Tweet, Tweet: A Crash Course in Twitter for Nonprofits
Still wondering what this Twitter thing people keep talking about is and if/how your nonprofit can use it to connect with constituents?
In the Network for Good webinar "Twitter Fundraising: Holy Grail or Fail Whale?" in late April, presenter John Haydon, a social-media marketing coach and consultant and publisher of a free report for nonprofits called "Twitter Jump Start: The Twitter Guide for Small Nonprofits," shed some light on what Twitter is, mastering the four post types, the advantages of Twitter vs. e-mail and direct mail, and Twitter campaign-management basics.
Twitter isn't a silver bullet, Haydon said. You need to have the basics (Web site, donation processing, e-mail marketing) covered before spending a lot of time with it or any social media, for that matter. And Twitter might not be right for your audience.
If you’re going to delve into something like Twitter, Haydon said, it's important to be able to give an elevator pitch on it, so he schooled attendees in some Twitter basics.
"If the technology is clearly understood," Haydon said, "execution of your social-media strategy is more likely."
One of the simplest ways to explain Twitter is using this equation: IM + B = T, or instant messaging plus blogging equals Twitter. Twitter is like instant messaging in that messages are short (limited to 140 characters) and quick, and it's like blogs in that messages are archived, SEO friendly and everyone can see posts.
Haydon recommended individuals or organizations looking to sign up on Twitter go to Twitter.com, click on the "Watch a video!" button and watch the "Twitter in Plain English" video, sign up (enter your name, bio, e-mail, picture), and invite friends.
When you sign on for Twitter and start posting, people who are interested in what you're saying can opt to "follow" you, and you can do the same, following others whose posts are of interest to you.
Four post types
Haydon went over the pros and cons of the four types of Twitter posts:
1. Plain or "Web 1.0" posts
Pro: Clearly communicates that your post is intended for all followers. Inviting.
Con: Followers could perceive you as self-centered if the majority of your posts are all one-way (Web 1.0).
"Web 2.0 is basically a two-way path. It's where people are contributing content, giving each other feedback and having discussions online, back and forth, rather than just a big Web site and e-mail that's pushing out one way," Haydon said.
"So, a plain Web 1.0 post is where you just literally make a statement on Twitter. This is basically a one-way communication. It's a good way for people to come in and connect with your nonprofit," Haydon said. "But, ultimately, the content that you're leading people to has to be valuable."
2. Retweet or "good karma" posts
Pro: Creates good karma by forwarding valuable tweets (Twitter posts) to other Twitter users. There is the potential for articles to go viral and be seen by thousands of people.
"Let's say that I'm following Rebecca. Rebecca says, 'Hey, it's so hot right now, I'm sweating. I need some ice cream.' And then she has a link to the best ice cream in the world. What I do is I say, 'Wow, I bet a lot of people following me would be interested in that because they may also be hot as well.' Or at least they like ice cream. So, what I do is I literally just put an RT at the beginning of her tweet," Haydon said.
Putting RT (signifying "retweet") at the beginning is meant to encourage your followers to continue the good karma and retweet the post to their followers. Good, valuable content gets retweeted the most, Haydon added.
Con: "Can create a karmic drain if you do this a lot," he said. "Asking someone to repost something to their followers is asking them a big favor."
3. Reply or "social" posts
Pro: On Twitter, an "@" sign before a tweet signifies there's a dialogue going on. Having a lot of these kinds of posts tells followers you're social, connecting with others and being helpful.
Con: If most of your posts start with "@yourfriend," you could alienate other users.
4. Direct message or "e-mail" posts
Pro: Facilitates a private, more personal conversation between two users.
Con: No cons, in Haydon's opinion. "I'm a big believer in one-on-one communication," he said, adding that more than 70 percent of his posts are via direct message.
"At some point, you want to kind of get away from direct message and then go to a phone call, e-mail, those types of situations," Haydon advised. "So, you definitely don't want to maintain a 10-year relationship on Twitter. In fact, it's going to develop into something else."
Twitter vs. e-mail and direct mail
Twitter, e-mail and direct mail all should be used together, not in competition with one another, Haydon said. But he pointed out some of the different characteristics of each and what makes each good for different purposes.
Twitter: Basically free, aside from the staff you have to pay to maintain a Twitter presence. Highly viral in that it's an open network where everyone can see each other's conversations. A good way to organize a supporter base.
E-mail: Highly targeted (a benefit over Twitter). Behavior can be measured, e.g., how are people responding to the e-mail. Highly personalized.
"With Twitter, it's very open; pretty much everybody gets the same message," Haydon said. "So, you can't really personalize it as well, but these two [Twitter and e-mail] should work together."
For example, Twitter can be used to start talking about a particular event, some new study that you did, news about your nonprofit or even an issue that's in the media, and driving people to your Web site to sign up for your e-newsletter.
Direct mail: Highly targeted, like e-mail. Tried and true. Highly consumable.
"If somebody gets something in their mailbox, it's not like they're going to make copies of it and send it to all their neighbors," Haydon said. But nonprofits have been using direct mail for years, and vendors know exactly how to create success for nonprofits.
"It's a proven method, for sure. Twitter is in the very early stages of even proving anything. There have been tremendous success stories on Twitter, but I think a lot of people for the most part are really trying to get their head wrapped around what is the real business value," he added.
"Once you close your laptop, your iPhone or whatever, you don't see it; you're done. Direct mail, you can put it next to the bathroom, read it, have it on your couch, have it on your coffee table or have it at your bedside," Haydon added. "People kind of hang on to it a little bit more."
Twitter campaign-management basics
For organizations planning on spending time on Twitter, Haydon recommended staying aware of these points:
*Messaging vs. connecting: Twitter is a different animal. It isn't about creating a message that will then be pushed to potential supporters and consumed by them. As with most social media, it's more about a two-way conversation and being heard. Think of it as a community instead of a "target market." The word "messaging" assumes everybody is vanilla, Haydon added, and they're not.
*Giving vs. taking: Don't keep score. What works on Twitter is a philosophy of giving where your organization supports and educates other people.
"If you're on Twitter and all you're doing is seeing what people can do for you and having an entitlement attitude, that will get you nowhere for sure. And that's common in most social media," Haydon said.
*Connector vs. broadcaster: A broadcaster doesn't want to get to know its audience. It just wants its audience to absorb a message. The idea on Twitter is to connect with your audience on a human level.
If you're considering event-based tweeting, Haydon warned that the collateral damage of high output on Twitter could be:
- Your current Twitter relationships may be turned off by sudden broadcasting.
- Users who find you in a search may choose not to follow you if they see a high amount of broadcast posts.
- Any new connections won't get the attention they deserve.
*Your avatar: Logo or photo? Who do you party with, Haydon asked, logos or people? Use a personal photo on your profile; something that says, "I'm a person," because that's what people will connect with.
"People don't want to make friends with logos, people want to make friends with people," he said.
Make sure your avatar stands out and communicates who you are — whether personally or as an organization.
With TweetBeep, for example, an organization can receive notifications by e-mail if someone is talking about it on Twitter.
Once you find your advocates — people who are hardcore supporters of your issue — follow them and their followers.
Haydon also recommended organizations do hashtag-based events. A hashtag is a simple way of categorizing content on Twitter so users with similar interests can converse about that topic. They're created by prefixing a word with a hash symbol, for example "#fundraising."
He also pointed to the success of Ashton Kutcher's recent campaign to beat out CNN to be the first person to get one million followers on Twitter, which he won, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations combined from Kutcher, CNN and other celebs to the United Nations to fight the spread of malaria. For the campaign, Kutcher leveraged his celebrity status, challenged others, and created a doable and specific call to action with great success.
According to Haydon, the campaign worked for four reasons:
- Twitter's open network allows for viral content.
- Creative and passionate people came forward in support of the campaign.
- Actions were simple.
- There was a direct line of sight between the giver and receiver.
To learn about upcoming Network for Good webinars, visit www.fundraising123.org