You may be a relatively new immigrant to the nonprofit section of the Twitter’hood. Maybe a reluctant one? A colt trying to figure out your leg-support system?
One of the things I love about getting to know another country is learning to navigate the social behaviors of a foreign culture. You make some mistakes, there is a lot of smiling and head-nodding (perhaps some eye-rolling from the natives), but eventually you get the hang of communicating. And if you’re there long enough, you start noticing the underlying social niceties and who is using them well.
The culture of Twitter is a lot like that, especially for nonprofits. There’s some gangly-leggedness and braying going on out there (tweets like: “HELP US! We’ve got 15 minutes to raise $15,000!”) but there are native speakers, too. Stay with me and you’ll see what I mean.
Social media experts like Beth Kanter and Allison Fine write truly helpful blogs and books on creating social media plans for your nonprofit that I consider must-reads. But if you’re just sliding your legs under the table and figuring out which fork to use, I thought I’d share a few observations on customs I’ve noticed to help keep you from making a Twitter faux pas.
Don’t Be Singular – Get Engaged
You’ve entered Twitterland to communicate with potential and current stakeholders. So engage with them! Make a point to “follow” your board, your top donors, prospects, allies and anyone else you want to notice you. Many people are glad to “follow” back, so if you suspect that some of your annual fund letters may be decomposing alongside the used coffee grounds, this is a great way to directly connect with people you want to get to know better, and vice versa.
Being truly engaged is an art, but it’s not rocket science. Look at this tweet from Computer Aid in London…
They’ve engaged your imagination: Can’t you just see Rob-the-Driver tooling around the streets of Oxford in the Computer Aid van? They are connecting with and mentioning their donor: adding Oxford University’s Twitter handle (@UniofOxford) helps people follow Oxford now, too. Most importantly, they’ve created a way for other potential donors in and around Oxford to take an immediate action. Click here. Contact us now. Donate. Brilliance in 140 characters.
Re-tweet and Thank
Did a follower just re-tweet something you sent out? Say thank you. Now.
The culture in the Nonprofit Twitterhood isn’t just talking about your .org, it’s also helping others spread their word and giving props to people who help you out. It’s hard to find different ways to thank people sincerely and succinctly, but the folks at the Foundation Center seem to have that nut cracked.
In addition to being a leading resource for grant-seekers, the Foundation Center’s tweeters are creative and generous.
You can use Twitter to engage and cultivate donors, too. Did a board member add a grandchild to her family? Did an alumnus win a prize? If you are connected to them via Twitter (and even if you’re not) send your congratulations. Tweets get re-tweeted and re-posted on LinkedIn and Facebook … you never know who’s going to see (and appreciate) them. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll start a conversation with someone who’s been tossing your appeals in the trash.
Conversations, Not Bullhorns
Sure, there are still people out there blabbing, “I’m at the Starbucks at 12th and Third,” but Twitter’s emerging custom is real-time conversations. Consider joining one of these organized Twitter web chats for nonprofit professionals:
- Wednesdays at 3PM (ET) #NPTalk is sponsored by Nicole Harrison (more info here)
- Every other Friday at noon (ET) #smNPchat is hosted by Pamela Grow (more here)
These chats were made for participating and getting fresh ideas from peers. A growing list of chats curated by Robert Swanwick can be found here or follow @twchat to get up-to-the-minute listings.
Never Twitter-chatted before? It’s much easier than clearing customs, and here’s a 4-minute video tutorial to get you going.
Want More Help?
I can’t help it — I’m a sharing-resources kind of gal. So while the following sites aren’t about the culture of Twitter, they’re really helpful if you’re still figuring out this whole Twitter ‘thing.’ Some are useful even if you’re an old hand!
If you’re overwhelmed with the fire hose of tweets gushing at you, sign up for HootSuite or TweetDeck to manage the geyser. You’ll be glad you did.
Social Media Tools 101 from Interactive Insights Group. For those new to social media who want one-stop shopping to bravely enter this new world.
SocialBrite’s deep library of how-tos and examples of all aspects of social media. Some of it is crowd-sourced from community members.
What other unique cultural patterns have you noticed in the Twitter’hood? Comment below, or tweet them to me at @AskHelenBrown. Even if you don’t have anything to report yet, connect with me anyway. I’d love to be your neighbor in this new land.