Twitter for a Cause – Getting Started – Part 1

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By now you have seen Oprah with Twitter CEO Evan Williams and Ashton Kutchner (first tweeter to get 1M followers) talking about Twitter. Before that Martha Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres were already tweeting .  Twitter has now gone “mainstream”, or at the very least “endorsed” by three of the most popular talk show hosts (over the age of 40).


Your non-profit can and should use Twitter to engage your stakeholders and maybe a few of the 4-6 million Tweeters worldwide.  In Part 1 I will discuss what it is and how to get started. Part 2 will give you some ideas on how to engage followers and use Twitter to raise awareness and money.


Twitter is one of many social networking sites. It is a micro blog. Meaning you can send updates, similar to Facebook or LinkedIn, to your friends/followers in 140 characters or less.  More on following (like laying bread crumbs) and followers in a minute. 


A Part of Marketing and Communication

Utilizing any social networking site needs to be part of your overall marketing and communication strategy. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc are tools to be used when implementing your strategy.  Focus your content, status updates, communication on your mission, accomplishments, challenges, news and appropriate calls to action.


Utilizing social media is about relationships..creating and maintaining them.  While the demographics of social media users are different depending on the tool, it is clear those who are using Facebook and Twitter (under 26 set) will not stop using it as they age. Non-profit organizations need to expand their traditional marketing and communication plans to reach the next generation of donors and volunteers NOW.


Remember the new media is about a give and take.  Web 1.0 was pushing content out. Web 2.0 allows and users expect to have dialogue.  People converse, share, meet-up on line using their social networks. You must be prepared to not only push content on a regular basis, but respond to followers, friends etc.  This may or may not require more staff or a realignment of staff responsibilities depending on your organization.


Side note: Okay so now you worry about what people might say about you on line.  Social networking sites require names and photos.  It is rare that someone will make inappropriate comments or go on a rant when their identity is there for everyone to see.


Getting Started on Twitter

  • You can set up multiple accounts on Twitter and should.  Each profile should include your mission, contact email for each account and your website.
  • Your updates will then be about specific issues, campaigns or programs and will draw followers interested in that topic. 
  • Create accounts based on specific content you intend to push.  For example a non-profit organization should have separate accounts on Twitter:
  • Executive Director – quick updates on the latest activities, ideas, meetings  (they should also have a blog – subject of another ezine article to come)
  • Program/Mission – updates on the core of what you do
  • Advocacy – provide updates and ask for action about changing laws, communicating to elected representatives
  • Fundraising – how they can support your work, engage tweeters
  • Volunteers – Notes, recognition, engagement

Set up account names that make sense ie.

  • SavingWomenPrograms
  • SavingWomenExecutiveDirector
  • SavingWomenAdvocacy
  • SavingWomenMakeaDifference

You get the idea – be clever if you can but to the point.


Follower Tweeters

Search on Twitter to find other tweeters interested in your work. Search for areas that interest your organization. Many will follow you in return.


Recruiting Followers

To repeat, social media is about relationships. It is important to let your closest stakeholders know you are using the social media

  • Make sure your supporters, volunteers, leaders know you are on Twitter.
  • Include appropriate Twitter urls on email signatures, ie program staff will include their Twitter url and the Executive Director’s on every email they send. The same for advocacy staff, leadership etc.
  • Put Twitter information on your contact us page of your website
  • Invite people to follow you in all communications, hard and virtual newsletters, annual reports, brochures, press releases
  • Put all your social media information on all business cards
  • You need to acknowledge your followers. When someone chooses to follow you, tell them thank you. Develop a standard response you and staff can cut and paste. Remember this is about dialogue and relationships.

“Thx for following our tweets! We are committed to saving abused women & children & appreciate your support. More info at” (138 characters)

Side note: There is something  very freeing about getting your message across in 140 characters or less!


So now you are following and have followers.  Tweets are coming in regularly. You read, scan, access and share information.  Remember we want to keep the dialogue moving.  Have you read something that is useful? A website was shared that really worked, information you were looking for, you asked a question and someone responded or visa versa.  You can “talk” to people on Twitter and should in the  following ways (again in 140 characters or less!)

  • Retweet – the way to get noticed by your followers. If you read a post anywhere on Twitter and want to share it – Retweet to your network.  RT @ paste the tweet you want to share.
  • Reply – Click on the tweeters name and you can send tweet with them publicly.
  • Direct Reply – allows you to tweet privately with someone in your Twitter network.

Social Media Tools

Posting updates on all your social media sites can be time consuming.  There are a number of tools to track, update and push content with a single entry. Check out:

  • Tweetdeck – personal Twitter browser
  • Twitterfeed – tracks what’s happening on Twitter
  • Twhirl – similar to Tweetdeck
  • Hootsuite -manage multiple Twitter accounts, schedule tweets and track results
  • – updates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo with one click
  • Tweetsuite – integrates Twitter and WordPress Blogs
  • Mobile phone applications – Twitterberry for Blackberry
  • Twitpic allows you to post photos – do that, people love photos and help you share your mission!
  • – shortens too long urls to meet the 140 limit ( does it automatically)
  • – does the same as tiny but tracks clicks
  • You can share websites via Share This on the sites you visit

New tools are being tested and released every day. Take the time to do some research to keep your work efficient and effective. In addition, look at Facebook, Twitter and MySpace pages of your competitors or if you hear a buzz about something. Surf the web to find what you are looking for and to add appropriate content. 


Lastly, be disciplined.  Creating and reading status updates can take all of your day. Remember your communication and marketing strategy and remain focused on your work.


Two good sources for social media information are Mashable and Dan Zarella.


In Part Two – How to raise awareness, money and engage your stakeholders to action using the social media. 

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