet relevant content from someone else, and give credit where it is due. You might even get a nice thank you message or a chance to exchange ideas.
We've already established that Twitter is not just about posting updates. You can post videos, images, invitations, websites, polls, and more. Tools like bit.ly allow you to track the number of clicks your links receive, while tools like twitpic and youtube allow followers to open your images and video in their Twitter page without having to leave their feed. New tools are appearing all the time, making it easy to share just about anything that is relevant to your organization in just a few characters.
Personalize Your Twitter
Spend a bit of time and click around on Twitter pages of organizations you like. Notice how some of them have custom backgrounds, a logo in their avatar, even downloadable badges for their followers. Use all of the space you are given in Twitter to get people involved and to make your brand visible. Put your logo in the avatar, make your Twitter handle (your Twitter "name") memorable and pertinent, and add opportunities to donate and get involved to your background and your biography.
If You Want It, Ask For It
It seems simple, but it is sometimes difficult to ask people to "Please RT" (ReTweet) or "sign up to receive our weekly newsletter" or even "help support our efforts by donating." But asking for these things is important. Just be sure to use your wishes wisely, so as not to burn out your supporters.
Keep Growing, Keep Going
You might be tempted to find some people to follow, then just wait for the internet to realize you have joined Twitter so they can flock to follow you. Unfortunately, this will probably not happen. Best to be proactive and follow lots of people, engage them, and reap the benefits of your good work. Once you have some followers, you will get suggestions on who to follow from Twitter, and you can always ask your followers for suggestions. The more you actively follow people, the more they will actively follow you. You are limited on how many people you can follow based on how many followers you have; tools like Do You Follow are useful, as they tell you which of your followers are not following you back and allow you to bulk unfollow. You might not want to unfollow everyone who isn't following you, but it is sometimes a useful thing to know.
Add buttons to your website to make your content easily shared on Twitter. Add a "follow me" button to your website and Facebook. Add a Twitter feed to your website to show your latest tweets. All of these things increase your visibility and allow you to reach more people with your tweets and your website. And that is really what technology is all about.
For large organizations, small organizations, and all of those in between, reserving time specifically for Twitter can sometimes be difficult and daunting. Richir Outreach can help; we know Twitter, and we know nonprofits. If you just need help getting started, we can get you set up and give you the information you need. If you do not want to worry about Twitter or social networking at all, Richir Outreach is happy to be your personal social media gurus. We can get all of your tools working together and maintain and update your social media presence. Whatever level of involvement you want with social media, Richir Outreach can help!
If you are a bit more experienced in Twitter, you might find these sites helpful: