A couple of years ago I was talking with an intelligent, interesting, down-to-earth marketing guy. (And no, that’s not an oxymoron). Although Mark’s got a career that you might expect would entail being smarmy or jumping on couches screaming words like “SEO!” and “market penetration!” he’s not like that at all. Even remotely.
So I got nervous when he started trying to convince me to join Twitter. I diverted and moved the conversation on. When Mark pressed, I finally told him I thought it was only for twits who talk about what they had for lunch. He said that, while there certainly was an element of that, not everyone on Twitter was like that. That there are a lot of influential people using Twitter in order to share important information – at immediate, lightning speed and that I would always have control over who I followed.
I’m a sucker for lightning speed information, and I trusted him not to lead me down a path that was a time-waster. So I gave it a try.
Fast-forward to today. I’m not a super power Twitter user by any means, but I do follow nearly a thousand interesting and informative people, nonprofits and companies. That may sound like a lot, but trust me, a thousand is actually manageable with good filtering. And people aren’t out there constantly tweeting all the time. (Well, most people aren’t, anyway).
And honestly, some of the best information that crosses my screen, whether it’s white papers, studies, or news about big gifts or innovative things that businesses or nonprofits are doing, comes from Twitter. Often I find that I get some news before other people have heard about it – because they aren’t where the breaking news is. Twitter gives me an edge because I find out about things that are being released by thought leaders as they happen. And I re-tweet the most valuable information that comes my way and use the information to inform my work.
Perhaps nicest of all is that I have met some of the smartest, most generous people on Twitter that I have gone on to meet in real life. And we can just pick up the conversation there as we do on Twitter.
So if you’ve ever considered signing up for Twitter, but decided not to bother, do give it a try. And no– it’s really never too late. Give it two weeks. If you’ve given it a real college try and you still think it’s not for you, just cancel the account. No harm, no foul.
To get you started
Mark Schaefer has written a short, very engaging guide to getting started on Twitter called The Tao of Twitter. The book has lots of case studies and examples for how you can get the most out of your Twitter experience.
If you’re looking for people to follow, try picking and choosing from these lists (or just follow the lists wholesale!)
Prospect researchers: my list
Fundraising experts/consultants: from Beth Ann Locke
Nonprofit folks: from Mary Cahalane
You can also look at the people on Twitter that you respect to see who they are following, and add those people.
As with most research resources, filtering is important because Twitter is a constant barrage of information. One easy way to keep track of things is to use a dashboard like Hootsuite.
Set up is pretty easy and Hootsuite has even compiled a handy Quick Start Guide. You can get a free Twitter or Hootsuite app for your smart phone so you can read your feed while you’re waiting in line at Costco. And if you want to post from your smartphone, you can even do it via text message if you’re a texter.
Making a hash(tag) of it
Another way to filter to find the best information is by using hashtags, which are just key words with the prefix ‘#’ attached to them, as in
So for example, when I post a tweet with information I think a prospect researcher will find useful, I will use the hashtag #prospectresearch to categorize that tweet. Someone later searching on that hashtag will find my tweet (whether they follow me on Twitter or not).
You can even use hashtags to join in on a live chat or follow what’s happening at a conference (such as #APRAprospect2013).
Are you a fundraiser or prospect researcher on Twitter? Which hashtags do you frequently use? Comment here, or send me a tweet! Let’s connect on Twitter!
Full disclosure: none of the companies or individuals mentioned above paid me to praise them. They’re just that awesome.